Strawberry Picking Slave Labour: Wexford Children Speak Out


THE SWELTERING and unforgiving Irish Sun beat down on the N11 on Sunday afternoon. The scene is one familiar to all users of the famed connective tarmacked tissue between Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford. The hard shoulder is lined with hard workers, keen to earn a little extra cash on the weekends.

47 tonnes of strawberries will be sold every hour. Dubliners holidaying in Wexford make no qualms about being addicted to the red stuff. Native Wexicans are the same.

The steady line of workers will only increase once the country’s summer is properly heralded in with a march of children finished school for the academic year. It is their story we tell today.

“I’ve been picking for 89 hours straight,” one teen told us, admitting it had been so long since she was last in school, she wasn’t confident counting to 89 anymore.

Strawberries are the lifeblood of county Wexford, employing over 7,000,000 people every year, but with the demand for the juicy red fruit increasing, strawberry barons turn to less than legal means to procure what Wexicans call ‘red gold’.

“I’ve been picking red gold ever since I can remember,” shared Ella, whose memory, to judge from her youthful face, could only stretch back as far as 18 months at the most… because she was just a toddler.

The younger the better is the word on the strawberry planted ground. Children’s small, childlike hands are perfect for picking strawberries from their stalks, and a toddler’s high volume of crying hydrates the strawberries, prolonging their shelf life.

For every teen with the ability to speak out and run from the awful work conditions, they leave behind a child barely able to speak at all. And that’s just how the strawberry barons like it.

“A bruised strawberry is money lost to me, and I can’t have that. Teenagers these days have coarse, adult calluses on their hands, they’re clumsy to boot, it disgusts me,” feared strawberry baron Gerard Conning, outlining why he now exclusively employs under 5s on his farm.

“Toddlers are great. Plus they have no real concept of money so I can get away with paying them 10 cents an hour. They think it’s great because it jingles in their little Dora the Explorer purses. Stupid babies”.

Conning showed no remorse for his actions, and what shocked us most of all was that once we had sampled the strawberries on offer at the farm, we didn’t care either. They tasted so juicy, so refreshing, we instantly came to the conclusion that Conning wasn’t a bastard at all, but a sound and solid businessman who gave the world amazing strawberries.