We set out for Zmudowski State Beach, just north of Moss Landing, where the Salinas River meets the ocean. There’s a sign that points off the highway, and the road goes left, right, left, right, through field after field. The long zigzag brings us to a quiet, sandy area, good for a long walk to watch the waves.
Our goal was the beach, but we were captivated by the activity in the fields. Many of the fields are planted with strawberries, though there is lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and artichokes. We passed cluster after cluster of thirty to forty people, accompanied by a bus or truck towing portajohns, and a long line of parked cars. We passed numerous groups and figured there must have been 300-400 people at work. On the way in, around one pm, we saw people sitting on folding chairs in a circle near one of the vehicles. On our way out a couple of hours later, everyone was picking, and the lawn chairs were gone.
We saw people running with empty trays from the truck to the fields, or carrying full trays from the fields to the truck–they probably get paid by the box. Most of the people we saw were harvesting strawberries, doubled over from the waist or crouched down to pick berries. Either technique tires one part of the body or another. The next time we eat strawberries, I’ll be wondering about the person who picked them for me.