Introducing Immigrants to Cranberry Picking

Introducing Immigrants to Cranberry Picking

It is so rewarding to share a favourite activity with someone and to observe them enjoying it and understanding the attraction.  Cranberry picking is like that for me. In the fall I could spend hours outside every day in a cranberry patch.  The fruit is round, red and perfect.  The light filtering through the leaves has a special quality to it.  I savour every moment knowing that winter is coming.

This fall I organized three cranberry-picking excursions for immigrants.  The first time, I took a group of over 20 people into a flat, open and very prolific cranberry patch. Everyone spread out, had conversations with their picking neighbours, and asked questions about mushrooms, other plants, and bear scat that they noticed. There was much talk of making jam and other things with the cranberries, and discussions about how to store them. 

One family from Cote d’Ivoire enjoyed themselves very much. Sonia, the mother, said, “It is a good experience and I liked that I can do it with my family.” She was curious because it was her first time to see the cranberries in the bush and they are so different from what is sold in the store.  She noted, “When you see them you think sweet but in reality they are sour like a lemon.”

As always, we had to pry ourselves away from the berry patch.  I was so excited when I overheard Sonia, the mother, tell her husband and daughter, “Don’t look down.”  To me, that was evidence that she understood the true essence of cranberry picking.  As a Francophone, she shared a word that right away I realized meant “addiction”.  My enjoyment in the cranberry patch is like an addiction to me in that it is a compulsive behaviour, but it is free from harm.

Afterwards, I asked Sonia what she liked about cranberry picking.  She said it reminded her of happy times when she used to go to the family village when she was young.  Especially seeing everyone walking together in single file along the paths. It was the same feeling she had in her grandfather’s cashew plantation. I feel happy that a Canadian experience could bring to mind a special place so far away and from such a different climate. 

Karen Johnson, Community Connections Coordinator

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