Picking teaches life lessons

By Raina Dawn Lutz

Picking fruit used to be a rite of passage for young people in the Okanagan.

It can be again; this year, it needs to be.

Farmers got hit hard this year.

We need to talk more about what is happening with our local food. The last few months have brought it all to the forefront for us to see. The more farmers and food system workers — growing, picking, sorting, distribution, sales — that I meet, the more I have to share.

Farmers are incredible. They are scientists, environmentalists, mechanics, marketers, veterinarians, teachers and the best stewards of the land.

Spring and summer brought fear, stress, depression, anxiety, world change and shifts we’ve never seen before.

Nature brought heavy rain and less sun.

And fewer foreign workers (our farmers’ rely on foreign and out-of-province pickers) because of travel restrictions from COVID-19.

I am no stranger to picking fruit. As a professional with a holistic nutrition practice I still like to get dirty, humble, and under-paid …. on occasion.

This summer, it wasn’t a fun side project. It was vital.

As I was there I got to thinking how many others could benefit from this, while also helping our farmers.

Our local youth should be out in the fields, whether it’s a work experience program through the schools, or obligatory parental enforcement.

Picking fruit should be a rite of passage for youth living in our valley, whether they want to become entrepreneurs or be out in the workforce.

It teaches character

The old adage rings true. Having to wake up early, report to a dewy field or orchard, get instructions (or very little, and have to do problem-solving on your own) and get to work forces you out of your comfort zone.

It's a necessary skill for life — whether you are going to be an entrepreneur or work in a team in your future. It’s a great lesson for those who want to work for themselves.

The principle is simple.

Sit on your phone in the shade and don’t pick — no money.

Pick and strain your shoulders and fingers for a day to warm them up to the new motions you’re making for hours straight — money.

If there’s anything I know parents want for their kids, it’s to teach them the value of a dollar.

It preps you for the real world

That real world that’ll slap you once you get out of high school and into the big, bad world. I know, I know. It’s like something someone would say to you condescendingly. But truly. Nothing like real hard sweaty work experience (that starts pre-5 a.m.) to teach you what hard work looks like.

It can also teach you quickly what you don’t want to do when you grow up. Either way, you’re winning. Put music or an e-book on, get a tan, and get paid to work out. Not all jobs will be like this.

Spark farmers

We need youth in farming. This will give a glimpse into a world they may never get the chance to experience otherwise.

Maybe touching food and connecting with the trees will inspire a new way in life.

Maybe it was something that’s been missing that they couldn’t figure out what it was.

Maybe there is curiosity about soil, sun and land. Getting dirt under nails can spark farmers that the world needs. Food sovereignty should really be our focus right now, so encouraging youth to test the waters, when they are so close to reaching work-force age, is key.


If you can’t share all that you’ve learned, you shouldn’t be teaching. I’ve been obsessed with the food movement since 2010, and I learn something new every time I talk to one of my organic farmer friends. Their knowledge banks are incredibly massive and are always growing.

Just being around people involved in the food movement is a great way to (“by osmosis”) increase your knowledge about food. And after a life of quarantine, one thing we all can’t deny was our basic human worry, attachment and need for food.

The local food supply chain became forefront, focused and vital. If we recognize the cracks that we saw in the system during the peak of COVID, we can acknowledge the increasing need (not want, need) for support of our local farmers and growing our own for eating or trade.

It’s just a good thing to do

The Good Samaritan rule brings fresh air to news stations, makes people cry in viral videos, and increases your good karma.

When someone asks for help, you can just help them. This year, our farmers’ are in need.

  • Do a day
  • Do a week
  • Just do it.

(You can join Okanagan Pickers or Similkameen Seasonal Workers groups on Facebook, or simply call/walk up to a farm with the in-need sign out.

You can also join volunteer programs such as the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project who pick from people who need help, donate it and you get to keep some too.)

Whatever your reason.

Maybe you’ll keep some of the cool habits you pick up on the farm.

  • Early to rise
  • Eating a mean breakfast
  • Physical labour for improving your muscle mass
  • The virtuousness of a pickers’ life full of camaraderie with nature.

Raina Dawn Lutz is a registered holistic nutritionist and founder of Experience Kombucha, and Eat the Counter Culture. [email protected]; lutznutrition.ca


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