Wild blueberries. They’re one of nature’s superfoods, filled with antioxidants and packed with delicious flavour. How can you not love them, am I right? But what most people (like, 99.95% of the world’s population) don’t realize is the blood, sweat and tears that come before you are able to purchase and enjoy those delicious little blue balls.
For anyone growing up in an area where wild blueberries are harvested, you know that the first sighting of these little white flowers in June signifies the beginning of the craziest time of the year.
Seriously, it gets wild.
Blueberries are important to us here. So much so that the blueberry capital of Canada (and let’s be honest, probably the world) is right here in Nova Scotia. And we’re proud of it.
And while all of this is fine and dandy, blueberry season is not for those of weak body or mind.
In 1968, Oxford Frozen Foods was founded as a small, family-operated company. Today it includes 8 manufacturing facilities as well as two large farming operations in Atlantic Canada and the United States. In almost 50 years, blueberries have gone from a fresh summer treat to a million-dollar industry.
All due to this guy, John Bragg.
In order to ship all this product around the world, though, some hardcore dedication by countless farmers and employees has to be given.
Basically, you sacrifice two months of your life every year just to harvest the blueberries. (This doesn't include the months of prep beforehand, either.)
Your to-do list for the rest of the summer will basically look like this.
For the next two months, you're pretty much going to see these EVERYWHERE.
You'd best get used to early mornings, because 12-14 hour shifts are the norm.
If you're ~lucky~ enough to be the kid of a blueberry farmer, your childhood summers basically looked like this.
By the end of the day you're covered in dirt...
And your hands are semi-permanently stained blue.
Sometimes it's tempting to sneak a few berries to yourself while you're scooping them, but then the irrational thought that too many will turn you as blue as your hands quickly makes you rethink your snack habits.
Or maybe you're one of those people who work on the processing end of blueberries. That's a whole different world of ~fun~.
First, you get to wear these helmets that not only seem to clash with literally any colour you wear, but that also conveniently fall over your eyes at the most inopportune times.
Hard hats won't save you, however, from some of the crazy forklift drivers whizzing around the building.
And don't forget the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that's mandatory! You'll be sweating like a mofo by the end of the day and there's nothing you can do about it.
Some days, you just can't seem to get ahead of things, and the work just keeps piling up more and more.
Things break down constantly, they run twice as fast afterwards to make up for lost time, half the shift doesn't show up, or your supervisor yells at you for seemingly no reason. Maybe a combination of everything. But it seems like every day is just not your day.
Because it's a male-dominated industry, if you're a female you have to deal with A LOT of sexism and inappropriate comments made at your expense.
And sometimes it takes a few pep talks to get you through your day.
The LAST thing anyone wants to see when opening up the back of a trailer is this:
Oh, and don't even get me started on the spiders.
When your day off finally comes you feel so excited to get out and do something, but you usually just end up spending the day sleeping because you're so tired...
A few weeks into the season, you realize you have sold your soul to the devil.
And you just want it to end.
But when it's all over, you feel accomplished.
And you remember that even if your part to play was small, without your hard work the world wouldn't be able to enjoy such delicacies as this:
And let's not forget how beautiful blueberry fields look in the fall. Have you ever seen a deeper red?
Support your local blueberry farmers by purchasing local wild blueberries instead of the high-bush berries in grocery stores! Wild blueberries are higher in antioxidants and just have a sweeter, juicier taste to them. And trust me, local blueberry farmers will thank you.
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