September 19, 2020

It's a warm morning at the end of summer, and Lorne Rowbottom is up to his knees in blueberries.

There's a salt beef bucket at his feet, and his big hands are busy twisting berries from their branches and gently chucking them in. There's not a draft of wind and you'd hardly know the open ocean is right there.

If the sun gets any hotter he'll soon be swimming in it.

Rowbottom's not working just to fill his freezer.

This time of year, the 59-year-old picks up to six gallons a day, every day.

For the past five years or so, he says, he's picked and sold enough berries in St. John's to call it a living.

"I credit the berries with everything," he says. "All summer long I don't go without me food.… I keep myself goin.' "

Rowbottom sells to tourists and passersby but his main clientele come to him through Facebook Marketplace.

"I've got 42 orders right now of people who wants two gallons each," he says with great pride.

"And I'm supplying to restaurants downtown."

Last year he picked 104 gallons of blueberries. But with the berries so plentiful this season, he's hoping to hit the 200 mark.

When the frost comes he'll start in on partridgeberries. After that comes the cranberries.

When the snow falls he shovels.

"I love it out here. You can't get no better life."

He stops to have a smoke and rubs a splash of mouthwash down his arms, to keep the flies away.

With his greying beard and green tattoos, he steps lightly around the bushes, delicately plucking each berry like gold from the ground.

He's surrounded by millions of them every day, but Lorne's careful not to overpick for the sake of next year's crop. He claims he hasn't eaten a single berry so far this year.

"This is my livelihood out here … and I'm here to make money, not to eat."

It's hard work, but he's made a job for himself he loves. And he hopes to still be at it in 20 years' time.

In one breath, Lorne says he's healthy as a horse and happy as a pig in shit.

"Out in this nature stuff, I love it out here. You can't get no better life."


Click the player below to hear Gavin Simms's report for The St. John's Morning Show on Lorne Rowbottom.