Smoky conditions, worker shortage threaten Okanagan apple harvest

Smoky conditions, worker shortage threaten Okanagan apple harvest

“Frankly, some farmers may go under.”

With smoky conditions in the valley and a shortage of labourers, this year’s harvest season is proving to be a difficult one for Okanagan fruit growers.

Avi Gill of Farming Karma said they’re not quite in the middle of harvesting yet, but they’re already feeling the struggle.

“Ambrosia is our main brand, so we don’t have to harvest until the end of September, but we’re pushing to make sure we have enough pickers leading up to that,” he said.

“I think there will be that (worker) shortage at the end of September… it was a tough cherry season but the apple crop is looking good. But now we have the problem of picking it all in time.”

Gill said even though they’re not doing heavy picking quite yet, the smoke is still a big concern. He said the hope is that it all clears up soon or else they may delay harvesting to help protect their workers.

Sam DiMaria, owner of Bella Rosa Orchard, said the harvest is progressing as well as it possibly can given the current conditions.

“My immediate concern right now is the health of the pickers. The past couple of days, with the thick smoke in the atmosphere, it has been a concern,” he said.

“Some of my pickers have been complaining about dry throats. We took Sunday off because of the thick smoke… and they’re just not able to work at their 100 per cent.”

DiMaria said that during this time, they normally work seven days a week but the shortage and the weather conditions have delayed them by three days and now, they’re trying their best to pick as much fruit as they can. He said at least the smoke doesn’t do much to affect apples’ taste and finish, though he said he is concerned for grape-growers.

Because half of his workers weren’t able to come to Canada due to pandemic restrictions on international borders, DiMaria said he’s been trying to hire local pickers instead to fill the gap.

“But because they’re inexperienced, they may not pick as much as experienced workers. They’re trying their best, but new at this.”

“So the number of bins we’re picking is down considerably. This is a huge concern because fruit will continue to ripen… if we lose fruit on the ground because we weren’t able to pick it, it would be a disaster.”

“The whole apple growing industry in the Okanagan is already on its knees,” DiMaria added.

Gill said the worker shortage and possible delays in picking could be the last straw for some growers.

“Frankly, some farmers may go under… I just hope that British Columbians can recognize that farming may be difficult, but it’s important to our food security,” he said.

“If there’s any government assistance, please just keep a lens on the farming industry, especially in the Okanagan Valley because there’s a lot of trouble here right now.”

READ:


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A historic home near Granny’s Fruit Stand in Summerland was the home of two of the community’s mayors. J.R. Campbell and Don Cameron both lived at the home on Highway 97 in Summerland, but not at the same time. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Historic house was home to two Summerland mayors

Building along Highway 97 was constructed in 1906

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Vaccine rollout is focused on health care workers first, especially those dealing with long-term care facilities. (Nathan Denette - Canadian Press)
General public shouldn’t expect vaccines until fall: Interior Health

Interior Health focused on vaccinating long-term and first-line care workers

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has given first reading to its 2021 budget. (RDOS image)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen budget to rise by 2.8 per cent

Impact of budget increase will not be the same in all communities or electoral areas

Hedley residents are advised to not drink the water until a pump in one of its wells is fixed. Photo Andrea DeMeer
Hedley residents under do-not-consume-water order due to arsenic levels

Residents in Hedley remain under a do-not-consume-water order, due to higher than… Continue reading

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Homeless man lying on the bench. (File photo)
Temporary emergency shelter opens in Central Okanagan

The shelter, located at the former location of Tree Brewing, will offer 38 beds

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said the city won’t look at changing its policy regarding automatic cost of living pay bumps for himself and city councillors, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. (File)
Kelowna won’t look at nixing automatic pay raises for council, mayor

Mayor Colin Basran said the raise is minuscule, won’t look at changing policy amid residents’ COVID struggles

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Kevin Lee Barrett is charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. (Facebook)
Court hears of victim’s injuries in West Kelowna attempted murder trial

Two-week-long trial continues for Kevin Barrett, accused of trying to kill mother in West Kelowna

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A mother hold hands with her daughter while sharing about her struggles with addiction during Overdose Awareness Day. (Jesse Major/Black Press file)
Overdose and suicide support group starts in Penticton

Penticton was one of the province’s communities hardest hit by the overdose crisis in 2020

McBain Insurance in Summerland gave a donation of $816 to Angus Place. The money will go towards a new floor in the bathing room in the seniors care facility. From left are Chris Emmons of McBain Insurance, Stacey Schieman of McBain Insurance and Charmaine Kramer of Parkdale Place Housing Society. (Contributed)
Donation to help with bathing room work at Summerland seniors facility

Earlier contribution will be used to replace aging tub at Angus Place

Most Read