Let’s fuck up some schedules. Right as I’m preparing to fly to Albany to visit my parents, the owners of the blueberry farm where I worked last year announce that they’re planning to start picking this coming week. For all I know, they’ll have a crew deployed while I’m waiting at baggage claim Monday morning. I expected an early blueberry harvest this year, but not this early. It started on June 24 last year, I recall; this year, it may start as early as the sixth or eighth. Oregon has been running a solid twenty degrees Fahrenheit above usual for the last week or two; that’s why. Within the next week, it’s forecast to be in the high sixties in Medford. Today it hit 100, and a fucking damp 100 at that. Thank God the weather was unstable to stir up some rain this evening. A cool summer could draw out the blueberry harvest towards Labor Day, and that would be great for all involved, although it might suck a bit for grape growers. Really, though, at this point we might as well dabble in Kremlinology. Yogi Berra was right about predictions concerning the future.
Any blueberry harvest in the Northeast will probably start four to six weeks behind the Willamette Valley. Summer normally starts later there, and it’s been on the cool side recently. (Fuck your astrological summer bullshit. That don’t grow no damn berries, son.) It’s arguably a moot point, since the closest commercial berry farms I can find to my parents’ place are over a hundred miles away. How moot depends on logistical minutiae that haven’t been worked out yet. My parents have offered to let me crash at their place while they’re in Europe and use my mom’s car, so with luck I’ll be able to find work somewhere around there. I’d really, truly love for it to be farm work, but the Adirondacks are godforsakenly useless for anything but sugaring, wankery fishing, and getting drunk to hell, and they’re pretty extensive, too, so I don’t have much hope for finding farm work within viable commuting distance of my parents’ place. I’m afraid that I can’t afford much else, so fuck. Faahhhkh. It occurred to me today that no one even tries to farm fish in the Adirondacks, in spite of all the lakes. Rundel, where you at? That’s what wankers the locals are. It isn’t just the permitting nightmares of the APA; chucking garbage into the woods to avoid the dump fee is a cherished low Adirondacker folkway, and no one bothers trying to get a permit to do that. Or for the preeminent Adirondack folkway of insurance arson. There’s agriculturally viable bottomland in places, but most of the locals decided decades, even centuries, ago that it just wasn’t worthwhile trying to compete against growers in more fertile, clement, and accessible districts to points west.
Instead they build those stupid woody canoes. What the fuck, man. And their godawful ergonomically thoughtless lawn chairs. Dickinson is all about Adirondack chairs on the Quad, because it fucking would be. It’s like, yeah, our farming up here is pretty much just a couple of lesbians in Thurman milking some goats, and we bring rich kids up from the city to dick around in the woods all summer and probably get Pedo-Beared, but be sure to order one of these stupid-ass chairs before you go home at the end of the season. I exaggerate, but only slightly, and not about the Adirondack chairs. What a bunch of stupid passive-aggressive bourgeois supremacist bullshit. The entire aesthetic, the entire worldview, the entire eerily slow pace of life: it’s all ordered to cultivating highbrow wankery. I don’t mean that it would be ideal to go back to some brainless cubicle rat race, which would have (no, has) its own pathologies. What I mean, rather, is that maybe these dipshits could order their society to inspire those in their midst who have agricultural or general let’s-not-fuck-around-all-day inclinations to get out of the house by nine or ten and pick some damn fruit. The problem is that that would take, among other things, some kind of fruit. Ain’t none up there, boss. The closest is on some big orchards between Peru and the Canadian border where management is always giving Ami the runaround in order to hire H-2A’s on dubious pretenses, or downright fraudulent ones. I’ve looked into it, and it sounds pointless. I don’t have anything against my white trash honorary cousin for porking his landlady in lieu of rent; the problem is that a great deal of the economy in the Adirondacks is predicated on affective labor more excruciating than that. There was no class exploitation in Cousin Gigolo’s giggity gig, because neither party to it had any class to exploit. It’s the tourism scene up that way that gives me the willies. That’s where the power dynamics get creepy. The weird shit is at the restaurants, the summer camps, the resorts.
Even if there were fruitboy jobs within commuting distance, how would I schedule myself to take them? Hell if I know. This is on top of the financial obstacles, e.g., my heading for broke on the blueberry harvest crew last year. Much of the difficulty growers have securing labor is the result of their offering a month or two of work in a single crop at shit wages and absolutely nothing the rest of the year. Diversification would spread out the work, in addition to providing natural defenses against the diseases of monoculture. It’s easier said than done, though. Managing blueberries is nothing like managing apples, and neither is anything like managing tomatoes. The very thought of it must be bewildering for many growers. As Father-in-Law (Mother-in-Law’s strange ranger of a husband) told one of my colleagues, completely without antecedents, “You need to cut the bullshit.” For some growers, that might mean cutting down the new cherry trees, just because fuck this shit. Parson Weems, you sleazy old plagiarist, pray for us.
There’s a month of strawberries and another month or two of blueberries in the Mid-Willamette Valley, followed by nine months of nothing. These harvests conflict with the cherry harvest, which is mostly east of the Cascades, and mostly reserved for wetbacks. There’s a month or two of apples in the fall, but mostly north of the Tri-Cities, which are nowhere near the Willamette Valley. If you’re Mexican or persuasive enough, you might be able to get some winter work on the pruning crews. The growers require prior experience, mainly as a way of keeping all the guys who got laid off from the green chain in Kelso from wandering east. The fuck whitey bigotry is sparser around Brewster and Omak, but so is everything else that isn’t Brewster or Omak. That’s some remote-ass country.
I’m eager enough to stay involved in paid, ratshit-free horticulture and viticulture that I actually research this stuff. Don’t let anyone tell you that Americans don’t want to be fruitboys anymore. Or gigolos. We haven’t all grown soft. Some of us are still quite hard. Uh, that didn’t quite come out right, as she said, or, alternately, as he said.
Nothing in this essay is as disordered as the American agricultural labor market. One might say that I’m too off-color for that business, specifically that I’m not nearly brown enough. I say it all the time myself. This sick story never fucking ends.