HUMAN HANDS or the lack thereof. Mechanisation has always been a part of the horticultural industry, not so much in the picking but definitely in the packing, and now that there are less migrant workers and the existing workforce is getting older – mechanisation is taking big steps to keep the industry of growing food alive and well.
Most of the big packhouses offer pretty good job packages. This packhouse has free onsite health care for all employees and their families. Plus a free cafeteria that serves food cooked on the premises. College Scholarships, etc. These growers are competing with each other to attract good workers.
Minimum wage is rising to 15 dollars in the next few years.
(I cannot name the packhouse as I actually don’t have their permission to do so). Bad Mama.
Still, this industry is struggling to find enough farm workers.
In fact with the rise of employment opportunities in Mexico plus the numerous other factors (I don’t really want to get into the politics of it on my blog) there are less people coming into the country to do these jobs. And (this confuses me) there is no rise of Americans to take the jobs vacated by the immigrant workers.
We have to be careful with this discussion because we are discussing the fate of fresh American food.
In this packhouse, on the presort machine, 26,000 fruit per minute are rushing past my camera. About a 450, 000 bags per day, the bags vary in weight up to 5 pounds. of good mandarins are packed per day. And every piece of fruit is handled with care by a machine with cups and brushes designed to be as soft and gentle as a human hand.
And even though these packhouses are needing less people to run them due to the increase in mechanisation (though god help us if the internet goes down). And the expectation of the consumer is for perfect fruit and vegetables which only a machine can do perfectly. Still there are more workers needed – especially in California. All these mandarins are picked by hand after all.
Crops get ploughed back into the ground every year because there is not enough labor to pick them. This is a very real problem. Where is the labor force who was waiting in the wings hungry for the jobs immigrant workers have been doing. I read that over 3 million dollars in crops were lost last season due to the lack of pickers.
And where are the young people coming up to join this existing and legal labour force. Many of the women and men I talked to in this packhouse were older – they have worked here for years. The immigrant labor force is aging too. Interesting.
As an interesting aside all the fruit that is not good enough for your table or for juicing is sent off to be turned into cattle feed.
Yesterday they were installing an extra wash to clean fruit affected by sooty mold.
Most washer water is cleaned and recycled on site to reduce waste. Probably not from this section of brush bed though.
This family owned company also installed a huge solar power farm that feeds electricity to the packhouse.
ROT is written on this tower where all the last of the last of the fruit destined for the cows is poured into the truck.
We took a bag of mandarins home. Tasty.
I hope you have a lovely day.
There is not much to see in the suburbs so I will only pop in when I have something for you. I go home to RAIN Tuesday.
WEATHER on the farm.
Sunday 02/18 0% / 0 in
Partly cloudy. High 44F. Winds SSE at 10 to 20 mph.
Sunday Night 02/18 80% / 0.07 in
Partly cloudy skies early then becoming cloudy with periods of rain late. Low 37F. Winds S at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of rain 80%.
WEATHER in the Central Valley.
63F as I write.