Coronavirus chronicles: Summer’s berried treasures


With summer plans of a big city internship thrown to the wind this past spring, I decided to try my hand at something new. Looking for something vastly different from any of my previous jobs and for the opportunity to spend some time outside after so much isolated time in quarantine, I applied, with enthusiasm, to be a strawberry picker at Morning Glory.

As a devotee of all things MG, especially the late June strawberries, I was naturally drawn to the position. However, once onsite, safely outfitted in my mom’s worried purchase of neon pink kneepads and floral gardening gloves, I quickly realized that I had definitely underestimated the labor involved in picking the juicy red berries.

I think I’d envisioned some sort of crossover between the Strawberry Shortcake cartoon and “Little House on the Prairie,” which, it turns out, could not have been further from the truth.

On the first day at work, I realized that although my kneepads may have been an object of some confusion among my peers, as well as a difficult fashion concession on my part, they soon proved to be a prudent purchase. The workday for a strawberry picker consists of many uninterrupted hours of kneeling in the dirt or hay and harvesting berries.

We strawberry pickers would head out into the field at 7:30 every morning with a wooden basket filled with empty pint boxes. Upon filling our pint boxes, we’d rush back to the truck and switch out the full ones for empty boxes. After 45 minutes or so, my fellow strawberry picker, Maryann, would drive the flatbed truck back to the farm and deliver the full pints, spilling over with the gorgeous red berries, to the farm stand.

Through my work on the other side of the equation, I got an insider’s view of the mania surrounding MG strawberries. If I went back to help with the transport of picked berries, I’d often be stopped by excited customers in the driveway. They peppered me with compliments and questions. One woman even asked to take my photo with the harvested berries.

While working at MG, I learned that the product is excellent there because the people work so hard and care deeply about the integrity of the produce. Every bag of kale, ear of corn, and, yes, strawberry is so delicious because many people behind the scenes are dedicated to making it that way.

Before working at MG, I hadn’t given much thought to what processes go into making my meals. Now I feel an increased appreciation for the people who toil to make — and pick — the products that end up in my grocery bag.

Especially in the time of this pandemic, I felt very lucky to be outside, to work physically, and to quiet my brain of all of our shared concerns and anxieties over the future.

I’m not one to slosh around in the dirt too much, but each day I returned home grateful for the dirt on my legs and under my nails, and the feeling that I had worked hard and accomplished something.

Clare Lonergan is a student at Brown University. When she wasn’t toiling in the strawberry fields, she was an intern at The Times.