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Why it was hard to find Annapolis Valley apple pickers in 1986

Picking apples may not have been an easy job in 1986. At wages of $10 a bin, finding pickers wasn't easy either.

Climbing a ladder to fill a bin earned workers $10

A lot of apples, not enough pickers

Digital Archives

34 years agoVideo
1:34
At $10 a bin, apple farmers in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley can't recruit enough workers to harvest all of their fruit in 1986. 1:34

The summer of 1986 had been unkind to a lot of apple farmers in Nova Scotia.

But at Broadview Farms in Wolfville, N.S., there was no shortage of apples, as the CBC's Lena Sadiwskyj reported that October.

Rather, there was a shortage of pickers willing to do the work of bringing in the harvest.

"Many people thought there wouldn't be enough fruit to make apple-picking worth their while," said the reporter. "So they didn't bother looking for jobs."     

'If we can't get it in, it's worthless'

An apple farm owner in Wolfville, N.S., said only 40 per cent of his McIntosh apples had been picked. He said he'd like to be at 75 per cent. (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

"We've got probably 50 acres left to pick here now," said the farm's owner. "If we get snow and we can't get it in, then it's worthless." 

Sadiwskyj said the Annapolis Farm Labour Pool had been trying to help, finding jobs for "more than 300 pickers." But it was still seeking 200 more.

"The pickers get $10 a bin," said the reporter, as a camera showed a man in coveralls on a ladder.

"It's not much. But for many of them, it's money they weren't counting on."

(According to Nova Scotia Agriculture, a bin was equivalent to 27 bushels in 2009.) 

'The easiest place'

A farm worker said without apple-picking, he'd have no income at all. (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

"Without apples, you'd have no income at all," said a young man with blond hair. "Work's hard to find, and this is about the easiest place to get it nowadays."

But with workers like him hard to find, the farm's owner was having trouble bringing in all the apples.

"We're approximately 40 per cent through our McIntosh," he said. "And we'd like to be at 75 per cent through right now, before the fruit softens up and while the quality lasts."

According to reporting in the CBC catalog, the harvest was better in Nova Scotia the following year, in 1987, but pickers were still hard to find — even though the pay for filling a bin had climbed to $12.

Workers earned $10 (about $21 in 2020 dollars) for each bin they filled with apples. (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

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