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Harvest help?

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havlikn

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We are looking forward to the new season and started to plan for harvest. I am wondering what you do/pay for harvest help. Family and friends only go so far. We have reached out to some non profits but they seem non committed and the amount they are asking for is irrational.

Do you pay by hour or pound picked?

Do you provide a lunch?

Do you pay per hour by bottle of wine?

I have actually heard of a winery that charges people to pick as they sell it as an experience.

I don’t know what to think and any help is greatly appreciated
 

CTDrew

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Some of the commercial growers near me provide meals and pay with bottles of wine instead of money. Others do a regular payroll and I know one that sells tickets for the experience . I am growing about 60 vines so the friends and family plan works for me.
 

Johny99

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I use the F&F route and provide lunch.

I’ve picked at a couple local vineyards. Both charged $10 bucks as a “class”. I asked why and was told insurance. If we volunteer we are “ employees” whereas picking as part of a class, not. Go figure. Anyway, both provided lunch, we picked till then and quit. Both also gave a bottle of wine. I think the toughest part is making sure you get enough people.
 

Masbustelo

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Locally, one vineyard pays 10 cents per pound. If you work real hard, and stay at it, you can make about $5 an hour. No lunch and no bottle of wine.
 

balatonwine

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How much do you have to pick? In tons? Grapes are pretty labor intensive. And labor if not uncommonly the biggest expense.

Do you pay by hour or pound picked?
If you hire farm labor, and pay by weight, you are still suppose to guarantee that it will amount to, on average, the minimum wage rate:

https://www.farmworkerjustice.org/advocacy-and-programs/us-labor-law-farmworkers

And of course, you have employees, which has the entire tax/insurance/inspection overhead and paperwork. No farm laborer works for free wine and lunch.

I have actually heard of a winery that charges people to pick as they sell it as an experience.
It is called Agritourism. And it is not uncommon. Quality of the pickers can and will vary. Will work for free (but see Johny99's comment above about potential liabilities if you have a business), wine and lunch, or may pay you to pick (but don't count on it unless you have a "name" in the industry or are very clever at your marketing :) ).

Do consider, if you can hire professionals (if they are available -- sometimes they are all booked and can not harvest your land), they will bring in your crop faster and in better quality than volunteers. I would say friends and family fall between those two. Bringing in the grapes early in the morning is often desirable to make a better wine. You will have to balance your cost-benefit ratio to decide what is best for you.
 
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jgmillr1

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I've had a terrible time getting "volunteers". People give lots of lip service about wanting to pick grapes but when the harvest comes they have other things to do. The "volunteers" are either unreliable, needy (coffee, sunscreen, bugs...) , slow, are an insurance liability, pick bad fruit, or require herding to keep on task.

I've found it better to contract with a crew (by the hour) from a nearby berry farm for a day or two a week to harvest my grapes as each varietal becomes ready for harvest. They show up on time, work hard without complaining, and get the grapes pulled in.

But as @balatonwine says, it depends on how many grapes you need to harvest at a given time.
 

havlikn

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All great ideas and thank you. This season we’re looking around 10 tons of fruit but five years from now we should have pushing 30 to 40 tons of fruit. Unfortunately good help is harder and harder to find
 

VillaVino

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I used friends and family for the first years and still use them. I have found an Amish family that I use for planting, pruning and harvest. $10 per hour per worker and I’m pretty much guaranteed to get the job done. We’ll feed the group lunch. I have 3 acres of producing grapes. If you go the Amish route, it is important to know if they are agricultural or something else. The ones who work in the fields will have competing harvests. I have befriended a family who are woodworkers so they aren’t tied to their harvests.
 
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We've gone the friends and family route in the past. It's not worth the trouble in my experience. People are thinking of it more as a fun outing, and expect us to be social with them, which ultimately causes their "help" to be more of a detriment and a distraction than anything else. The last two years my wife and I picked our entire four acre vineyard almost entirely by ourselves. It is doable, but slow and arduous.
 
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