From the Guelph Mercury:
The lush rows of Bartlett pear trees appear boundless from where Pasqual Aragon stands. They make his small crew’s fruit-picking mission seem impossibly daunting.
“The truth is that there’s a lot of work and not enough people,” said Aragon, 26, as a dozen men beside him hoisted ladders and stuffed pears into heavy pouches strapped over their shoulders.
California farmers warned for years of a future without enough skilled pickers and packers, of fruits and vegetables rotting in place. Critics accused them of crying wolf to win sympathy for relaxing labour and immigration rules.
This year, however, the evidence seems stronger that the farm workforce is shrinking, and northern California farmers say the future could hold more mechanization and imported crops.
Aragon and the others had no time to waste as they plucked pears from the orchards that hug the fertile banks of the Sacramento River about 20 miles south of the state Capitol. Bartletts aren’t as sensitive as cherries and other summer fruits, but wait too long and the crisp, green pears ripen on the tree into unsellable mush.