Yuba City,CA — No sooner had the last bell buzzed at Deer Creek School in Nevada City, then did the Durham busses lined up in front of the school begin to fill with the joyful laughter of children on their way to a variety of orchards located just a few miles from downtown Yuba City. Joyous summer had finally arrived!
“My favorite time of year,” chirped 8-yr.-old Jennifer T., as she kissed her mom goodbye while loading the bus with 2 months worth of clothes and bedding from the back of the family’s Lexus SUV. Ten-yr.-old Billy W. was equally enthused, barely able to stop grinning while he showed this reporter his brand-new deerskin work gloves that his daddy had made for him earlier that spring. “Look at these babies! The fingers feel like real skin, I’ll be able to pick cherries just like using my bare hands.”
Every year since the late 1880s, children from Nevada County have headed for the orchards and fields of the Central Valley to help with the summer fruit and vegetable harvest. Without this crucial labor supply chain, American would have a hard time harvesting and storing enough food to hold a hungry nation over during the long winter months. Closing down the schools in June, July and part of August is a vital part of the farm-to-table movement that has sustained us for well over 100 years.
But not all is well in River City. Explained 12-yr.-old Clifford B., “we used to be able to stay pickin’, and away from school, till well past September, when we hit the apple orchards up near Chicago Park. But now they use these tractor thingys, with clanky metal arms that do all the work. When they started using those machines, we were all really sad.”
Lord knows what will happen if such machines make it to the plum, apricot, and pear orchards in Yuba City. Stay tuned.