Chris Eckert>LPL Walk & Talk Interviews>Eckert, Section 1


duration 16:08
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Illinois is a wet, humid environment which is great for fruit and insects.
They scout and use insect trap to have counts of how many insects and where insects are to reduce sprays and isolate problems within the orchard. Integrated Pest management which reduces the amount of chemicals put on, which is an environmental and economic benefit. Fruit chemicals are different than row crop. Control is highly specific such as with apples where there are 5 different chemicals that kill in 5 different ways. You have to know life cycle, timing, how much, the weather, etc. Less harmful to other, beneficial insects. The coddling moth is harmful to apples. Peach harvest relies on the weather, especially in Illinois. Buds are formed the previous year and are forming all winter long and if temperature dips below zero, you lose the buds and your entire crop. Peaches are not a hardy tree. They lost crop the year before because of a warm March and then a late freeze and lost all of the peaches and most of their apple crop. Rare event to lose both, last happened in 1955. Winter Kill happens once every ten years.
Fruit is spoiled once it hits the ground for fear of E coli or animals. This is an industry standard and not regulated by the government. Apples are regulated more because they are made into juice and cider.
Laborers are paid by the hour plus a 15 cent tote bonus. They can harvest up to 200 totes a day. Physically demanding job, baskets weigh about 40 pounds, going up and down ladders so there are not a lot of women workers. They start at day light until peaches are done being picked for that day, sometimes around 1 or 3 or other days they work 12 or 14 hours a day. They have about 13 to 14 members in a crew and two crews. Pick about 3500 totes a day. Trailer holds about a hundred totes.
Laws have changed in H-2A visas. It's very regulated. The workers have come from Mexico and are designated to work for them, for a specific time, doing a specific job. They don't have the freedom to go to other growers. They take them back to Mexico when work is done. Agriculture hand laborers used to start in Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas and Michigan. It's seasonal work. Ninety percent of the work is done by Mexicans.