You’ve planted your cherry tree saplings, waited patiently for years for your tree to reach maturity, and now, it’s time to yield the fruit of your labor. But before beginning your cherry harvest journey, it’s important to take necessary measures to ensure the maximum yield. As an orchardist, it’s essential to assemble a team of cherry farm workers, or pickers, who can assess the proper balance of quantity and quality while harvesting cherries on your farm.
We share our strategies for building the best team of cherry farm workers and how to maximize their productivity during cherry harvest season.
Key Considerations for Orchardists and Cherry Farm Workers
The quality of your cherry pickers will directly impact your success during harvest. It’s no secret that your workers’ productivity directly impacts how much fruit you can sell and the returns you'll make for that cherry harvest season. Here are the key factors cherry farmers will need to consider.
FieldClock Understands Harvesting Cherries Is Hard Work
Harvesting cherries is an art in our world. A skilled cherry farmer knows they must pick each cherry right where the stem connects to the spur on the tree. If the spur is accidentally picked, the orchardist must wait another season or even two (gasp!) before the spur grows back and bears fruit again.
Less fruit to pick means less jobs available to qualified cherry farm workers and less dollars for that cherry harvest season for the orchardist.
On the flip side, if the cherry farm worker picks the fruit without the stem, the cherry is less marketable to buyers and these yields will almost always negatively impact your bottom line. FieldClock knows that orchardists and cherry farmers work too hard to not see their hard work rewarded with the maximum return following a strenuous cherry harvest season.
It's crucial for orchardists to hire knowledgeable cherry pickers who are committed to finding this “sweet spot” with every pick they make during cherry harvest.
No Cherries Left Behind During Fruitful Cherry Harvest Seasons
Did you know that FieldClock was started by an orchardist? That’s right. So, we know just how important it is to get the most out of each cherry harvest season. Getting the most out of each harvest means your cherry farm workers pick as many ripe and ready cherries from each tree. Just as you wouldn’t take one bite of a piece of fruit and throw away the rest, you don’t want your cherry pickers to leave portions of your cherry trees unharvested.
Consider this example: Depending on the variety, there is about one pound of fruit for every foot of a producing cherry tree branch. A Skeena tree will produce about 35 pounds of fruit. If a picker leaves 3-5 one-foot segments of branch untouched, that results in up to 15 percent of the potential cherry harvest being left behind.
They say money doesn’t grow on trees, but when harvesting cherries, we beg to differ. For cherry farmers, when you leave too much sellable fruit on the branch, you’re literally leaving money up in your cherry trees!
The Hard Work Continues for Cherry Farmers during Harvest Season
As any good orchardist knows, picking your fruit is just the beginning of the cherry harvest season. Cherry farmers must also minimize damage and bruising, maintaining the fruit's quality from the moment it goes in the bucket to when you complete your sale. So, not only do cherry farmers need to maximize each tree’s yield, but they need to do so without overpacking collection buckets. Harvesting cherries requires a delicate balance! Overpacking can result in poor-quality cherries that sell for less once they hit the market.
How to Maximize the Productivity of Your Cherry Farm Workers
Depending on your farming practices (and cherry variety), your typical tree may produce 1500-3000 cherries. To ensure your cherry farmers harvest the maximum number of cherries without damaging the tree, spur, or the cherries themselves, we recommend the following tips to ensure a successful cherry harvest season.
Communicate picking expectations when hiring your Cherry Farm Workers
Let your pickers know that harvesting cherries isn’t just about quantity. We recommend outlining the expectations of a successful harvest season for your cherry farm workers. The best orchardists will give their team examples on prime cherry harvest techniques, including:
- Proper ladder positioning against the tree.
- How to pick, and how much.
- The best way to place fruit in the bucket.
- Actions to take that protect the tree and its fruit.
When training your employees, show examples of what and, what not to do. Communicating your expectations as the orchardist will help your pickers know what they need to produce to meet your expectations.
Pay higher piece rates.
With the growing costs of farm labor year after year, we know this one is easier say than done. But trust us when we say, it’s worth it. Once you build a reputation for paying well, the most effective farm workers will seek you out, making your cherry harvest season more productive, and more profitable.
Harvesting cherries effectively takes time and maintaining quality from the branch to the bucket will often result in lower volume. Therefore, you’ll need to compensate accordingly to attract pickers who understand the value of protecting your product. Paying higher piece rates often saves time and money in the long run. It makes gearing up for cherry harvest season easier for your staffing crews since experienced pickers will return and won’t need extra training.
Track production and quality control in real time.
Your quality assurance manager, or foreman, can pay closer attention to quality with the help of a labor management app designed specifically for farms and orchards. They can take quality control notes and ensure pickers meet your quality standards in real time. These notes can also help you identify damaged cherries and any evidence of pests while out in the field.
Tracking your quality control allows you to identify the highest- and lowest-producing cherry farm workers. A more detailed look at quality control and production allows the orchardist to see where more training may be effective, while identifying problems before it’s too late.
Build a Cherry Picking Dream Team
You’ve worked hard to grow the best cherry trees and maintain your orchard. But no cherry farmer can do it alone. Hiring a great team of pickers to make the most of every harvest season. With an assist from an easy-to-use labor management solution to boost productivity, you can build the dream team of cherry farm workers necessary for your orchard’s success. To learn more about how FieldClock can optimize your cherry harvest season, subscribe to our blog for more information.