In Washington State, Picker Shortage Threatens Apple Boom
In western Michigan, there aren’t enough apples to pick, after bad weather decimated 85 to 90 percent of its crop. But in Washington state, they have the opposite problem — there’s an abundance of apples, but not enough pickers.
This should be the happiest, busiest time of year in Washington apple orchards. But now — just as the peak of apple harvest is coming on — Broetje Orchards manager Roger Bairstow is wincing.
“There are quite a few of us that aren’t sleeping through the night,” he says.
Right now, Broetje has nearly 2,000 workers. They’re out on tall aluminum ladders plucking dusty red and green apples from the trees. Music plays from the smartphones of workers and Gala apples thud gently into the waiting bins.
But Bairstow says the orchard still needs at least 200 more experienced pickers. And apples have a limited branch life.