The pears of grower Gerard van Hal from Midwoud are picked by retired local residents. He has stopped using migrant workers for a few years now, but has a pool of about 20 elderly people who happily bring in the pear harvest. “It’s fun and I immediately hear all kinds of stories from the village.”
Since Gerard reduced his acreage, he no longer uses migrant workers. With a sign by the path to his yard and an advertisement in a few village magazines, the flow of pickers started on its own. “One took a neighbour, the other a family member. And so a core group of about twenty people has formed, who collect the pear harvest in a few weeks”, Gerard looks back.
The pear harvest is good this year, at least in North Holland. “It was a good year for the growers who were able to water”, says Gerard, who, as a grower from North Holland, did not have to deal with a spraying ban. Growers who did not have access to sufficient water are having a hard time after a dry summer period. They have very small fruits hanging on the trees this year.
It is very busy between the pear trees: the jokes and the pleasant chatter are not uncommon. Most pickers don’t do it for the money, but for the fun. “Having fun and being among people”, says Jan van Etten (74), who has worked in construction all his life and started working as a pear picker for Gerard a few years ago, after his retirement. He also does it to help him, but the social contacts are also very important. “You get to know everyone better and better.”
Gerard is satisfied with the picking pace. According to him, the work is not too hard. When local residents come to pick for the first time, they receive a brief instruction. It is important that the stem remains attached to the pear. “All pickers wear gloves so as not to damage the fruit with their nails”, says Gerard. “That’s a close call. The smallest damage leads to premature rot or brown spots.”
Gerard comes across many sad examples of ‘battered pears’ on supermarket shelves. “Like no peduncles or brown streaks.” And as a pear lover, this makes him visibly sad.