This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol3", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
Picking usually commences towards the end of June, when the early cherries are ripe, and continues with the later varieties until the end of July. The gathering is done sometimes by men and sometimes by women; in the latter case, one careful man is told off with a gang of from six to eight women, according to the crop of cherries. If the crop is large, the ladders do not need frequent moving, and consequently one man can attend to a larger number of women than if the crop is small.
Cherries are picked sometimes by piecework, sometimes by daywork, depending upon the abundance of the crop and other considerations. At the beginning of the season, when cherries are making good prices, the trees are usually picked over two or three times, and only the ripe fruit is gathered. In this case the picking is done by the day, and thus the pickers can be induced to make a good sample of the fruit. Later on in the season, especially if the cherry crop is a large one and the fruit is realizing a lower price, it is most important to secure the crop quickly at as low a cost as possible; consequently the pickers are put on by the " piece". In this case the trees are only gathered once. The earliest cherries are allowed to get dead ripe, so that the later fruit may also be ripe and ready to pick at the same time. By this piecework method the crop can be gathered at a very much lower price, ranging from 6d, per half-sieve upwards, but naturally the sample of fruit obtained is not so good.
During the picking season much careful supervision is necessary, not only to ensure the fruit being carefully picked and a good sample obtained, but also to see that the branches are not broken about and next year's crop impaired. Unless carefully overlooked, the pickers pull the fruit from the strigs (" plug" the fruit, as it is called) instead of picking strigs and fruit together, with the result that the juice runs out and the fruit becomes sticky and quickly rots; they are also liable to mix in green and rotten fruit with the sound sample. Much damage is also done by pickers and ladder movers breaking off the " bruts " or short fruiting branches, and thus diminishing the crop in future years.
Cherries are for the most part marketed in half-sieves, but just the very choicest and earliest fruit is often packed in pecks, and in this way sometimes realizes a higher price. In either case the cherries should be very carefully hand-picked to remove any unripe or unsound fruit which may have accidentally found its way into the gathering baskets. The half-sieves, after being lined with packing paper, are filled with cherries, and, according to recent regulations of the fruit markets, must contain not less than 24 lb. of fruit; if otherwise, the exact weight of fruit should be marked on the label. Lastly, the baskets should always contain a uniform sample of fruit. Packers, unless specially cautioned, are very liable to put the best fruit upon the top of the baskets - a practice that is easily discovered, and results in the grower obtaining a bad name upon the market and subsequent loss. Every effort should be made to obtain a good name upon the market, and when this is effected fruit can often be sold by the salesman upon receipt of invoice by telegram from the grower - a matter of no little value when there is a glut of fruit upon the market.