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Information for Apple Pickers


Apple picking is pleasant and healthy work that anyone in reasonable physical condition can do. It is a great way to earn extra income. The Nova Scotia Fruit Growers' Association has prepared the following information to help growers attract and retain pickers. In addition, it will help pickers understand what is expected of an apple picker and the basic techniques of apple picking. The Annapolis Valley has a long history of apple production, and a successful apple harvest aids greatly in the overall prosperity of everyone living here. Here are some guidelines and suggestions for apple pickers.

Apple pickers should dress in layers so that sweaters and jackets can be shed as the day becomes warmer. Short pants are not recommended. Footwear should be rubber boots for wet days and leather work boots for dry conditions. Sneakers are not recommended as they will not grip the rungs of a ladder. A hat or cap will help to shield eyes from the sun.
All pickers should have rainwear for picking on rainy days and wet mornings.

It is a good idea to take a bottle of water to the orchard because it can get hot on fall days. Alcohol of any type must not be consumed during working hours. Even one can of beer reduces your ability to pick properly and makes you more likely to have an accident.

Behaviour and Attitude:
Pickers are expected to be on their best behaviour when in the orchard. A cheery attitude makes it better for you and everyone else. No one appreciates a grumbler.
Picking Instructions:

Apples must be picked with care and speed in order to make a good day's pay and provide the grower with good apples in the bin.

Making every move count is the key to efficient picking. Pickers must use both hands to be efficient. If picking from a ladder, grip the ladder with your legs to allow both hands to pick.  To prevent bruising, be careful not to bounce the apples in the bottom of the basket against the ladder rungs.

Apples must be handled with care to avoid bruising, particularly softer varieties such as McIntosh. Never pull the apples from the limb. Apples should be picked gently with the palm of the hand gripping the apple and turning it upside down to separate it from the branch. Be careful not to push your fingers into the apple as this will cause bruising. The apple should then be carefully placed in the basket, never dropped. When your basket is full, gently empty it into a bin. As the bin fills up, make sure the level of the apples in the bin is kept even so that the apples do not roll around and become bruised.

Anyone can learn to pick carefully and still make good time if they will take the time and care to learn. Bruised and damaged apples are of no value to growers. Please learn to pick properly; if you are not sure, just ask one of your supervisors.

Spot Picking:

Spot picking is picking over the trees to remove the best fruit first, allowing the smaller fruit to size and colour for picking later. When you are spot picking you are required to pick to a minimum standard set by your employer. Usually the best fruit is closest to the outside of the tree. When you pick an apple that is not up to the standard, drop it on the ground. This includes apples with spots or insect injuries, or that are undersized, misshapen or have poor colour. Growers do not want poor apples in a bin of fresh fruit.
When spot picking you should aim for half a basket or more per ladder climb to make it worth your while.

Instructions for Pickers:

Proper Use of a Ladder:
• Hold ladder by rungs
• Place bottom firmly on the ground
• Raise to vertical
• Turn ladder sideways and ease into tree
• Straight ladders should be placed so that if a limb breaks, the ladder will fall into the tree
• The ladder should be placed in a nearly upright position. In this position the picker does not need to hang on and so can use both hands to pick
• Ladders in an upright position put little strain on the ladder and the tree
• When climbing a ladder, hold the basket to one side to prevent the basket banging against the ladder and damaging apples
• Ladders should be placed in trees so as to allow for limbs moving up as the weight of the apples is removed from them
• The support leg(s) of a stepladder should be placed under the canopy of the tree
• When not in use, ladders should be left leaning against the base of a tree so that they can easily be seen by truck and tractor drivers

Picking Procedure:
• Begin by picking at the bottom of the tree; pick an area large enough so that no apples still on the tree will be damaged by dropped fruit when picking from the ladder
• Then place the ladder in the tree and begin picking from the ladder
• Pick all apples within reach as you move up the ladder
• Keep both hands going
• Keep hands close together
• Keep basket near apples
• Finish an area before moving on
• Climb ladder until even with apples on the tree; try not to pick over your head
• Move around tree step-by-step

Fruit Removal:
• Apples should not be squeezed during picking
• Pick only one apple at a time
• Apples should be lightly cradled between the palm and fingers, the thumb or forefinger against the base of the stem
• The apple should be removed with a twisting and lifting motion, the forefinger or thumb exerting pressure against the stem
• Try not to break off the spur; breaking off the spur removes next year's fruit buds
• It is important that the stem remain in the apple, as an apple without a stem is more likely to spoil in storage

Filling Picking Containers:
• Carefully place apples in the picking basket; dropping apples can cause bruises and stem punctures
• Do not overfill picking baskets; overfilled baskets are hard to carry and empty, resulting in increased damage

Emptying Containers:
• Empty basket into lowest part of bin; basket must just touch apples in the bin before releasing; do not drop your basket on the apples already in the bin
• Gently slide apples from basket into the bin, sliding en masse gives less bruising; do not pour apples roughly or drop from basket into bin
• Bins should be filled from all sides to prevent apples rolling around and being damaged; careful handling in filling bins will reduce the amount of damage to apples
• Always empty basket before moving ladder

Efficient Spot Picking:
• Do not attempt to get every apple that is fit to pick on the first go-round - you'll be back again
• Pick between 20% and 40% of the fruit
• Do not go up the ladder unless there are enough apples (a basketful) to be worthwhile
• When two apples are growing at the same place on a branch (doubles), they should be either both picked or neither picked, i.e., do not attempt to pick one and leave one on the tree
• Don't leave a few scattered apples on the tree - if they are almost all fit, then pick everything. Remember: either leave enough fruit to make it worth going back or clean pick the area. Usually a tree looks thin when over spot picked, i.e., more apples should have been left
• Train your hands and eyes to pick only suitable fruit - it should become automatic after awhile
• Do not touch an apple unless you pick it
• Pick a basketful and then examine them in the bin; if they are small or green, then raise your sights a little; if you are leaving too many, then lower your standards
• If you are getting less than 90% of your usual amount picked per day, there is something wrong; find the trouble and correct it
Note:  The Nova Scotia Fruit Growers' Association has included a sample picker's contract that they hope will be useful to growers. This form will open in another browser window so that it can be printed without the web site navigation. Close the new window to return here.

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