NS apple growers scramble for pickers

Nova Scotia apple growers have an early crop on their hands, leaving them scrambling for pickers.

Early bumper crop has growers excited but in need of workers

Nova Scotia fruit growers are harvesting a record apple crop, ready sooner than in any season since 1946, but the early bounty comes with worries.

Greenwich's Doug Hennigar, who harvests half a million pounds of apples a year, said the milder winter and good weather this summer has apples one to two weeks ahead of schedule.

The harvest is early in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island as well.

But it means many growers are scrambling to find itinerant pickers, who usually don't show up until around the third of week of September.

Pickers come from Quebec, Newfoundland and as far away as Jamaica.

"So a lot of our growers now are scrambling to get people here," said Larry Lutes of the Scotian Gold Cooperative based in Coldbrook. "That's causing a little bit of a headache right at the moment."

Apple trees bloomed three weeks early this spring and conditions have been good throughout the summer.

"Now the apples think that it is time to be harvested," Lutes said. "The apple doesn't really care what the date on the calendar is. It just knows that it's reached the point where it is mature and it's time to be picked."       

Lutes said the heat this summer means larger fruit, which allows growers to sell in the premium market.  

"We're quite excited about that," he said.