Raisin growers who’ve invested in mechanization reaped the benefits this season as the federal government tightened borders and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials marched into agricultural operations with a vengeance.

“Labor was definitely an issue this year,” says Stephen Vasquez, Fresno County farm advisor. “It was tough for growers to get crews, and if they did get them, they were often short of what they needed for the job.”

Approximately 40 percent to 50 percent of the industry is already mechanized to some degree, according to Vasquez. “Most of the mechanization is in the form of continuous tray production. Only about 10 percent to 15 percent have gone to a true DOV system.”

The initial investment to install a DOV system is prohibitive for most growers, according to Glen Goto, CEO of the California Raisin Bargaining Association. “DOV technology has been of limited interest due to the high initial investment of planting a vineyard. There are some vineyard conversions from traditional to DOV, but the typical Thompson Seedless grape does not mature early enough to allow the product to fully dehydrate on the vine.”

Although there were some problems with imbedded sand this year, raisin harvest progressed without too many hitches. “Yields were down a little more than growers anticipated, but it wasn’t too bad,” Vasquez says.