Children experience apple production from the tree to the shipping dock

Fruit production--growing it, packing it, shipping it--is the bedrock of the economy in the Brewster-Bridgeport-Pateros area. Connie Becker and Brenda Riggan, who teach independent kindergarten and first grade classes respectively, thought their students should know that, and should know what orchard work actually looks like.

"We wanted to see apples from the tree until they were ready to go, loaded on the truck for shipment," Becker said. So, with the help of John Gebbers of Gebbers Farms and Corey Riggan of Apple House, the children went out in the orchard for a look.

The children watched one of the best pickers in the whole orchard at work. ("Poor guy. All the bosses and all the kids standing around watching him," Connie said.) Then each child was outfitted with a picking bag and actually picked some apples. They dumped their apples in the bin, just like real pickers would, and watched while the tractor driver hauled their bin away, Becker said. "They were trying to teach us the real stuff." All pickers have to have picking tickets, and each child got their very own ticket. Their bin and all the other bins were hauled to the loading dock and stacked, and then "we watched the straddle truck take way all those bins."

The orchard is a big and busy place and kindergartners and first graders are pretty small, so they all had escorts, one adult for two kids. "We had a lot of helpers," Connie said.

The following week the children went to the Gebbers Farms fruit processing facility to see what happens to the fruit once it leaves the orchard. (Parents and Gebbers Farms employees served as escorts, Connie said. "There's just a lot of moving equipment.") The children watched the forklift drivers unload the bins from the truck, followed the apples as they were fed into the processing line, washed and waxed, sized and graded and sorted, packed in boxes and loaded on the trucks. (The kids' truck was headed to China, and they had their picture taken with the apples before it left.)

"What a first-rate experience it was," Connie said. Every child got their own Gebbers Farms t-shirt (pink for the girls, camouflage for the boys) and Mr. Gebbers gave each of them a bag of apples to take home.

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