Cary strawberry farm hires recently unemployed workers

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- It is strawberry season. That means farms like Phillips Farms in Cary are buzzing with strawberry lovers. If these were normal times, consumers would be out in the field picking for themselves.

Not this year.

Social distancing guidelines make it impossible to open strawberry fields to the picking public. That puts farmers like Michael Phillips in a quandary.

"We used to do you-pick so, we'd have families come out and we also had what we call our family fun park. A bunch of activities that families can do -- pet animals and a lot of those things. We've strictly gone to just drive-through."

The berries can't pick themselves. With 2 acres of land to pick, Phillips turned to folks recently out of work to help.

"We need them, I'm hoping just as much as they need us. We've hired 25 folks that have been affected by COVID-19," he said.

That includes a personal trainer, hairdresser and college students. Bryan Booth is doing double duty. He's still working in finance while picking up slack with his wife out of a job.

"She works at a dental office and those are small businesses, so she was drastically affected and had to be let go from her employment," Booth said. "Just an opportunity to put more money in the bank just to help out with the unknowns, because we don't know how long this is going to go."

Kally Compton is a college student in New York City. Having to scramble back home, she finds the outdoor work therapeutic.

"I'm taking online classes but aside from that I decided to come work here just because sitting at home can be boring," Compton said.

Phillips is happy to help.

"How can we be a light in the darkness, and I figured well maybe we can just reach out to a lot of families that have been affected by this and get them out here on the farm and get them some fresh air and get them some money in their pockets too," he said.

Strawberries with their sensitive skins spoil quickly after it rains, so when they are ripe, time is of the essence. Being able to hire additional help is really a win-win.
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