When I was a young girl, I looked forward to the August weeks when I visited my great-aunts’ and great-uncle’s raspberry farm in Cambridge, New York.

Her great-aunts’ and great-uncle’s upstate New York raspberry farm, which Nancy Robart visited every August to help them pick, was a world of its own. Gigi Janko/Shutterstock.com

When our white Valiant crossed the bridge with the eagle on it, and turned down their dirt road, named after them, anticipation would rise. At the end of 4 Ford Ave. beamed a yellow farmhouse with two porches: the front porch, filled with rockers, and the side porch, on which we would later sit and ready our berries in their paper containers.

The kitchen always smelled a bit like kerosene, which wafted in from the kerosene stove which sat on the glassed-in summer kitchen side porch off the main kitchen. And there was always a cat named Patches running around.

My great-uncle, Raymond, slept in a room next to the kitchen. My two great-aunts slept upstairs. I slept upstairs, also in a small room. Since the only bathroom was downstairs and quite a ways away, there were white porcelain pots under the beds just in case.

But the best part was the big raspberry pit, a short walk from the house. The raspberry bushes, which were as tall as I was, grew neatly in rows that paralleled the train tracks above and next to it. It was Raymond’s raspberry patch.

Every August they would let me come and help harvest the berries. Early in the morning, Great-Aunt Elizabeth would plunk a big straw hat down on my head to ward off the sun. Then I would strap a belt around my waist on which two silver buckets would hang. This was to free up both hands for picking. As we descended the old wooden stairs into the pit, the fragrance of the ripened berries rose like a melody only the ripest of fruit can play.


Surrounded by this sweet, juicy aroma, I was captured by the raspberry essence while the fleeting summer morning breeze swirled under my wide-brimmed hat and onto my face. The short, fuzzy prickles on the raspberry stems never served to bother and only added to the whole symphony of the process.

Raymond would coach me on the perfect shade of red to pick, and “not just the toppers!” which were so tempting. The “toppers” were the cream of the crop. Those were the biggest, most perfect berries – the doubles that molded together like hearts. We later sorted them out and used them to crown the tops of the quarts, turning each “topper” over and placing them just so, making the quarts look spectacular!

Afterward, we would sit on the side porch on rockers and wait for the townspeople to stop by for a chat and to purchase our quarts for 60 cents each.

Then, at the end of August, I would leave to return the next August a bit taller, my hair a bit longer, my hat a bit bigger and the berries a bit sweeter.

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