Cherry Night Picking
Starting July 16th of last year, we began harvesting our cherries at night, finishing into the early morning. We ran a night picking trial in 2020 with 90 pickers, and were very happy with the results. We saw significant improvements in worker morale and earnings, and improvements in packed cherry quality as well; this will be continued for the season of 2022 and more seasons to come!
Our pickers are very happy with working in the coolest part of the day, and delighted with the longer shift and the opportunity to increase their earnings. The shift runs from midnight until 9 am, with the possibility to extend an hour if needed. This equates to a 9-10 hour daily picking shift. In contrast, day shift picking is from 5 am until noon at latest, for a maximum of 7 hours picking time. Since our harvest is only 7 weeks long, it is very important for our picking staff to maximize their earnings. Of course, it is also critical that we harvest all our cherries at optimum maturity, keeping our harvest on schedule.
Staff Health and Safety
We equip our pickers with two headlamps to properly illuminate the fruit, ladder and the branches. As it turns out, the pickers find it easier to see the fruit at night with the headlamps than it is to see the cherries during daylight hours. Staff wear reflective strips and our harvest protocol avoids pickers and tractors being in the same row. Additionally, tractors, trailers and loading areas are well lit. In order to carry out night time picking, it is important that the staff can sleep comfortably during the heat of the day. We now have 80% of our dormitories air conditioned to facilitate worker comfort, with plans to retrofit the balance of the dorms with AC ahead of next season.
Picking in the coolest part of the day is all positive from the perspective of cherry quality. Fruit with a pulp temperature of 15 to 18 degrees C is much more resistant to damage that may be caused during picking. We see fewer stemless cherries, and markedly less impact damage (which can show later as pitting). While we have always taken great care with our stems, using Mylar tarps to protect against the sun, night picking removes the risk of stem browning almost entirely. During picking, there is either no sun, or very low angle morning sun, keeping both the cherry and it’s precious stem fresh. Of course, harvesting fruit with a cooler pulp temperature is also environmentally friendly, reducing our energy consumption in the plant, with less hydro demand on the hydrocooler.
As always, we are seeking ways to ship the best possible fruit to our customers, and we believe this latest innovation is an example of our commitment to you.