Monday, September 21, 2009

Belmont Berries

This is a soybean field over in Middlesex County. Green, green, green for as far as the eye can see. Much of the undeveloped land in Gloucester, Mathews, and Middlesex is either timber or crops of corn, soybeans, more corn, more soybeans, corn, corn, a few blueberries, a couple of pumpkins and some strawberries. And some corn.

The pumpkins in Mathews come from Belmont Pumpkin Farm, which used to be a strawberry farm called Belmont Berries located in North, Va.

One of my very first jobs was working as a farm hand on Belmont Berry Farm.
I'm not sure if I answered an ad in the paper or if my mother or sister told me about the opportunity, since my mother was friends with the lady who owns the farm and Middle Sister was in the same class as the owner's daughter. No matter, I thought the prospect of working on a strawberry farm sounded pretty sweet. Pun intended.

There's a chance I might have worked there longer than a week, but I doubt it. Instead of frolicking in the lush fields of strawberries, stopping every so often to eat them, which was exactly what I thought the job entailed, I was sent up a ladder with a bucket and brush to paint the trim on their Victorian house on the very first day of work. A very steep, dangerously angled roof was involved, and I remember thinking "I'm really not that far from the stratosphere that teetering on a long, steeply-angled ladder while holding a bucket of paint and a brush was really not what I had in mind when I signed up for this gig.

Next came the tamping in the sweltering, baking summer heat. I had never heard the word "tamp" before this job (I didn't get out much), but the lady who was instructing me on my drudgery task kept saying, "You tamp the dirt like this, and keep tamping it." As she stomped her foot on the ground packing the loose dirt in around the new fence posts that someone had just placed in the ground, it finally sunk in. Tamp = stomp, and stomping dirt in Amazon humidity + No Free Strawberries On the Job = All of a sudden, Substitute Lifeguard is really looking good.

Strawberry farm work was way too hard for Chesapeake Bay Woman, and she had to resign shortly thereafter. She greatly regrets throwing in the towel so quickly but the heat, heights, humidity and trim work hard work were just too much for that lazy teenager her. She has nothing but admiration and appreciation for the work that goes into running such an operation. Belmont was and still is a great place to visit.

What was one of your first jobs?


Grandma J said...

My very first job was as a waitress at the age of 16.

Angel Mama said...

When I was 13, during the summer I worked two jobs. My mom would drop me at my brother's house to baby-sit my two nephews, and when my sister in law got home she would carry me to my parents gas station where I pumped gas and washed windows and checked oil. During school, I only had the gas station job which I went to directly after school. I did this until I was 16 and could drive to work at KFC. I keep telling my 13 year old how good he has it!

Pueblo girl said...

I was 11 or 12, living in London, and had a newspaper round in the mornings before school. How times have changed! Who would dream nowadays of allowing an 11 or 12 year old girl roam the inner city alone, visiting one house after another, at 7 O'clock in the morning?
I was fine. Tired, but fine.

Daryl said...

Upon graduating from high school and at last not spending a summer in summer school making up a course I failed I got a job. A department store was opening and needed stock help ... lucky me ... I last til mid July when I came to work in a pair of shoes that hurt and borrowed a pair of slipper to wear .. seems security felt borrowing slippers for the stock was actually stealing. I got to buy those slippers before being escorted to the door ... the most expensive pair of slippers or shoes I ever owned .. not monetarily but emotionally .. lucky I didnt turn to a life of crime ...

Annie said...

Daryl, that was very funny...a life of crime..!!

my first job was so amazing I have was either in a little cafe or helping in my aunt's newsagency...must have been able to drive to get to that one. The lollies under the counter called me everyday!

But before that I worked helping my dad on the farm...shifting irrigation pipes for the potatoes he grew.

I much preferred going to real work after I graduated and getting real money...gosh did I feel rich, after a life of poverty at home!

Anonymous said...

pickin eggs at the chicken farm in shadow!!! How funny I was just tellin the kids about this yesterday as we passed this on the way to the boat!!! Long long rows of chickens and eggs!!!


big hair envy said...

My first job was at "Bruce Alan Bags"...when the OLD Wmbg. Outlet Mall was the NEW Wmbg. Outlet Mall. There was NO McDonald's, and there was NO hotel next door. My girlfriend and I carpooled, and truly enjoyed our job!! Life was so simple then:)

Mental P Mama said...

I worked in my Aunt and Uncle's restaurant. I hated it. But when I worked at a Houston's during college, I loved it. Go figure. I think it may have had to do with being the drinking age. And no relatives watching me.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Belmont was one of my first jobs also....and I worked there off and on for years. Still go back during pumpkin season every year at least one or two days and put on an apron and help out. I will never forget the cutest little korean lady who was married to someone in the military from Fort Eustis. They came over to pick strawberries and she was so upset because she didn't see any....her husband told her she had to pick up the leaves to find them. She jumped up and down in the fields so excited that she found the strawberries!
You know, to this day I don't eat strawberries from the store very often. I was so spoiled eating them sun ripened and sun warm from the fields that they just don't taste the same.
It was definately hard work...all year round! But I enjoyed it. The rewards of all the fresh berries I could eat / pick and take home to make jams, breads, and desserts were well worth it!

My VERY first job, though was working at the Lennon's gift shop with Baby Catherine. I remember being so nervous dusting all the china and glass shelves. I was the original bull in a china shop LOL. Baby Catherine loved the heat and I hated it. She never put the air conditioning on during the warm months until about 1/2 hour before I got there. Then she would turn it on just for me.

Boy did you bring back memories with todays post. Thanks!

By the way, Bayman, how's the quitting smoking coming? I'm cheering you on!


Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

My very first job was at my Uncle's grocery store. For the much-too-long story, go here:

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

It looks like the whole URL doesn't show up in my comment... but for the curious, go to and SEARCH for "Troup" or "Uncle Bill's Store". Then pour a cup of tea (or a glass of merlot) because it's a long story. But fun!

My husband has better first-job stories - he paint-stenciled info on the undersides of furniture, and detassled corn while they sprayed the fields with Paraquat. (Note to self, increase his life insurance because that can't have been a good thing.)

Anonymous said...

That's interesting because my first job was very similar to yours. Kelley and I got jobs picking peaches somewhere between Mathews and Middlesex. We spent the entire time throwing peaches at each other, and occasionally dropping one or two in the bucket. We laughed a lot, I think one of us fell off of the ladder, and we made a MESS. We weren't asked back, so it lasted only one day.I didn't really learn anything other than this: a ripe peach thrown swiftly upside someone's head sounds pretty funny!
Baby Sis

Anonymous said...

My first official job was at the local A&P in Mathews. I worked the cash register except on Wednesdays when I was the dairy stocker all day. On one of my first days an older lady came to return a box of cereal that she said her husband had bought but didn't eat. It was half empty....I showed it to the head cashier who said the lady's husband had been dead for years. The expiration date on the box was at least four years before. I think that we took it back anyway, because the customer was always right. It was a good learning experience.

-Middle Sis

Living on the Spit said...

My first summer job was working on the strip in Virginia Beach during the summer as a t-shirt maker...tourists picked out blank shirts and then a print from the wall which we had to iron on with this big, hot ironing thing that I was terrified of.

I had a blast because I was always on the beach!!

Mrs F with 4 said...

Picking Brussels Sprouts. In frosty winter. In the early morning dark. Chilblains.... exactly as glamorous as it sounds.

Country Girl said...

I was 14 years old and I took the bus to Atlantic City, NJ every day to my summer job on the boardwalk by Steel Pier. I was a waitress behind the counter at Taylor Pork Roll. Loved it!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

OK, I don't have much/if any time on here tonight, but I just want it noted for the record that I LOVE reading these comments, and really find your first jobs fascinating. Thank you so much for telling your stories.

p.s. Baby Sis: I have a story about that very peach orchard, and it involves the Islander and a photographer, just remind me to tell you.

p.p.s. Middle Sis: We still have that A&P coat around here somewhere. I remember you working there. You were also worked at a Deltaville marina driving a truck with holes in the floorboard, as I recall....

Big Hair Envy said...

Did Baby Sis say, "...upside someone's head..."???

Bwahahaha!!! Haven't heard THAT in a few years....or a day!!!

Oh, WHY couldn't she join us for dinner at Maggiano's???!!!!!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

BHE-Oh yes she did say "upside the head." Reminds me of a Gap Band song..

Anyway, perhaps we can rope Baby Sis into the OYSTER FESTIVAL, FIRST WEEKEND IN NOVEMBER.

To potential Oyster Fest Guests: BHE is taking a headcount. (Or is that a count upside the head?) If you want to come along, please let her know.

Anonymous said...

Big Hair Envy, I've got a little song for you, and it goes a little something like this: "OOOOOPS up-side your head, I said OOOPS upside your head!" ( repeat )
Baby Sis