We have a steady and continuous cherry season, enabling our employees to make the most of their summer with us. Our season typically begins around July 1st-15th and runs until August 20th-early September. The busiest season is from July 15th onward and new pickers are welcome to arrive between July 1st-20th. Our packing facility staff will be needed for the entirety of the season.
We provide regular updates to our employees about season start and finish as we monitor the weather and fruit, before and during the harvest season. Check our social media for the latest updates on our season timing.
No matter where you work at Coral Beach Farms, each position plays a vital role in bringing our high quality cherries to the market. From blossom onward to harvest we cannot miss a step and we rely on the talents of our highly trained staff.
Our pickers are provided with a harness and totes that can each hold up to 20lbs of cherries. Picking is accomplished both from the ground and using a 9-foot ladder for the higher branches. Pickers are given tags with individualized barcodes that they affix to their totes to ensure they are paid for the exact weight picked. Full totes are placed in the shade for later pick up by the tractor teams.
Every picker is part of a 25-30 person team, and picks the trees assigned by their your team leader. Pickers must complete the harvest of assigned trees before moving onto new ones. Periodic spot checks of adherence to quality standards are conducted by team leaders and quality assurance staff. Cherries must be picked with the stems on, being carefully and gently handled at all times. After the totes of cherries have been picked, they are brought to our packing facility by tractor and truck and individually weighed.
From forklift drivers to sorters, our packing plant is a dynamic, team-driven environment that requires attention to detail and a willingness to learn. Our packing facility contains the latest in optical sorting equipment, capable of separating cherries by size, grade, and colour. However, even with the latest technology, we rely on our skilled sorting and packing staff to complete the job.
To deliver the best possible cherries, we have strict food safety standards and a thorough quality assurance program, requiring diligent and knowledgeable staff.
To keep our cherries fresh, the packing plant is refrigerated, and all of the cherries pass through a shower of cold water (called hydrocooling). Working in these environments requires warm comfortable clothing and sturdy, closed-toe shoes.
The final stage is fulfilling customer specified orders. Staff at box filling are in a fast paced team environment, ensuring that customer demands are met at all times. After one more quality check, the boxes of cherries are palletized and go through forced air cooling to ensure shipping ability and shelf life for our customers worldwide.
Early varieties: We start our season with early ripening varieties such as Suite Note, Satin, Crystalina, Sylvia and Van. These varieties are located in small volumes at several farms, providing early arriving staff with part time work for the period July 1st to July 12th. Note that in the first week to ten days of harvest, the schedule is quite light, often with time off awaiting the main harvest. We are planting more early varieties to help fill this time window in the future.
Kordia and Regina: These varieties represent the start of our main harvest — and a full work schedule. Both varieties have long stems making for easy picking, and crop loads that are medium to heavy. We pick these varieties around July 10th to 15th.
Lapins: Lapins are a large cherry, and they tend to set very heavily. It is one of the favourite cherries for pickers as the combination of heavy crop and big fruit fills the totes quickly. Lapin harvest begins around July 14th in our Kelowna locations, and the main Lapin harvest in Lake Country is usually July 17th to 27th.
Skeena: A niche variety similar to Lapins, planted mostly at our North Okanagan farms, with smaller amounts in Kelowna and in Lake Country. They ripen just ahead of Lapins, except for at the Northern sites, where they ripen after Lapins.
Rainier: A beautiful yellow cherry with a pink blush. We have only 10 acres of Rainier planted at Cholla Hills. This is a finicky variety which often must be picked twice, rather than strip picked. It is the one variety where we sometimes pay pickers hourly, rather than piece work. Harvest is very late July and lasts several days
Sweethearts: Like Lapins, Sweethearts are a heavy cropper, though size is usually slightly smaller than Lapins. This is a mainstay variety planted at most farms and is a consistent cropper year-to-year. Harvest is usually from July 22nd to August 15th, depending on the site. Sweethearts have a shorter stem requiring careful handling.
Staccato: This is the backbone of our August cherry harvest. A heavy cropping variety which pickers usually regard as a very close runner up to Lapins in terms of money making potential. Big size and a medium length stem make for good picking. This is our largest variety by volume and is planted at most sites. Harvest is from July 25th to August 25th depending on elevation and latitude of the farm.
Sentennial: A cousin to Staccato, Sentennials ripen in the same time period. Nice heavy crops are typical. Sometimes Sentennials can be loose on the stem, especially in hot seasons.
Sovereign: This is our latest ripening variety. It is a cousin of Staccato, but ripens up to a week later. Sovereign harvest in Lake Country farms coincides with Staccato at the higher northern farms, and they are the last cherry to come off the tree at high sites such as Cholla and Eldorado.
Other varieties: We are growing several promising new varieties, including some that ripen very early and very late, aiming to extend our season. Like most of our varieties, these new hybrid varieties are coming from the government of Canada’s breeding program in Summerland, BC, but we also have a few from elsewhere around the world. Stay tuned!
NOTE: Above harvest dates represent a “typical year”. These dates can vary earlier or later, a week either way, depending on the season. We usually can pinpoint harvest dates each year by late May and advise staff accordingly.