Wall Street Lemon Pickers

By Lloyd Graff

Richard De Leon is looking for more than a few good men. He took an ad costing several hundred dollars under the “Careers” category in the Saturday Wall Street Journal, searching for lemon and orange pickers to work from September 17 to Jan. 31, 2010, near Yuma Arizona.

I called Mr. De Leon at his firm, Servicios Agricolas Mex Inc to see how many refugees from Wall Street had applied for the $7.95 per hour seasonal job. He was affable and informative.

I asked him why he advertised in the Journal and he said it has a big circulation and a long reach, so he figured something good would come from it. He needs 150 workers for the upcoming season. With the difficulty in getting traditional migrant workers across the border he is looking all over.

He admits that the work is tough. A worker must haul a 40 pound tree ladder from the site drop area. The picker carries a bag for the fruit and clippers. I asked him if he gets many college students to pick. He says he gets several every season but they rarely last more than a few days. The temperature in Yuma yesterday was 110 degrees.

I told Richard that my view of the job was colored by the movie Cider House Rules. He hadn’t heard of it. A few years ago I traveled to Wenatchee, Washington, during the apple harvest. I love apples and have picked apple sauce quantities from nearby Michigan orchards. I know it was “apple picking for sissies,” but I think there is real value for young people to leave the comfortable settings they know and go to Africa or Peru, or Yuma to feel what rigorous manual work is like, and sleep in barracks and carry a picking bag of lemons along with a 40 pound ladder.

Question: What tough, dirty, physical jobs have you had that taught you something important?

This video explains how to harvest citrus fruit. At one point the old farmer says, if you want to carry a 100 pound bag of fruit for a living, “God bless you.”

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