Blueberry rakers working their way into shape as harvest gears up

By Tom Walsh, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 14, 2012, at 12:37 p.m.

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.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/08/14/business/blueberry-rakers-working-their-way-into-shape-as-harvest-gears-up/ printed on August 23, 2014