Picking Time


Wednesday 07 January, 2015 by Uncle Spike

It’s that time of year when there are tractors and trucks and workers everywhere – it’s fruit harvest time.



Long ago I realised how futile it is as a one-man operation to try and profit by picking and selling my own fruit, as there are so many large operations that outbid the little guys for the wholesale market. These days we sell by the orchard, so that some other guy takes the risk of the fruit being good enough, not storm damaged and there being a market to shift the product at the time it is ready. They ‘buy’ perhaps 15 orchards, needing just 10 or 11.

Reality is they only pay for say 3 tonnes (6,600 lbs), knowing they’ll probably pick somewhere in the region of 3.5-4.0 tonnes (7,700-8,800 lbs), and only pay a wholesale price of around $0.19/kg, which equates to just 8.5 US Cents a pound. They then carry the risk, provide the pickers and the transportation.

You can always wait and try to sell by weight, but if the market shifts or the buyers just don’t need the product at the time your fruit ripens… well, it’ll not be sold and you’ll see an orange coloured carpet develop as a few tonnes of fruit just drop and rot – very sad picture I can tell you!.




I’ve spent my time as a picker though… and whilst I have done many jobs through varied careers, clementine picking rates near the top in terms of pure hard graft, I can assure you.

Each day starts at 8am, when the air is cold and usually blowing right through the bones – often too the trees are very wet, so it’s pretty uncomfortable too for the first two hours until the sun dries them off.

Picking is done using hand-clippers, as buyers (including the general public) expect to see some leaf stem and 2-3 fresh leaves attached to the fruit – perhaps to prove its freshness.

The picking day ends at dusk, which is around 5pm, but then the truck loading has to be completed, adding another half an hour at least. There are no breaks, bar 30 minutes for lunch, when we perch on upturned crates and munch whatever we brought along.




Each picker has to pick at least 25 crates (see blue/green above), or that’s 50 large white tubs in that photo. Total per picker is therefore 500-600 kilos, or 1100-1300 lbs of fruit, and believe me, when much of that has to be done from right up ‘inside’ the trees, as fruit grows mostly on the ‘shoulders’ of trees around 3-4 metres (10-13′) tall, it’s a hell of a workout by the end of a day.

Oh and by the way, the going rate is $18 cash. That’s for a full day. Been there, done that, both here and working on other farms in the area. At the time, “needs must” was the principle of the day, thankfully this year I haven’t needed to. As I say, been there, done that. Didn’t get the t-shirt though – that’s not included in the reward package apparently…

Just another glimpse into our world 🙂




14 thoughts on “Picking Time

  1. […] percent of our crops mature from late November to late January. For us, that primarily means clementines, but we also have pomelo, lovely large Washington oranges, small juicing oranges, winter lemons, […]


  2. maamej says:

    Fruit pickers the world over seem to get poorly paid, & for such a tough job. I was talking to someone recently about blueberry picking, which they said was very hard as the fruit is so small, especially in an Australian tropical summer.


  3. John says:

    Interesting that you clip to leave some stem and leaf. The standard here is to clip close to the starred cap stem, leaving nothing to poke or bruise the rind of neighboring fruit in the box that might rot in transit to consumers. A big deal in California where the packing houses make all the money picking, hauling, repacking, storing, selling and shipping worldwide that takes so much time consumers never get fresh fruit. Been there, done that too. You have my admiration, Spike 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yow — rough way to make a living.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. dayphoto says:

    Goodness! What a job! Now about this post! THANK YOU! Having grown up on a farm with a large variety of fruit I found this very interesting. Also a unique way of selling the harvest—sort of like us now…we contract out the corn (not the pinto beans or the hay) what we get for the corn is what was being paid at the time the contract was made. This year some farmers waited until the start of harvest and got $5 to $8 less than those who made a contract the early part of the year. We made a contract at the start of farm season.

    Once more, Thank you! Clementines are purchased by the flat here or by the pound they are very much enjoyed, but also very expensive.



  6. Sue Slaght says:

    Like Sarah I will never look at Clementines the same way. Rarely seen where we live they cost a fortune to buy. What a slog to pick them. Yikes!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Phew, that’s one hell of a slog. I will never look at clementines quite the same now! You sound wise to pass your produce on for someone else to take the risk. Better to earn an assured amount, even if it is less than you potentially could if things panned out okay. Not worth the gamble.

    Liked by 1 person

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