The Art Of Apple Picking And The Dignity Of Work
Religion & Liberty Online

The Art Of Apple Picking And The Dignity Of Work

It is time to pick the apples. Row after row of trees, marked Gala and Honeycrisp and Red Delicious: an abundance of fruit that must be harvested in a relatively short time. And there is more to it than just yanking a piece of fruit off a branch:

[T]he job is more difficult than you may think, so WZZM 13 sent reporter Stacia Kalinoski out into [orchard owner] May’s orchard to show what the work is really life…

Stacia Kalinoski did just that and found out picking apples really is, as May says, “an art form.”

The trick to picking the fruit without the stem or the spurs of the tree is to twist.

“When you yank that apple you will get finger bruises on that apple,” he said.

But the twist takes practice and is what slows new workers down. Stacia also learned you’ll also bruise the apple and others just by lightly tossing it in the bag.

“Lay that apple in that bag,” explained May. “You’re handling eggs right now.”

The men and women who learn this “art form” work hard six days a week to harvest the fruit we enjoy by the slice, in cider, baked in a pie or spooned into a toddler’s eager mouth as applesauce. Felipe Jaramillo can pick over 70 bags of apples in under 4 hours.

Jaramillo and his wife don’t stop, climbing ladders and picking two apples at a time. They fill bags of apples, carrying up to 40 pounds at a time for eight to 10 hours a day. They will both fill six to seven bins by the day’s end.

You wonder why the average person doesn’t show up to work again. “It’s part of life and even though you’re worn out at the end of the day, just go to sleep, next day work six days. Because that’s what we came for: To work,” Jaramillo said.

He says his family depends on a good Michigan apple crop. “Yes, because we can save a little bit so we can pay our bills, pay our taxes.”

Farming may be the work that best highlights the creative give-and-take between God and man: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it”, God commands in Genesis. And as Bl. John Paul II points out, work is good.

Even though it bears the mark of a bonum arduum, in the terminology of Saint Thomas, this does not take away the fact that, as such, it is a good thing for man. It is not only good in the sense that it is useful or something to enjoy; it is also good as being something worthy, that is to say, something that corresponds to man’s dignity, that expresses this dignity and increases it. If one wishes to define more clearly the ethical meaning of work, it is this truth that one must particularly keep in mind. Work is a good thing for man-a good thing for his humanity-because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes “more a human being”.

The workers are back in the orchards today, carefully twisting the fruit off the branch and laying it in the bag, over and over. The workers will sweat and wear themselves out, so they can pay their bills and taxes. The crops will come in and the workers will seek other crops elsewhere to harvest, returning to the orchards next year. And it is transforming, fulfilling: good.

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Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.