The Mecca-Nized Grape Harvester

Grape harvester shows inventive design to relieve the labor of hand picking.

| October 2007

Grapes: How do you get them from the vine to the wine press? You pick 'em, of course. Until the middle of the 20th century, grape harvesting was done much the same as it was in Biblical days: by hand.

A labor-intensive task carried out by a large work force, the traditional grape harvest required grapes to be hand-picked, carried to vats between rows, lifted high enough to dump into wagons, then moved to the press. It was back-breaking work. According to Leonard Mecca, Lake Worth, Fla., modern technology was slow to arrive in the vineyard.

But mechanization was inevitable. By the late 1960s, farm workers were increasingly hard to find and labor costs were high. Although a few attempts were made to find a way to harvest grapes for wineries, most of the effort focused on devising a way to lift heavy vats of harvested fruit into wagons.

In the late 1960s, Leonard's father, Vito Mecca of North Collins, N.Y., began development of a machine to shake grapes from clusters on the vines. Vito owned a John Deere dealership in North Carolina but also maintained a large vineyard. Looking to balance the demands of operating both enterprises, he needed a less labor-intensive way to harvest his grape crop. He began designing his own grape harvester.

"By trial and error, my dad built a contraption that straddled a row of grapes and shook them loose," Leonard recalls. "That first year during harvest, dad kept a mechanic and welder with the machine. It almost shook itself apart."

Vito designed the machine - dubbed the Mecca-Nized grape harvester - to be completely hydraulically operated: the shaking mechanism, steering, conveyors, blowers and leveling device. A 50 hp tractor is required to pull the harvester, and an additional tractor pulls a wagon alongside to carry the grapes.


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