The Challenges of Picking Chile: A High-Paid, Labor-Intensive Job

1/10/20242 min read

a chile field with a blue sky and mountains in the background
a chile field with a blue sky and mountains in the background

Picking chile is not just a job; it's a physically demanding and labor-intensive task that requires dedication and resilience. Despite the high pay, which has remained above $15 an hour for years, few jobs can compare to the difficulties faced by chile pickers.

The chile plants themselves do not grow much taller than 2 feet, making them easily accessible for picking. However, what sets chile picking apart from other agricultural jobs is the constant need for harvest. Chile plants need to be harvested approximately 5 times per plant, which means they cannot be cut down to simplify the process like some other crops. This repetitive nature of the job adds to the physical strain on the pickers.

Imagine bending down repeatedly, picking chile pods from the plants. It requires a great deal of effort and can quickly take a toll on the body. But that's not all. After picking the chile, the pickers also need to lift heavy baskets filled with the harvested pods and transfer them into bins. This lifting and transferring process adds an additional challenge to the already demanding job.

One of the most challenging aspects of picking chile is the working conditions. The job is performed under the scorching sun, with little to no shade available. Chile plants thrive in sunny environments, but their short stature means they provide no shelter for the pickers. This means that chile pickers are exposed to the full force of the sun's rays for hours on end, enduring high temperatures that can reach the mid-90s in the Hatch and Socorro valleys.

Working in such extreme heat poses risks to the health and well-being of the pickers. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke are constant concerns. To combat these risks, pickers must take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. Employers are also responsible for providing adequate shade and rest areas to ensure the safety and comfort of their workers.

Despite the physical and environmental challenges, many individuals choose to become chile pickers due to the attractive wages. The high pay compensates for the difficulty of the job and serves as a motivation for pickers to endure the demanding conditions. However, it is important to recognize the hard work and dedication that goes into picking chile and to appreciate the contributions of these individuals to the agricultural industry.

In conclusion, picking chile is not for the faint of heart. It is a physically demanding job that requires pickers to repeatedly bend down, lift heavy baskets, and work under the scorching sun. The high pay serves as an incentive for individuals to take on this challenging task, but it is crucial to prioritize the well-being and safety of the pickers. Providing proper working conditions and support is essential to ensure that chile pickers can continue to contribute to the industry without compromising their health.