Cherry Pickers Battle Heat - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Cherry Pickers Battle Heat

YAKIMA, Wa -  Triple digit temperatures also make for dangerous work conditions.  Cherry pickers are getting up early in the morning to beat the heat and get the cherry crop harvested.

Luis Hurtado has been picking cherries at 3D orchards in Zillah since five o'clock in the morning.  He climbs up and down a ladder, hand picks cherries and drops them into a bucket tied to his waste.

"Right now, today, is hot.  It's really hot today," he says.

Hurtado says he doesn't have any special secret to beating to the heat, "Yeah, we have to drink some water and take a little break."

Cherry growers are experiencing a picker shortage, but they can't make the pickers they have work longer hours because it's too dangerous.  "If we don't have enough people," says Rick Derry, owner of Derrey Orchards, "We're just not gonna get this stuff picked because when it's too hot to pick, we can't pick. We can't expect people to work in 100 degree weather."

Hurtado says the heat also makes it harder to pick cherries off the branches.  "The stem, when you pull the cherry, it gets stuck in the limb and when it's cold, it's more easy to pull."

Cherries are a very delicate crop and need to be harvested quickly.  Derrey  says that between the picker shortage and the hot weather, his harvest is about two days behind schedule.

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