Canadian Pickers: Rhubarb Express
According to anecdotal research, my rhubarb patch has been on the family farm since the 1940s. It thrives there on the hill in full sunshine, growing in spite of me, not because of me. All I really have to do is pick it. Rhubarb is a very low-maintenance crop which is good because I don't really have a green thumb. Occasionally it gets a dose of organic top-dressing.
Rhubarb HillRhubarb Internship:
Like many an upstart businesses, I have taken advantage of the intern approach to free labour. My interns, eager to advance in their chosen careers, serve in many capacities. Tom, my longest-serving intern, has been a part of the business since its inception 3 years ago. He is improving each year but has not yet made the payroll.
My other intern, Nugget, is working toward her degree in security, a vital role in the Rhubarb Industry. This is her second year as intern and she will receive her first paycheque at the end of the 2014 season.
Rhubarb picking is a comprehensive career challenging both strength and endurance which appeals to the macho side of any intern.
Macho Rhubarb Intern
Research and Development:
The Rhubarb Industry offers cerebral challenges as well. My intern, experienced in the discipline of engineering, takes the lead in Research and Development finding ways to improve rhubarb production and harvest. Recently he has repurposed a canvas wood tote purchased at a Gorham's Bluff yard sale as a Rhubarb Field Tote. Current estimates reveal that the introduction of this little item has improved harvest time by 20%. What an impressive return for a 25 cent investment!
The Happy Innovator
The Rhubarb Field Tote
R&D intern Tom has recently introduced a new practice to alleviate CEO backache. Tom does all the bending and picking of the rhubarb and places it on the Rhubarb Cutting Bench (hood of the Pathfinder) to save the back of the CEO. The CEO stands and cuts the leaf off the stalk, ensuring that she never has to bend over.
Rhubarb Cutting Bench & Escaping Intern
As President and CEO of Rhubarb Express, I recognize the importance of a contented workforce. I allow 5 minute breaks twice daily in the meticulously-maintained Staff Lounge.
And I provide a substantial lunch bordering on the gourmet at a subsidized rate for all interns.
As a caring and concerned employer striving to allay any feelings of insecurity within the staff, I ensure that workers can count on having the exact same lunch for the 6 weeks of their internship.
International Brotherhood of Rhubarb Pickers (IBRP: Local 001)
Tools of the Trade:
I try to run my business efficiently to realize the best possible financial return for the company. The interns keep the expense of labour down and the tools of the trade are simple and low-cost. I inherited the rhubarb knife from my father and the gloves were a gift from a friend. To be honest, I prefer to work bare-handed and only wear the gloves if I am going somewhere special and it matters to have clean fingernails and hands. Rhubarb does stain.
Tools of the Trade
The banana box, free in the back room at your local supermarket, is the PERFECT container for transporting rhubarb from field to market. It is sturdy, has handles, and holds about 30 pounds of rhubarb which can be easily handled by a macho intern or an aging CEO.
And here we have about 200 pounds of rhubarb packed snugly in my trusty, rusty Pathfinder ready for transport to Fredericton. Please note my Contiga teacup in the foreground; this is an essential item for any CEO at work in the field.
My primary clients in Fredericton include the Fredericton Direct Charge Coop, a major supermarket with more than 9,000 members.
...and Real Food Connections, a grocery store that carries only New Brunswick products.
...and the Victory Meat Market, downtown Fredericton's busy grocery store in the heart of the city.
As with any viable business, it is crucial to keep accurate records of sales and expenses. I keep impeccable accounts at Head Office in Fredericton, the provincial capital.
Rhubarb Business Perks:Atop Rhubarb Hill, the wind is almost always blowing which works to keep away any annoying insects. There is no machine noise and employee banter is kept to a minimum. The scenery is beautiful no matter which way you turn. In one direction, you see the beautiful St. John River at its widest point, back grounded by the rolling Appalachian Hills and domed by the wide-open sky.
St John River/Appalachian Hills
In another direction, you see the houses of my brother and sister. The main road runs between the rhubarb patch and those houses and every time a vehicle passes on that road, my interns and I cease our work to see who is going by. This attention to traffic has been labelled by some as the Long Reach Affliction. Tom is looking for Workers' Compensation for his wrenched neck. It takes me back to my childhood when my father would call out from one of his 3 couches in the house, or one of his 3 couches on the verandah, "What's that on the road? What are they haulin'?"
Bilberry blossoms are blooming this week which means the fiddleheads are out and the shad is running. The interns may get a break from sardines.
There is a richness of spring colour all around which inspires mitten names and colour combinations for my knitting compulsion. I have yet to name a pair of mittens after rhubarb.
Rhubarb Going to Seed/Mitten Inspiration
Rhubarb pie is another of the many perks enjoyed by my faithful intern, Tom. Like my mother before me, I always add a handful of raisins to the rhubarb pie to soak up the excess juice while baking. I recommend that little trick to interested pie-makers!
At the end of most meals, my father would always say, "Cup of tea, piece of pie, I'll be all done." Tom has adopted that little chant. I don't necessarily recommend that....
Cup of Tea, Piece of Pie....
Until Next Time.....