Pine Island Team Retirements: Jorge Morales

It’s hard to believe, but this week we said goodbye to Jorge Morales , who is retiring after 43 years here at Pine Island Cranberry!

Jorge started with us as a seasonal team member in 1976, and moved to full time in November the following year. In that time, Jorge has done every job there was to do on this place. CEO Bill Haines tried putting that into numbers for the assembled team. “Jorge mowed a lot of dams for us. When you think of how we have over 100 miles of dams, and some years we mow them four times, he’s easily mowed thousands of miles of dams. He’s hauled dirt and gravel, sand for bogs, and cranberries to Chatsworth or to our own packing house, and that adds up to thousands of miles in 43 years. Between frost nights and heat watch, he’s unplugged hundreds, if not thousands of sprinklers. He’s helped put in hundreds of gates. And that doesn’t include building bogs or installing irrigation. In 1975, we put in our first ever irrigation system. So since 1977, Jorge has actually helped install irrigation for the entire farm; as we’ve rebuilt or refurbished, he’s helped with that too.”

But Bill saved the most amazing numbers for the end. “Jorge’s first harvest was in 1976 as a seasonal guy. Since that first crop in 1976, he’s helped us pick 8,792,648 barrels of cranberries. Now, that’s an important number to us in the industry, but not everyone knows what it means; it’s even more impressive when you find out that it means Jorge has helped harvest 879,264,800 pounds of cranberries over 43 years.”

“It’s impressive, the amount of work he’s helped us to do,” Bill said to the team this week at Jorge’s farewell lunch. “Along with his wife Mildred, he’s raised a family of four kids – and Mildred deserves a lot of credit for that – and through all of that, he’s been cheerful no matter what we ask him to do. No matter the weather, through the heat, the cold, heavy rain, or snow, he’s always positive, always cheerful, always raised the atmosphere and the morale of the whole team.”

“You can be proud of the fact that you were a part of this team for so many years,” Bill said to Jorge. “You’re part of the family that’s been here for so long; your father-in-law, your brothers, Mildred’s brothers. I’m proud of the fact that people like you work for Pine Island; what you’ve contributed we’ll never forget. You’ve made a difference, Jorge, and we all appreciate it.”

And what did Jorge, the man who is never, ever short of a word, say in his address to us all?

“Thank you, everybody.”

Thank you, Jorge! We’ll all miss you very much, and wish you nothing but the best. Come back and see us!

Pine Island Team Profiles: Jorge Morales

Harvest is now in full swing, and everywhere you look there are gorgeous red berries against the backdrop of green trees and blue skies. But that is not the only thing our team is working on this fall. This week, we reserved one of our team profiles for supervisor Jorge Morales, who is heading up the first ground crew in the history of Pine Island Cranberry.

The ground crew is a new addition to this year’s harvest schedule. Led by Jorge Morales and assisted by longtime seasonal team member Alberto Torres, the ground crew follows the gathering teams after they are finished with each bog in order to start clean-up. In previous years, this job was left until after all the bogs were gathered and the harvest was completely in. The crew has several tasks: ditching (both by hand and mechanical) and installing swan line as well as general clean-up.

Jorge is a well-regarded and experienced team member who will have been here for thirty-seven years in November. “I’ve done a little bit of everything,” he says. His knowledge and experience made him the ideal person to run this new project. Swan lines are particularly important because of the damage they can do to a crop. PIICM manager Cristina Tassone says, “Just three acres of swan damage can give us a loss of 200 barrels per acre, or even more, depending on the variety. That takes three years to come back.” The strings are effective because they help keep the swans out of the bog by limiting the space available. “Swans are like a commercial airliner,” CEO Bill Haines says. “Having the strings up disrupts their attempt to both land and take off again.”

Jorge has a lot of enthusiasm and has the process down cold. “First I have to look at the map and see what my targets are,” he says. “I talked with Fred and decided to finish out at Sim Place this week before heading back to the home farm. It’s easier on the guys that way and we can get things done a lot faster. And you have to get it done fast, because those swans, they do a lot of damage.” First, he says, his crew sets up the rebar that holds the string; the first rod gets placed at thirty feet from the end of the bog and after that it goes to every sixty feet. “You have to make sure it comes out even,” he says, demonstrating how he walks out a bog to measure for the long lines that are installed after the cross lines. “Once all the rods are in, we tie the string on one end and then walk it across.”

Once the lines are tied, the next step is to install the poles in a checkered pattern within the bog. “The pipe is lighter and it’s easier for the guys to carry, but I think the cedar holds up better,” Jorge says. “And it looks nicer.”

Jorge has an excellent team made almost entirely of new team members, with the exception of experienced seasonal team member Geraldo Cartagena. But, he says, they’re doing an amazing job. “These guys are really working hard,” he says. “We do get a little more done on the weekends, because we have some part-time help, but these guys really move.”

In addition to the swan line, his crew will also clean out the ditches either by hand or using a method called “Shinn ditching”, where a machine is hooked to a tractor to clear out bog debris. Usually this is done in November, but doing it now will mean being able to finish well ahead of both sanding and the winter flood.

A very hands-on leader, Jorge always jumps right in and does whatever it takes to make sure he and his team do what needs to get done. Bill says: “Swan line is a really important task and is a big key to production. It’s not the glamorous job everyone wants photos of, but it’s extremely necessary in helping us actually grow fruit and set our targets for the next year’s harvest. Jorge and his team are really doing a great job.”