Apple Picking Techniques and Best Practices

By , On , In Best Practices

It’s harvest season throughout the Okanagan and surrounding areas and apple picking is as the forefront of everyone’s minds.  After months of hard work, nurturing and growing, it’s time to reap the benefits of the long hours put in. When picking your apples, there’s definite, “do’s and don’ts,” that should be kept in mind, to ensure you’re protecting the quality of your fruit. It is essential that you’re teaching your teams the proper handling techniques and best practices, to set them up for success too.

Let’s take a closer look at the, “do’s and don’ts” behind picking to make sure you’re retaining the quality of your hard work. Even the smallest of details can impact your picking technique and the outcome of the quality of the fruit.

Training your Picking Teams

Apple picking techniques and practices are not always intuitive for some and have to be taught. Without proper guidance, a person’s ability to become a top-level picker is limited, so it’s best to ensure your teams are trained yearly and encouraged to question when in doubt.

Proper Dress & Picking Attire

Throughout the Okanagan Valley and surrounding areas, it is not uncommon for the weather to change frequently and suddenly. This should be remembered when going out into the field to pick. Teams should be prepared for sudden changes in weather throughout the day and proper rain attire should always be nearby and accessible. Seasonally appropriate attire is important to ensure the comfort of the picker, as they may be out in the field for hours at a time. Layering your clothes is often the best approach, as these can be easily removed with changing temperatures. Loose fitting clothing should be avoided, as this can become a trip hazard. During a dryer season or a dryer day, it is important that proper closed work boots should be worn and during a rainy season or on a rainy day, rubber boots should be worn. Comfortable footwear and clothing is important for productivity and comfort.

Picking Ladders and Safety in the Orchard

Safety should be an important component of any business and training is always an important aspect of safety. When sending teams of pickers out into the orchard, this is should be no different. Teams should be trained on the proper techniques involving ladder use or injuries are bound to occur. When using picking ladders, always ensure that the apple tree has been pruned to allow an opening so that a ladder can be placed in a stable way. Always make sure the ladder is properly secured before allowing the picker to climb the ladder and make sure that the picker knows to move the ladder when need be and avoid leaning off the side of the ladder. Each ladder rung and tongue should be inspected before it is used and check the entire ladder for defects. Each picker should be trained to ensure that the ladder is placed properly and safely; with the tongue placed far enough to ensure the ladder is safe, but not too far that it may fall over. Encourage first time pickers to question anything if unsure.

Proper Picking Techniques

When training your picking teams regarding proper picking techniques, it is important that they are aware of the impacts of picking on the tree as a whole. If an improper picking technique is applied, it may damage the tree and impact the following growing season. Never allow your teams to simply pull the fruit off the tree as this may disturb the tree and cause fruit to fall, which results in bruising and damaging of the fruit. Teams should be instructed to be careful not to remove the fruit’s spurs, as this will reduce the following season’s harvest. Instruct teams to carefully twist or turn the fruit upside down at the spur, which should separate easily if the fruit is at the correct maturity. For tougher apple varieties, place the thumb between the apple stem and the spur as the apple is, “rolled.” Always hold the apple in the palm of your hand when picking and avoid picking them up with your fingers, as this may result in bruising.

Lastly, when picking always work from the outside in. This will avoid damages to the apples on the outside of the tree when attempting to pick apples on the inside. Avoid damaging the apples or bruising by placing the picked apples carefully into the bag or bin and always instruct teams to exercise care when doing so.

Following the above-mentioned tips and tricks will ensure that your apple picking season is successful and bountiful. Training teams, as mentioned, is crucial for success and novice pickers should always be instructed to question when in doubt. A comfortable and nurturing work environment sets your pickers up for success and when in doubt, reach out to the Growers Supply Co. experts with any questions and concerns. We wish you success in this year’s harvest!