Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)

‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

There are plenty of cherries growing in the Okanagan and Creston valleys this year, but not enough workers to harvest them.

Cherry farms are worried they’ll have to abandon some crops due to work shortages related to COVID-19, the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association (BCFGA) said in a public plea to locals to help fill the labour void.

“Cherry producers have reported to the BCFGA that they are very concerned about the labour shortage this early in the season, before the peak volume is reached in mid-July,” the association said in a press release Friday, June 18.

Workers are needed in the South Okanagan now, and the need will move up the valley in a couple weeks when harvesting begins in the North Okanagan.

The BCFGA says the worker shortage is the result of the pandemic’s impacts on international travel, as well as a growth in the volume of cherries bring produced.

Late-season cherry varieties are picked throughout the month of August in the Okanagan and Creston Valleys.

There will also soon be a need for apple harvesters. Sunrise apple harvests start mid-August in the South Okanagan and late August in the North Okanagan. Late-season apples varieties are picked from September to November.

“The harvest work is physical and rewarding,” said Pinder Dhaliwal, president of the BCFGA. “Practically, the work requires the ability to go up and down ladders and to lift weights of up to 30 pounds. Harvest work often starts early in the day to avoid the intense heat of the day.”

BCFGA staff can provide on-farm orientation to fruit harvesters before the work starts.

“This is proven to increase worker retention,” said Glen Lucas, BCFGA general manger. “Our staff also provide information to ensure workers are aware of and following COVID-19 safety protocols.”

To find jobs, interested workers can also call the BCFGA’s labour manager, Ron Forrest, at 778-363-3620, or BCFGA’s summer safety specialist, Solana Wyatt, at 250-869-9083.

READ MORE: Reopening Canada: A look at COVID-19 reopening plans across the country

READ MORE: Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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