On a short afternoon run through the olive orchard behind the house, I ran by a crew picking olives. After the run, I went back with my camera. I found Lucas who is the supervisor of the crew and asked if I could take some pictures. He said sure, no problem.
Lucas runs a crew of almost 50 pickers. They are all from Romania. They come to Andalusia each season to harvest the olives. Each year, they travel by plane, bus or car to Andalusia and spend 3+ months hand picking olives in Andalusia and Extremadura. They set up a camp near Seville, pick for about five weeks, and then move up to Badajoz, set up a camp there and pick another five weeks. Lucas has been coming to Andalusia to pick olives for more than 10 years. He keeps a car here permanently.
There are many varieties of olives in Andalusia. The sort that Lucas and his crew of Romanians currently is picking is called “Gordal de Sevilla”. The fruit is premium quality and destined for peoples’ tables, mostly as an appetizer. Creme de la creme.
The Romanian pickers are paid by the bucket. For each bucket they pick, they receive between 4-5 euros. I estimate that most pickers would be able to average 4 buckets per hour? The pickers use metal ladders and move from tree to tree filling and then leaving buckets. As they move through the orchard, the buckets behind are poured into a cart pulled by a tractor which goes to the finca where the olives are dropped.
Elvis is one of the pickers. He understands English and speaks it also. When he is not picking olives, he works in a food factory in Holand, where he cooks. I think I understood that his family stays in Holand year around. He has a daughter there and she speaks English also.
Many of the older pickers wear what I believe to be traditional Romanian garb. And most of the older folks do not speak Spanish. The younger pickers’ outfit is more modern and for comfort, usually shorts and tee-shirts.
The crew started picking in Andalusia approximately two weeks ago. It appears to be a family affair, with as many women picking as men.
What impressed me the most is the “buena onda” or the “good vibe” that seemed to permeate in the orchard. There was a continual chatter which I didn’t understand, that would periodically be broken up by laughter. I understand laughter.
These crews are very important to the olive harvest here in Spain. Machines are used to harvest olives that are made into olive oil, but the olives that are destined for the tabletop are mostly picked by hand. They need to be handled carefully.
Lucas said to be sure and send him a link so that he can share the post and the photos with his crew. I want to wish the crew good luck, good health and safe travels as they work across the olive orchards of Spain.
Thanks for reading – Steve