A mushroom harvester must have a trained eye to recognize proper size, ripeness and quality. This, along with no less than 15 required workmanship skills, makes harvesting mushrooms one of the more difficult jobs on the farm. Because it is a piece rate position, only those with a unique blend of speed and quality workmanship can effectively do the job.
At Kaolin, we have the best harvesters in the area; picking over 1.1 million pounds of mushrooms per week. Most of our farms begin at 5:00 am, when the harvesters punch in at the clock room to start their day. They then go to the sinks to wash their hands, and after that, it’s a short walk to the hanger room for their freshly cleaned and sanitized picking hanger, as well as their product and stump containers. With hanger in hand, they make their way to their assigned picking house, where their supervisor gives direction on what orders to fill first.
Before entering the mushroom house, their invaluable tool, the picking knife, is inspected for cleanliness and sanitized. Once inside, the harvester goes to his/ her assigned position, places the picking hanger in the appropriate spot, and then goes back to the breezeway to retrieve the first round of product containers. The harvesters begin by picking the biggest mushrooms (large), then with each pass, move to smaller sizes until they are finished with the smallest size (buttons). In the process, they make sure to only harvest the mushrooms that are ready for picking that day and leave on the beds what will be ready for harvesting tomorrow.
Once 12 containers are filled, all the harvesters in that house bring their mushrooms to the front so that the supervisor can credit the harvester plus inspect the mushrooms for quality and workmanship. The harvester then takes 12 more empty containers back to his/her position and the harvesting cycle begins again until all of the mushrooms that are ready that day are harvested.