Vera Easton, 4, with mother Maggie on the first day Bell’s Farm near Coupeville was open for U-pick strawberries. The farm is in need of strawberry pickers for the month-long season and is getting fewer applications than normal. (Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times)

Vera Easton, 4, with mother Maggie on the first day Bell’s Farm near Coupeville was open for U-pick strawberries. The farm is in need of strawberry pickers for the month-long season and is getting fewer applications than normal. (Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times)

For local farm, seasonal help is slim pickings

Berry pickers are needed for Bell’s Farm.

Bright red strawberries are ripe for the picking, but a Coupeville farm is having trouble finding pickers to work during the fast-paced season.

Kyle Flack said Bell’s Farm has less than half the number of pickers it needs to harvest every tasty berry. He’s short on general farm help, too.

“We’re struggling. It’s across the board,” said Flack, who is the co-owner of the farm.

It’s the same issue facing the restaurant and hospitality industry. Demand is inching up as the world emerges from the pandemic, but labor is not keeping up.

There are just under 5 acres of strawberries getting ripe in the sunny fields. The farm has Puget Reliance, Puget Crimson and Shuksan varieties of strawberries.

“We get a boatload of berries in June,” Flack said.

Flack suggested that extended unemployment benefits and a wealth of employment opportunities may be why he’s having a hard time finding strawberry pickers and farm help. Plus, Coupeville and Oak Harbor school districts are not out until next week and some families may be taking vacations that they put off during the pandemic, he said.

Kids ages 12-16 years old make up about 85 percent of the workforce for Bell’s Farm’s strawberry season, Flack said.

They are paid 35 cents per pound and receive their pay at the end of the season.

Flack said the best picker could earn $500 by the end of the month-long season. The workday starts in the morning and is done by noon. Those interested should contact Bell’s Farm by calling 360-678-4808.

The farm’s U-Pick field is also open now and will cost pickers $2.95 per pound. It is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Strawberry Daze, the farm’s weekend berry festival, is coming up at the end of the month after a hiatus last year. There will be farm tours, a petting zoo, food trucks, potato sack races, farm maze, live music and more on June 26-27.

Wyatt Colvin, who is two and half years old, takes a quick break from picking strawberries at the U-pick field at Bell’s Farm near Coupeville. (Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times)

Wyatt Colvin, who is two and half years old, takes a quick break from picking strawberries at the U-pick field at Bell’s Farm near Coupeville. (Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times)

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