Food Chain Radio News
Food Chain Radio Show #1019
Michael Olson, Author & Urban Farming Agriculturalist
Farm’s Labor’s Lost
Where have all the farm workers gone?
Guest: Bob Martin, GM Rio Farms and Butch Lindley, Partner J&L Farms
While participating in the recent Silicon Valley AgTech Summit, I decided to sit in on an adjacent “Farmers Talk” session featuring, among others, Steinbeck Country farmers Chili Bob Martin and Butch Lindley.
‘Sounds like a farmer gripe session,’ I thought, ‘ and what could possibly be more fun?’
Sure enough, the session opened with a group discussion of the obstacles farmers must overcome to grow and process the food we eat. But of all the obstacles held up, one stood above all else, as related by Butch Lindley:
“Can’t say as though I’ve ever seen anything like it,” he said. “A twenty-acre ranch of prime lettuce, worth around $400,000, going unharvested because there was just nobody to harvest it!”
In fact, many farmers are reporting their worst labor shortage ever. Even the conservative Western Growers Association is reporting a 20% drop in laborers this year alone.
But if one looks at the other side of the labor equation, conditions are equally devastating. With 93 million Americans, give or take, having dropped out of the labor force, and tens of millions of immigrants pouring across the border, there would seem to be a huge reservoir of labor available to agriculture, but that labor is no where to be hired.
That so many have no work, and that so many workers are needed, lead us to ask…