An Appleyear | August & September 2019

EVA-Apples: Hi Karin, thank you very much that you allowed me to help you today. I have my gumboots and my cap packed, I´m ready to go!

Karin: Hi, very nice that you found the time for helping us some hours. We are very happy about that.

EVA-Apples: Well harvest is the peak of the season. What is roughly the timeframe over which you will harvest all your apples, how many varieties do you have and what quanities are you harvesting in average?

Karin: You are right. It takes us about 8 weeks to complete the full harvesting season. The timeline is more or less given by the various varieties. They have different time in which they are getting ripe. We start with Gala picking, afterwards Golden Delicious, which by the way we don´t have many. Then we start with the main variety Evelina, followed by the new brand Tessa and we finish with Braeburn. To tell you the harvesting quanities is not so easy. There are many factors influencing the quanity. First in depends on the weather throughout the wohle year which is defining the sizes of the apples. The harvesting quanity on the day depends on the amount of harvesting people we are having.

EVA-Apples: Before you start with picking, you have so called harvest inspections. What is the aim of those and is it helping you?

Karin: Well, the harvest inspections before harvest are very interesting for us. This gives us an indication when we should start with the picking according to the ripening analysis. We usually met at a selected orchard where we are talking about various ripening stages, takeover criteria, and harvest window and so on.

EVA-Apples: Today we are picking Evelina. This variety we more or less have accompanied the whole year. For picking, you are getting the picking criteria´s from your production counselors of your grower´s organizations. Please explain what exactly the harvest window is and what is important for you?

Karin: You are right. The picking criteria are mainly covering sizes and colors and as you said the harvesting window. This is a certain time period, usually 14 days. When picking Evelina we have 21 days. The so called harvesting window opens once the first apples are ripe, according to their inner levels as starch, firmness and sugar. This window closes after 14 respectively 21 days. Only within this timeframe it is possible, to harvest good apples, which we can store for a longer period and which have optimal inner conditions. Because of that it is our main objective to pick all the apples whithin this given time frame.

EVA-Apples: There are various standards set by customers and consumers who are defining what a good apple should be like. How difficult is it for you to reach those standards?

Karin: As we are producing a natural product it is not always easy to meet those given standards. Anyway, there is a request for certain fruit sizes and colors which we need to fulfill in order the apple can be sold well. That the apples are without any obvious mistakes is of course out of question. It takes us a huge amount of work to fulfill all the requirements.

EVA-Apples: How can you ensure, that your harvesting people are picking the right apples. How many harvesting people are helping you anyway?

Karin: Today we are working with 8 harvesting people and in addition all family members are helping. We do some kind of training session in advance, showing all helpers what the right color and size is. If they have some questions they can also use this session to clarify those. After that they can work on their own. Occasionally we are checking the picked apples in the bins.

EVA-Apples: Also your familiy is helping. How many hours are you working per day and how many bins (bins with a volume of around 250-300 Kilo in which the apples are put after picking) do you fill per day?

Karin: Our working day of course is very long. In average we are currently working 10 to 12 hours a day. After all we need to prepare all filled bins and make them ready for transport to the packhouse. Also we need to write delivery notes and so on… Everthing takes its time. Also the amount of bins, which we are filling per day is depending on the variety and also on the amount of helping hands. But I would say in average one person is filling 5-6 bins a day.

EVA-Apples: The harvest is divided into serval picking sessions. How many times do you need to work in the same yard and what is the focus in each picking session?

Karin: We are harvesting each variety at least twice, sometimes also three times and as here with Evelina we have 4 picking sessions. If we want to harvest the apples, which have the right ripeness, size and color it is inevitable to have serval picking sessions. If we would pick all fruits at once we would have different green and unripe apples as well as dark red apples all in the same bin.

EVA-Apples: Current trend is that apples are rather smaller this year. Is there any chance that the quality of the apples is improving during the various harvesting sessions? That means are they getting bigger or are they getting more color?

Karin: That is another good reason, why it is advisable to have serval sessions. The apples which are leaving on the tree are in general smaller or don´t have enough color. It takes a couple of days until we start the next harvesting session. In the meantime they could grow a little and get more color.

EVA-Apples: For an inexperienced person it is almost impossible to pick apples considering that they all need to have the required quality standards. What is your secret that you make sure you are really mainly pick the right apples?

Karin: The speed only for you seems very high. Once you have more routine you will notcie that it´s not that fast as you now think. Every worker works on a defined zone on the tree. That way everybody knows which apples they need to pick up. The green ones stay on the tree until one of the next harvesting sessions.

EVA-Apples: I need to go and let you all keep working. It was fun to work with all of you even though it was only a short time. I´ll keep my fingers crossed it will a successful harvest this year. We will meet again in November. Do you also have a question to me?

Karin: Also for you the sales started with the new crop. What are your goals? Are there any new projects you have planned?

EVA-Apples: Yes, sales of new season crop have already started. The last year was extremely exhausting for everybody involved. The huge overproduction caused consistent challenges until the end. This season looks on the other hand completely different. They European crop seems lower than last season which means that there will be completely different challenges. As company, EVA has a broad set of different goals. But they are very similar from year to year. First is our task and goal – as we are owned by producer origination – to work efficient and to cover our costs. Besides that it is just as important to sell the apples, which are provided to us, at all respectively reasonable and in due time. On the other hand EVA has built up a solid customer base of well-known national and international clients over the last 25 yeras. It is our task and goal to keep this customer base and in best case expand our share of delivery at definded clients. But here we also depend on nature (production quanity, apple quality, etc.). New attractive clients and/or markets are also of course always in our focus. I hold the opinion that new clients and/or markets have to fit to our company profile and our product (that means; can we fulfill the requirements in regard of price, quanity, quality, etc. at all?).