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We have five giant avocado trees on our property.  When in season, they produce far more avocados than we can possibly use ourselves.  We gave away avocados to anybody that would take them and we still had too many.  Then we found a local wholesaler that was willing to buy all of our avocados for 50 cents each.  All we had to do is pick 'em.

Picking Avocados Easier said than done.  Most of the avocados within easy reach had already been picked and eaten.  The trees were still loaded but the avocados were too high to reach by hand.  Avocado trees have large sturdy branches that are relatively easy to climb.  Relatively is the key word.  Climbing to the top of the tree is easy enough but trying to hold on while reaching out to pick avocados can be a bit precarious.

We have tree pruning clippers mounted on the end of a large pole.  The problem with the clippers is that once you cut the avocado stem, the avocado comes plummeting out of the tree.  If you don't manage to catch it (and it doesn't bounce off your head) then it crashes to the ground and gets damaged.  The wholesaler isn't interested in damaged avocados.

We also have a picking basket on the end of a long pole.  It seems like that would be the perfect solution.  While standing firmly on the ground, you can reach way up into the tree and hook the avocado so that it falls in the basket as you pull it off the branch.  The problem is, yanking on the avocado will usually separate it from its stem at the base.  The wholesaler doesn't like that either.  Next time you're at the grocery store, look for yourself.  When we lived in New Hampshire all we could find was shriveled up black avocados but assuming that you live in California or some place with fresh avocados look at the stem.  A little bit of the stem will be left attached to help the avocado stay fresh.  If the stem is removed completely then the avocado gets a large black bruised area.  That's not good.  An avocado would never make it as far as New Hampshire without it's stem attached.

Avocados Did you know they make a special tool designed specifically for picking avocados?  The wholesaler urged me to purchase one.  It's nothing but small pruning clippers on the end of a long pole with a bag attached.  You pull on the string to cut the avocado stem (leaving enough that you can trim it later) and the avocado falls safely in the bag.  If you have an avocado tree, you can buy yourself one of these special pickers for a mere $120.

When you're a new farmer, you can go broke in a hurry if you run out and buy every piece of new equipment you need.  I didn't want to pay $120 when I already had two pole pruners that were nearly identical.  So I found an old pillowcase and some wire and made my own avocado-catching-basket which I attached to the end of one of our pole pruners.  I was quite proud of my ingenuity.

My jury-rigged avocado picker worked about 4 out of 5 times.  That fifth avocado would either miss the pillowcase and come crashing to the ground or its weight would manage to break my contraption requiring me to stop and apply more duct tape.  The other problem is that the tree pruning clipper wasn't at quite the right angle.  It was designed for cutting off branches not spindly little avocado stems.

We struggled with the homemade avocado picker for awhile, trying to catch the avocados that missed the basket.  We picked about 700 avocados that way.  Unfortunately, we still had several hundred to go and my arms were getting tired of trying to maneuver the unwieldy picker.  I decided some of the money from the first batch of avocados would go towards a better picker.

Truck I managed to purchase the special avocado picker for $70 without the pole.  I cut the clippers off our existing pole, drilled some holes and bolted on the new picker.  This new picker works great.  It's amazing how the little details can sometimes make a big difference.  The pruning head is mounted at exactly the right angle.  Clipping the avocado off only requires one hand instead of two because the clippers are designed for small avocado stems instead of thick tree branches.  Best of all, the basket is positioned perfectly so it catches the avocado almost every time.  We finished picking the rest of the avocados much faster and with far less frustration.  $70 well spent.

I asked the wholesaler and he said all our avocados were headed for Maui.  Between all the agricultural inspection rules and the cost of shipping, it's not worth trying to send the avocados anywhere outside of Hawaii.  Our avocados are the Sharwil cultivar which many believe to be superior to the Haas cultivar commonly grown in California.  Sharwils are the only Hawaii avocado authorized for shipment to Alaska and the  U.S. mainland, assuming they go through a USDA approved and inspected packing house first.  Maybe some day we'll find a way to sell our avocados to the mainland gourmet food market.  Until then, I'm happy selling them to the local wholesaler.


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