Growing up in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, specifically in Forest Grove, come June 1st we would be released early from school to pick berries on local farms on all kid crews. You had to be going into the 5th grade to work. If you were really fast and hard working, your field boss might recommend you to work on the picker machines. I was one of those lucky kids and teenagers who could earn money for school clothes, spending money, and Christmas money working for a local Berry Farm called Love’s Berry Farm. It was hard work, but we worked along listening to our transistor radio, drinking Pop Shop Pop, joking around, all while making about $1.25-$1.75 a flat. I could pick about 16-23 flats a day, netting me about $1000 a summer after working June days in the strawberry fields and July nights on the picker machine. That was a lot of money during the early 80s and it provided me with what I needed and wanted. It also taught me how to work and work hard. Getting on the berry bus at 5:30am in the summer taught many lessons about constancy, the value of going to bed early, and what earning a living would be like later.
Fast forward about 30 years….. I’m working for this beautiful Berry Farm owned by one of the nicest farmers around, Dave Heikes. He is best friends with Jim Love, the owner of the farm that provided me with work throughout my youth, providing me with school shoes, clothes, college money, and all that growing up entails. Life has a way of coming around in full circle, doesn’t it? I know these crops- strawberries, blueberries, black caps, raspberries, boysenberries, and all the wonderful foods you can make with them-jam, jellies, cobblers, pies, syrups, milkshakes, and the list goes on. Selling fresh berries is a pleasure and customers come happy and leave happier as they tote off the flats. They enjoy sharing what they are going to do with the fruit. They share similar memories about growing up working on our local farms. This is probably my dream job.
So, berries were a large part of childhood as I know they were a part of yours too if you were raised here. Our grandmas taught us how to make cooked or canned jams, they fed us breakfast berry cobblers or fresh pies for Sunday supper. This brings me to fresh baked mixed berry crisp.
Don’t look but there is *some* unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks) added to old fashioned oats, granulated and brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, a little salt, a couple of teaspoons of vanilla…as my grandma would say, “This will cure what ails ya.” She lived to be 90+, so I’ll go with that.
Now we have come full circle again. This is what can be done with these fresh and perfectly sweet Oregon berries. Memories of growing up in the Willamette Valley, working for my current boss’ best buddy, making a fresh berry crisp like my grandma did and ending with a sweet breakfast.
Oh the bounty of life and the harvest.