News & Blogs "Farm Work: Americans Steer Clear Of Apple Harvest" (1 Viewer)

bryanpaul

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Farm Work: Americans Steer Clear Of Apple Harvest



by MARTIN KASTE

apple-jpg.51656_"Farm Work: Americans Steer Clear Of Apple Harvest"_Making a Living_Squat the Planet_5:22 AM
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Shannon Dininny/AP​
Maria Dominguez picks Gala apples in an orchard in Wapato, Wash., in 2007.


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October 26, 2010
Unemployment is stuck at above 9 percent, and it's become commonplace to call this the worst economy since the Great Depression.
But is the economy bad enough for out-of-work Americans to consider going to work back on the farm?
In Washington state, at a time when other wages have been stagnant, agriculture wages are up nearly 8 percent over the last two years. Some of this increase may be attributable to increased immigration enforcement by the federal government.
Late last year, the federal government reviewed the documents at Gebbers Farms, the biggest employer in the small town of Brewster, Wash., on a northern stretch of the Columbia River. The review — sometimes called a "silent raid" — forced Gebbers to fire an estimated 500 illegal workers.
The company is now using a more costly workforce imported legally from Mexico and Jamaica through the government's agricultural worker visa program.
Bob Brody, who has an apple orchard next door to Gebbers, says he thinks the visa system is too expensive, and the other alternative — hiring Americans — is a fantasy.
"They won't do it," he says. "Talk to any grower."
In the last 10 years, Brody says he's had only one American ask for a job as an apple picker, and he wanted too much money.
But now, the pay is inching up. Like most growers in the region, Brody says he needs more workers. He's offering an extra dollar per bin of apples picked; in his productive Red Delicious orchards, he's offering $15 per bin. At that rate, a fast worker can make $120 a day.
And yet, Americans still aren't applying for those jobs.
Language, Cultural Barriers
In town, Kara McWilliams says part of the reason is that white Americans like her don't feel comfortable applying for work that's done almost exclusively by Hispanics.
"I speak fluent Spanish, too" she says. "It's hard, that's why I haven't even tried."
But social tensions aside, the biggest factor is still money. While wages have gone up, it's still not what most Americans would consider enough to live on.
Craig Carroll, administrator of the regional state employment office, says that's particularly true for someone who doesn't have experience in the orchards.
"The people that don't really have the skills, previous experience harvesting fruit, since it is piecework, they may not even make minimum wage," he says.
In the Red Delicious orchard, a migrant woman from Oaxaca, Mexico, shows off her experience. She moves a ladder around the trees with lightning precision, and picks two or three apples at a time with each hand. Rarely breaking her pace, she fills a canvas bag around her neck, and when that fills up, she empties it into a bin.
The bin holds half a ton of apples, and she can fill eight of them a day.
"And she's a woman!" marvels Cesar Trejo, the crew boss at this orchard. At $15 per bin, she can make $120 for a day of nonstop work. It's better pay than in Mexico, but still not enough to attract Americans.
Asked if there might be a wage high enough to bring Americans back to the orchards, Trejo shrugs. It doesn't matter, he says, because it's not going to happen.
Pricing Pressure From Chile And China
"The boss can't pay more than he makes," he says. Pressure from low-cost producers in Chile and China has helped hold down the market price for American apples over the last few years.
Washington growers have made efforts in recent years to try to cut their labor costs to stay competitive. They've implemented more mechanization and planted a greater variety of apples, which spreads out the harvest season and allows them to get by with fewer workers.
Still, Brody says, if people want higher wages in the orchards, the federal government would have to guarantee him and other producers a minimum price for their apples — and that would probably mean higher prices in the produce section.
 
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1544c

Pilgrim
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120 a day sounds like good money to me. i'd consider it if i didn't already have work
does anyone here have experience as a seasonal apple picker? i attempted to get a job in Wisconsin picking apples a few years ago with no luck.
 

Margarita

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Yeah, agreed, sounds like hard but gratifying work and for that pay? Sign me up! I will definitely consider it when I'm out west.

My bet is that the price wars with Chile and China will be resolved once and for all, once people realise that petroleum production has peaked, haha, and prices spike and everything goes to shit.
 

wokofshame

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There is definitely a self-defeating prophecy there "Won't ask any americans cause they dont work hard" well if you dont ask youll never see right...
The big problem is that many migrant workers find their employment through recruiters who take a huge cut of their pay (on dairy farms in vermont it's often 1500-2000$ for them to be set up at a farm, sometimes including transportation). Many of these labor providers are huge shysters.
As someone in the country legally, you really do have a hand up getting one of these jobs on that count.
On the other hand, a cultural/language barrier between every other picker and the foremen is a big barrier.
!Aprende lo espanol!
 

ezekiel

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Damn, if they were asking the right Americans and not the snobs who have never worked a day in their life, yeah, they're not going to hire any Americans. What a fucking excuse. Even if you only picked 4 bins a day, that's still $60. Depending on your (YOUR) standard of living, that's a living wage. I just wish that these seasonal jobs were more open, available and advertised to Americans.
 

Ridire

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$120 in cash for a day's hard work, plus the occasional snack? Count me in, I used to do this for fun anyway.

As for leads, Rhode Island and Massachussets produce most of the apples on the East Coast, come here and help out in late September/early-to-mid October.
 

Rob Nothing

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Yeah apple pickers / pruners here in east washington want experienced people. Not something I even qualified for, to my surprise.

Some leads to this would be great. Otherwise, looks like rhode and ma!
 
K

Kim Chee

I deleted myself
I made 160$ on my best days last fall and 120$ daily on average. Can drink and smoke pot on the job too
C'mon Murt,

Tell 'em how fast you have to work to pull that off. I've picked before (other fruit), I'm not slow and many can pick fruit much faster than I. Or, are apples "easy fruit"?

My fastest picking was done late at night under a bright moon.
Free fruit=much wine
 
L

liberationmoves

I deleted myself
Farm owners overwhelmingly will not hire American citizens to pick fruit because they will want more money and better conditions. So what the scum bag capitalists do is sponser people on visas , work them to death and cheat them out of wages. This is the real social and economic reality.
 

Matt Derrick

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here's a lead: macks apples in londonderry, nh. season starts as early as the first week of august to as late as the end of august and runs ill mid to late october. make sure to apply around june/july at the latest. incredibly nice people, the bunkhouse is fucking pimp, they have a live in cook, and are pretty much the only farm around that will hire non-jamacian people (not being racist, just saying, when i worked there i was told the majority of apple pickers in the area are jamacian).

was fun as fuck and a great way to spend a summer/fall. pay was around $8/hr plus end of season bonuses for picking volume.
 

wokofshame

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Most northeast orchards hire Jamaican pickers on H2A visas. The guaranteed minimum on a h2A is actually really good, 11.75/hour. And to the jamaicans it's like they won the lottery, their plane flights are paid for by the orchard, housing is free. And you are still paid by bin so you actually earn closer to 15$/hour most days.
I'm not sure what you're talking about, liberationmoves, It's a great deal.
By contrast, most Washington orchards employ hispanic pickers from places like Michoacan and Oaxaca, they are either "illegal" or permanent residents/citizens whose parents came here to pick. You are paid by the bin but usually it figures out to a pretty good wage, if you are a decently fast picker you will make 100-150$/day. One bin being 20 bushels, 800 pounds or up to a thousand pounds for pears which are heavier. For say, Golden Delicious, the per bin price is 20$.
 
Joined
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120 a day sounds like good money to me. i'd consider it if i didn't already have work
does anyone here have experience as a seasonal apple picker? i attempted to get a job in Wisconsin picking apples a few years ago with no luck.
If you or anyone is interested up in Door County Wisconsin it is super easy to get a job picking, packing and later making apple cider. Try orchards right around Sturgeon Bay like Robertsons Orchard, you won't be making $120 a day but it isn't that bad of pay. Also apple picking is very finicky in that some years are complete disasters since the trees get frost damage during winter, so do your research first before headin' out.
 

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