Blueberry rakers working their way into shape as harvest gears up

Posted Aug. 14, 2012, at 12:37 p.m.
Ahmed Shaur is a long way from his native Somolia, but has found that raking blueberries in the hot sun of Washington County is a great way to shed a few pounds.
Tom Walsh | BDN
Ahmed Shaur is a long way from his native Somolia, but has found that raking blueberries in the hot sun of Washington County is a great way to shed a few pounds. Buy Photo
Kenneth Salisbury and his wife Debby have been coming to Washington County to rake blueberries every summer for 21 years. Ask him why, and Kenneth flexes his buff upper body.
Tom Walsh | BDN
Kenneth Salisbury and his wife Debby have been coming to Washington County to rake blueberries every summer for 21 years. Ask him why, and Kenneth flexes his buff upper body. Buy Photo
Washington County businesses, like this grocery store in Columbia, welcome the revenue generated by seasonal workers who arrive every summer to rake blueberries. While many of the rakers (&quotrequiadores" in Spanish) are Latino, others are Mainers, Native Americans and Haitians.
Tom Walsh | BDN
Washington County businesses, like this grocery store in Columbia, welcome the revenue generated by seasonal workers who arrive every summer to rake blueberries. While many of the rakers ("requiadores" in Spanish) are Latino, others are Mainers, Native Americans and Haitians. Buy Photo

JONESBORO, Maine — Ahmed Shaur has discovered a new diet plan that two weeks into the blueberry harvest seems to be working well.

“My friends used to call me ‘fat man,’ but they won’t anymore,” Shaur said while raking berries this week in the hot sun in a Jonesboro roadside barren off Route 1 owned by Whitneyville-based growers Hennessey Brothers. “Since we started raking, I think I’ve lost 10 pounds.”

Originally from Somalia, Shaur now lives in Somerset County. Until raking began on June 30, he had never set foot in a blueberry barren. “I like it,” he said. “I can get outside, and I get to lose some weight.”

On Monday Shaur found himself working alongside two raking veterans. Kenneth and Debby Salisbury have been coming to Washington County from their home in Skowhegan to rake blueberries for the last 21 years.

“We love it,” Debby said. “We come up here with friends and family every summer. It’s our vacation.”

Ask Kenneth why he enjoys raking in the hot sun, and he’ll drop his rake and assume a bodybuilder’s pose, flexing his formidable biceps. “Keeps me in shape,” he says with a smile.

Hennessey Brothers owns 300 acres of blueberries and also does contract harvesting for Cherryfield Foods. Many of their hand-rakers worked for Cherryfield for many years, but were displaced by the recent emergence of mechanical harvesting equipment.

The dozen rakers on the job Monday in Jonesboro had plenty of berries to rake, as this year’s harvest looks to be bountiful.

“This year has been very good,” said Robert Sinford, a Hennessey Brothers field supervisor from Machias. “There are a lot of factors that go into a successful crop, and this year everything just came together.”

SEE COMMENTS →

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business

Similar Articles

More in Business