SPARTA, Mich. (WZZM) - We're seeing even more repercussions from last year's wiped out apple crop. The good news is this year's apples already appear to be coming in nicely, but there's a lot of concern that there may not be enough people to pick them when they grow.
Local apple farmers had plenty of good seasonal employees before losing last year's crop, but because they couldn't give their mostly out-of-state workers anything to pick last year, farmers like Jeff Vanderwerff in Sparta worry they've moved on to greener pastures.
"A lot of migrant workers come up here in the early spring to harvest asparagus, then after asparagus, they go into vegetables...then peaches, cherries, blueberries, apples," explained Vanderwerff. "Usually, when apples are done, my guys have always headed back down south and picked pumpkins in Tennessee on their way back to Florida to harvest citrus. They harvest citrus all winter. Well, those guys didn't come here last year...what happened to those workers? Did they find jobs in other states? Will they come back?"
A big reason many workers don't make the cut is because this is tough physical labor. Imagine spending an entire day moving a ladder around and picking thousands of apples as fast as you can. Farmers find a lot of people to try it for a day, but not enough who come back to do it again.
Around here, a harvester will typically make at least $10 an hour through the season, which usually starts in September, but it's never too early to ask about lining up some work.