When we arrived at the farm we were split into gangs of about 15 people. We then spent the day working together as a team to make as much money as possible. This was done by filling big blue bins with tomatoes.
The team got paid $85 per bin and this was split evenly between the members. So, the more bins you filled the more money you make.
Korean teams always make more money than teams of Europeans. All the Europeans try and get onto gangs with lots of Koreans because they know they will make more money. They picked those tomatoes at lightning speed, probably because they never chat, grumble or complain or listen to music they just get on with the job.
The 'A team' which was solely composed of Korean boys picked an average 27-28 bins per day. A Korean dominated team picked on about 22-25 bins per day. A European dominated team picked about 18 bins.
On my first day I lucked out and got put on Korean team and we made about $105 each. It was on this team that I met a Dutch girl who became my tomato picking buddy. As we were both new we were doubled up on a row with me picking on the left side and her picking on the right side. We probably should have switched sides after a few hours because that night my left arm was aching so badly I could barely sleep.
The mornings were a mixed blessing for us pickers. It was relatively cool despite the full on sunshine and there was lots of shade in the rows between the 5 foot hedges of tomato plants. However the soil between the plans was damp and clung to the bottom of your shoes and the picking buckets in huge heavy clumps.
When someone's bucket was full they shouted "BUCKET!!!!!" at the top of their voice and everyone stopped picking and formed a line across the rows to pass the buckets over the tops of the plants to the gangmaster on the tractor.
He (it's always a he, girls aren't allowed to drive the tractors) poured the tomatoes into the big blue bin and then shouted helpful instructions to us like. "Stop picking this small shit!" & "How many times to I have to tell you to take the stalks off !".
You'd be surprised at how heavy a bucket of tomatoes can be. Hefting those heavy buckets around at shoulder height combined with repeated crouching and bending to pick the fruit from the bottom of the plant is murder on the back.
When it gets to the 10.30 smokeo every one is relieved to have a sit down, a sandwich and a litre of water. By the time the 1pm smokeo comes around every one is exhausted. There is absolutely no shade to be had anywhere in the field so we all crawl under the tractor and trailer for some much needed rest before the final grueling hours of our working day.