Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Highlights of a Harvest Day

My sister, who has been up here visiting for the month, recently declared the Facebook app "Farmville" a "sham."

When she first got here she was, while lounging on the couch, harvesting crops, planting new ones, and clicking away to agricultural prosperity. After working her first cherry harvest, she decided the virtual reality was laughable and hasn't the heart, any longer, to press a button to "harvest."

Here are just a few highlights of the cherry harvesting process (without going into any great detail, nor the rest of the annual toil of spraying, pruning, mowing, pulling brush, watering, replanting, payroll, etc.).

Before harvest begins, the orchard must be prepared for the pickers' arrivals.

Flags are put out numbering every row of the orchard.

Ladders are spread throughout the first picking areas.

Portalets and water coolers are carefully placed.

Empty fruit bins are strategically scattered throughout the orchard.

 Lots of extra equipment is rented.

For weeks beforehand men and women line up to be hired for picking.

Finally the first day of harvest dawns... 4:30am-ish.

After each picker clocks in and is given an orchard ID card, they are assigned to a row of trees by a crew boss.

Then they begin picking, careful not to pull the fruit off the stem (milking), or pull bark with the stems (spurring). It's a lot harder than you'd think.

But these guys are good, and many return year after year to pick for us.

It takes a lot of work to fill a bin!

After their bins are full, they are given a receipt for the bin by a checker.

Filled and checked bins are forked by little tractors out of the orchard onto a main road.

When four full bins are lined up, they are picked up by a blueline driver.

Sometimes it gets a little crowded on the main roads.

The blueliner brings them down to a weigh shack.

The weigh shack pulls the ticket out of the bin (to be given to the data entry gal -- a whole 'nother process!), weighs the fruit, and sends it down the motorized chain to get water.

Here's the fruit going from the motorized chain (from blueline through shack scale) to the rollers for water.

The fruit is then watered to cool it down (hot fruit gets mushy fast) and prepare it for shipping.

Sorry... water is fun to photograph.

From the waterer it is picked up by a fork lift, usually stacked five bins high, and is loaded onto a refrigerated semi truck.

From there it goes to a packing shed where it will be sorted (culled), graded, packaged and shipped to grocery stores.

Some, of course, are oblivious to the buzz of activity all around.


Unknown said...

WOW! That is so cool! And much harder than my way of getting the store!


Nadja said...

Great little photo essay! I can't wait to show it to the kids. It will make them think a bit next time we all sit down to eat cherries and have a pit-spitting competition!

Karen said...

Mmmm! Ship some out to Hershey!

Elisa said...

FUN! Wow...this is really cool and intersting. Thanks for sharing!!

Sahmatwork said...

This was fun to see! Thanks for posting! You got some great shots and perhaps now we'll be a little more grateful for all those people who work together to bring us those amazing cherries.

Alix said...

That was so interesting, thanks! I love the cat picture, especially, though :)

Rina ... also Chester or Daisysmum. said...

Wow I never knew there was so much involved in harvesting cherries. Cherries from America are much nicer than the local one on Australia but they do cost twice as much. What variety of cherry trees do you have?
Love your blog so far

Farmer's City Wife said...

We have Bings (mostly), Vans, Rainiers, Chelans, a few personal trees of tart pie cherries, and a bunch of inedible pollinators. I think Vans and Rainiers taste the best, but Bings sell the best because they hold up well for shipping.
I wonder if any of our cherries make it Down Under? :)
Thanks for stopping by!!

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