A little over three weeks ago Guy Gaeta was hugely worried about the forthcoming cherry season.
"I've never been so concerned about it," Mr Gaeta told the Central Western Daily in late September.
His greatest problem was COVID - it had meant the backpackers who stay and pick in Orange had dried up.
"You don't want to catastrophise, but this is going to be a huge problem.
"It's already happening in Queensland with the strawberries, they can't get enough backpackers."
Fast forward to this week and Mr Gaeta had a smile on his face.
Media coverage of his plight had led to a deluge of inquiries.
"In the last few weeks my wife has answered more than 500 emails and our phone is forever getting messages from all over Australia," Mr Gaeta said.
"We even had pensioners offering to come and pick for nothing to help us out - just for a box of cherries. How good is that?
"But we can't do that, we have to pay people."
Mr Gaeta said that with more than 30 years of experience in the cherry game, he knew to "spread his risk" when sourcing labour for December and January.
For the first time he had engaged a labour hire company, to supply half of the 60 workers he required.
"I'm pretty confident," Mr Gaeta said.
"This gentleman supposedly has 100 [pickers] up in Coffs Harbour on the berries.
"By the time we start they'll almost be finished."
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There was decent money on offer for those who put in the yards, he said, pointing to a daily rate of $200 to $500 depending on hours worked and skill level in getting the cherries off the tree at pace.
"Seasonal people know you can make a lot more picking cherries than tomatoes," he said.
"We'll get them out here, but someone else might suffer.
"We're pretty confident we'll be inundated."
Although he typically relied on, and enjoyed working with, foreign backpackers, Mr Gaeta said he was looking forward to working with more Australians this year.
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