You may know how to prune, but does your pruning crew know how YOU prune?
And, more importantly, do you know how to train them to ensure that your vineyard is properly pruned for the age of your vines, the location of your vineyard, and your vineyard goals for this season.
Considerations for Hiring a Crew
- How many workers do you need? The size of the crew needed to prune your vineyard depends on the size of your vineyard, your pruning timeline, and the skill level of the crew. For example if you have a small vineyard, less than 3 acres, you should be able to prune it yourself over the course of the dormant season, but if you are practicing delayed pruning, you will need a helper or two to get it pruned during the month before bud burst.
- Larger vineyards often have to blend in-house talent with outside labor for the pruning season, which can make it a challenge to keep pruning practices consistent with your goals. With outside labor, you can’t be sure how experienced the workers are, so it is essential to have a strong team leader in the field to ensure that your practices are being followed.
- When possible, focus your energy on paid trained labor. Pruning requires a high level of skill and expertise, and volunteers may not be best for that. If you’re trying to bribe your friends or neighbors with wine to help you out with pruning, just remember you may be getting what you pay for.
Top Tips for Training Your Crew
1. Be confident with what you’re teaching.
A puzzled look on a trainer’s face while trying to teach how to prune will translate into a puzzled pruning crew. Make sure you’ve practiced pruning vines to get yourself warmed up and in the headspace to teach.
2. Be kind to your crew.
People have different ability levels so make it a safe place for everyone to make mistakes, ask for help, and ask for other people’s opinions. Give everyone an equal chance to learn.
3. Teach from multiple examples.
Make an effort to repeat the most important concepts many times over, even if you think it sounds redundant. Everyone learns differently, so it’s going to take a few examples on several vines for some concepts to kick in.
4. Assign each worker to their own vine rows.
Once you’ve gathered a good crew, shown them the ropes, repeated the important stuff, and built a safe place to learn and work, it’s time to get those workers pruning. Be sure to assign each worker to their own rows, so you can see the trends and the common mistakes each worker makes and help them learn to correct any mistakes.
5. Take the time to teach each worker the expected outcome.
Teach the workers how you envision the vine growing from the shape given by their pruning shears. If a worker doesn’t know how a vine grows throughout the cycle of the year, start by teaching them that.
If you want to learn more about top tips for training your pruning crew, check out www.vineyardundergroundpodcast.com/vu010.