An Afternoon on a Cherry Picking Farm in British Columbia

The sky falls silver and tangerine over rows of cherry trees as a skinny tatted-up Canadian opens the door of his rusty cantaloupe-colored camper holding a makeshift bong and exhales a cloud of smoke. A group of pickers from Spain and Mexico are camped in the gravel parking lot, and behind them solo tents are tucked between the rows where we pick from 4 AM until the sun becomes so hot the cherries burst between our fingers and splatter juice into our buckets. An old van full of French Canadian girls in their 20’s—lean, dirty, dreadlocked—is parked in the low shade of the apple trees, and a girl washes her feet under the cool water of our outdoor shower, a garden hose hung from a wooden post.

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Waiting for the Cherries to Ripen in the Okanagan Valley: a Sketch

They come to the Okanagan Valley from Mexico, South Korea, Japan, Spain, Australia, parts of Canada, but mostly Quebec—young, flush-faced, long-haired, tattooed and pierced, big groups traveling in vans, jalopy sedans, fixed up campers with peace signs, mushrooms and penises drawn in window dust, and many more hitchhiking alone or in pairs with huge bags strapped to their backs like beetles walking upright, cardboard signs tucked in the side of their bags that read:  “Somewhere,” “South,” or “Oliver,” which is the name of the town where Loose Bay Campground is located and for $5 a night per head you get a space to camp, showers, somewhere to toss your garbage, and free wood when the fire warnings aren’t in effect, which during the cherry picking season is pretty much never.

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