Our peach packing operation is comprised of a series of steps that take peaches from our trees and delivers them to your table. These steps include hand picking the peaches from the trees and placing them into bins that are brought to the packing house and run through the hydra cooler to remove the field heat. The bins are then placed in the cold room until they are ready to be run through the packing process. We have a daily operating plan that includes which peach variety and the number of bins we plan to run each day. In a typical day, we will run about 300 bins.
The packing house process starts when the fork lifts bring the chosen bins to the “Dumper” who dumps the peaches into water for a final washing before they are placed on the belt that takes them to the graders. Many farms now use automated machines that perform the “Dumper” job but not here at Pearson Farm. Vince is our “Dumper” and he has been here dumping peaches for 15 years. You might say he is an expert “Dumper.” It is his job to line up the bins, direct them to the shoot and dump them into the washer. Each bin has been tagged in the field with the date, orchard, and variety picked. Vince pulls these tags and uses them to make his daily report. The information he records allows us to keep up with our inventory, know how many bins we are running per hour and how we are progressing on our daily operating plan. This report is looked at numerous times during the course of day by our packing house supervisors, sales manager as well as Lawton and Mr. Al.
I saw Vince for the first time standing up on his perch high above the grading line on the first day of packing this peach season. He was looking out over the line waving his arms much like a maestro leading an orchestra. I found out later that he does these hand signals over the line daily. He's well known for them. During our interview, I asked him to share with me what his signals meant and why he does them. He tells me that since the plant is so loud, he uses hand signals to let the workers on the line know what is happening. He signals things like “Let's Roll” to start the day, “No Màs” when there are no more peaches to run or when there is a break to make a change in the process, and he has a special signal that lets everyone know when it's “Time to Go.” He says the workers always smile or laugh at his unique way of communicating but they always understand.
In a world where so many people are being replaced by computers, Pearson Farm has chosen to keep the “Dumper” job a little less automated because of Vince. He is only a seasonal employee for Pearson Farm working during peach seasons, so we look forward to his call every year to find out when he needs to report to work. He is an incredibly dependable and loyal employee. Vince has only missed a handful of days in his 15 years here and those were due to a family emergency. I really enjoyed my time with Vince this week and loved watching him interact with his co-workers here at the Farm. It is easy to see why we chose to forgo the computerized route….... Why in the world would you want a cold, emotionless piece of machinery…. when you can have a Maestro!
Photo Credits (Ashlee Culverhouse Photography)