April 18, 2009

Glitz and no Glamor

Hollywood, California, Tinsel Town, home of glitz and glamor, at least for some. It's always interesting to drive this section of US 101 through the Hollywood area. I think maybe what interests me most is that though I've never been really into celebrities, I catch myself craning my neck every time to see what I can see. I'd have thought I wouldn't be interested, but apparently I didn't know myself that well. Or maybe its just that its a curiosity thing. I always wonder if anyone "special" is passing us on the highway as we cruise along at 55mph, not that I'd recognize anyone!

A few miles north, actually about 45 or so miles north, is Oxnard where we spent the evening Friday reloading. Then Saturday morning we drove another 115 miles or so north to Santa Maria. The drive between Oxnard and Santa Maria drives right on the coast part of the way. So at 7:00 Saturday morning I was cruising along with the window's cracked admiring the Pacific Ocean and the lack of cars, and the DOT set up doing random inspections on the side of the road. Hmm...too bad they were preoccupied with another truck. I sure wanted to visit with them first thing on a Saturday morning! Felt bad for the sucker they had pulled in.

We loaded at Dole in Santa Maria. While Malcolm was waiting on his paperwork, he watched the workers in the field harvesting strawberries. There were acres and acres and acres of strawberry fields all the way from Oxnard to Santa Maria and the same can be said for up around Salinas too. In Oxnard the air even smelled like strawberries.
All hand picked. For some reason I hadn't realized they were still picking berries by hand, but when you stop and think about it, which I did, it makes sense. After all, the berries ripen at intervals, so you couldn't just run a machine over them and have the green ones plucked with the red.
Talk about back breaking work! Can you imagine picking all those acres and acres of berries by hand? But there they are, spread out among the rows with their boxes, filling them as quickly as they can. They fill a box and then run, literally, to the truck to drop it off and grab another. Then run back to the field to pick some more.
So, Malcolm, having watched this running back and forth, and thinking about the work involved, asked the guy at the counter, "How much do they get payed for picking?" And the answer is, &1.50 a box. No wonder they run! They have to fill a lot of boxes in a day! The guy behind the counter told Malcolm an average picker can do $80 to $120 a day, and a good picker can make about $200.
Ok, maybe your not the fruit type. These people are harvesting some type of lettuce. Slashed with a big knife from the plant, placed in boxes, and sealed up right there in the field. Then its trucked to a cooler where they cool it to an appropriate temperature and stick it on a truck. We've had to wait before for it to come from the field. They'd have nearly all our product on except for one pallet of something, and we'd have to wait for the truck to come in from the field and then for it to cool.
I'd like to think its washed at some point too, but maybe that really doesn't happen till it gets to my kitchen. I've seen with my own eyes the heads of lettuce and cabbage being sealed in boxes there in the field. Just look at the picture and you'll see too. There are conveyors off both sides of the truck. People walk along with the truck down the rows, slashing lettuce, tossing it on the conveyor, and then the boxes come off the back I think. So organized and it seems to work like a well oiled machine. But still so labor intensive for these modern times. In a way I'm glad its still hand picked that way. It gives someone a job if for no other reason. On the other hand....no wonder its so expensive to eat fruits and fresh veggies. I bought a flat of strawberries at a roadside stand before we left Santa Maria. Maybe I'll freeze them all, but I'm thinking I might like to make some jam too when I get home.


Meagan said...

You have learned the most random things driving! LOL. It's hard to imagine that all those things are still picked by hand. That is some HARD back-breaking work!!

Meagan said...

I am so excited you are reading Still Alice!!!