Carter Orchards

    About us
    Contact us
    Scientific farming


    Cherry harvest
    Apple harvest


    General information
    Varieties grown
    How to buy cherries
    Cherry recipes


    General information
    Varieties grown
    How to buy apples
    Apple recipes

Cherry Harvest


     Cherry harvest usually starts in the second week of June and runs through the third week of July. Early varieties include Tieton, Royal Anne and Chelan. Late varieties include Sweetheart, Skeena and Black Republicans. All of our cherries are picked by hand by skilled migrant laborers. In a typical year, we hire just under 200 people to pick our cherries.

A typical day

     The day begins at 4:45a.m. when the supervisors and "punchers" meet at the loading pad for a brief morning meeting. We try to have all of the punchers in the orchard with their groups by 5:00. (Before 5:00, there is not enough sunlight to see the cherries.) Each puncher works with a group of 18 pickers. Every year, we hire 11 punchers and just under 200 pickers. Pickers use ladders and two-gallon "picker pal" buckets to pick the cherries. The pickers bring full buckets to their puncher who checks the fruit quality and dumps it into a bin. The puncher punches one hole on the picker's ticket for every bucket picked. Pickers are paid by the number of buckets they pick. All make at least minimum wage. A good picker in a good tree can make $20 or more an hour.           


                Once a puncher has two full bins, (s)he calls a fork tractor driver to come and pick up the bins. (Each full bin contains about 350 pounds of cherries.) The tractor lifts up the bins and carries them out to a main orchard road where they lined up in rows. A tractor with an attached trailer picks up the bins and brings them to the loading pad where they are loaded onto trucks using forklifts. Each truck can carry 40-50 bins depending on the type of cherry. The trucks bring the bins of cherries to the packing houses where they are weighed and put through a hydro-cooler.

     Starting at 9:00, the punchers and their crews rotate off for 30-minute lunch breaks. Paulina, the mother of one of our full-time year-round employees, sells Mexican food out of the back of her Subaru. She sells tamales, tacos, taquitos, sopes, and drinks. Her food is excellent! Lunch is so early because the day starts early and because most people do not eat before coming to work.           

                The pickers work until 2:00 or 3:00. After that, the punchers meet, collect all of the picking tickets and make plans for the next day. The tractor drivers bring all of the full bins to the loading pad where they are put onto trucks and brought to one of the packing houses in town. Once all of the fruit is out of the orchard, the tractor and 4-wheeler drivers put empty bins into the block that will be picked the next day. In the afternoons, the supervisors look over the remaining blocks and schedule which blocks will be picked when. Due to the unpredictable nature of fruit ripening, the schedule is generally changed every day. Some days we pick over 400 bins.