Although many date farms still use ladders, we use a U-Shaped basket on a forklift to reach the dates. We will be able to utilize this method until the trees are approx. 40 ft. tall.
The forklift will be parked at the base of the tree, so that the tree trunk is positioned between the forks. The basket will then be lifted to an appropriate height so the dates can be easily harvested.
As the basket is being lifted into the tree, the pickers are holding plastic trays that will be suspended from a branch so that they will hang underneath the date bunch while they harvest the dates.
Once the trays are in place the pickers will untie the bottom of the bags covering the dates and shake out any dates that have already ripened and fallen off the strands.
If you look at the bag to the far left side of the picture, you can see that all of the dates have ripened and fallen to the bottom of the bag. This is unusual, as most Midol dates have to be individually removed from the strands by hand.)
Once the tray is full, it will be lowered down and an empty tray will be sent back up.
The full trays will be emptied into a larger screened tray, and then taken to the processing area for sorting.
The dates are brought in from the grove in either these large wooden screen trays, or else in smaller black plastic trays.
Most of the dates come in from the grove already ripe, but occasionally we get some that are still yellow. These yellow dates have to be left out in the heat (not the sun) to finish ripening.
(We do receive a lot of requests for “yellow dates” but we don’t sell them at that stage because it is impossible to guarantee that the dates will not have finished ripening by the time they are received.)
The dates that have to be left in the heat to ripen have to be sorted individually as each date will ripen at it’s own pace.
The dates are then emptied from the trays onto a shaker table that rocks gently back and forth. The table is covered in wet terry cloth towels. As the dates roll very slowly down the table, they are cleaned by the wet towels. (Of course, the towels are changed frequently throughout the day.)
The dates then roll onto a conveyor belt where they will be sorted by size and quality.
From there the dates are then packed and moved into cold storage until they are sold.