"Strawberry Fields (are not) Forever"
It was May and then, as now, it was a ripening time for Oregon's big red strawberries. With a small apartment, 3 sons, a cat, and a couple dogs, getting boys outside was a major goal.
So in late May and early June, Jon (oldest – almost 14), and Mikel (turning 11 in November), were signed up to take a daily bus ride to near Independence, along the Willamette River. Their job was to pick strawberries. Back then this was accepted work for Oregon's youth.
The boys had not had this type of experience. It was only two years before that we had come to central Illinois after living for four years in Iceland.
"Strawberry fields forever" was the Beatles best recording back in 1967. But along the Willamette River in 1979, the strawberry fields were not of the "psychedelic rock" type.
For young boys it was hot, hard work. 'Course the berries were vary tasty and they make great throwing fun.
Mikel only lasted two days. He was fired as he fell asleep in the field and had only picked one flat. Jon lasted longer.
Today the boys are middle-aged men, Jon lives in Albany, Oregon, and Mikel is up in Anchorage, Alaska. Strawberry fields, Beatles-type or picking-type, are distant memories.
Here in Lebanon, the town's big community fair, the Strawberry Festival is coming in just over two weeks. Saturday's big parade will feature huge strawberry shortcake covering a flatbed semi-trailer.
But three local papers have recently addressed the loss of Oregon's strawberry fields. In the 1950s, farmers had more than 17,000 acres in strawberries. Today there are only about 2,000 acres in strawberry production. California has 387,000 acres.
Most of Oregon’s berries end up in jam, as most local berries are too fragile for shipping.
Of course, Lebanon's giant strawberry shortcake is made with berries from outside Oregon. On the other hand, Oregon strawberries are available at the local farmer's markets and U-pick fields.
Strawberry fields in Oregon may not be forever as a big farm crop, but they still taste great!