It's official, we're right in the middle of Harvest Season.
(photos by Janice Seagraves)
Across the street the raisin harvest is underway. Again what used to take a work crew of ten to twenty takes only three men to pull off. Long lengths of paper are laid out down the rows of grapes, then the huge picker pulls off the grape bunches off and lays them down in a flat even row. Later workers will come to cut off length of the paper and turn them over onto fresh paper so the grapes can dry on the other side. After drying they'll be gathered up and dumped into either gondolas or the semi truck trailers and taken away to a processing plant where the rains will be cleaned, destemmed, dried again before being boxed up for shipment.
My husband works at a local winery. It's the biggest plant in my home town and hubby works there as graveyard foreman. He's a industrial maintenance mechanic and keeps the plant running.
The crush season is underway: The grapes are harvest like the raisin grapes but instead of being laid out to dry are then loaded up into gondolas or the trailers of semi-trucks, then they are brought to where my husband works. Weighed, the sugar content checked before being off loaded into the crush area, where they are turned into juice and the steams, seeds and grape skins are removed. Wine grapes almost always have seeds. The juice is put into great big silos some six stories tall, where later a yeast culture is added. Yeast eats the sugar in the grape juice producing alcohol, which in turn changes grape juice into wine.
A lot has changed in the last twenty years in how produce reaches the market, and less and less people are needed. One of the reasons that the work has become so mechanized is that the workers are getting harder to come by because of the tougher migrant laws since 911.
In my home town, the farmers have gotten together and decided to share the same work crew. They rotate the work and keep the migrant workers busy all year long, so they'll stay and be available when they are needed.