A shortage of farm workers?

Several generations ago, small farmers didn’t worry about labor. They’d use ‘home-grown’ labor – literally – as the kids got older and could take on more skilled tasks. But that’s not a reliable solution for this century, and small farmers across the nation are scrambling to hire help.

From Durango, Colorado, to California to Northwest Tennessee, some of the problems finding help are consistent, no matter what the area.

An article in The Durango Herald newspaper noted, “…the Good Food Collective * received a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture geared at a gleaning initiative to harvest unused fruit and vegetables and redistribute the food to people in need. (Here’s the link to that article.

But the grant exposed a glaring problem: a lack of people to help glean.

We’ve run into this in Northwest Tennessee as well. And as harvests are beginning for strawberries, then blueberries, and blackberries to sweet potatoes in the fall, small farmers are searching for workers.

Being a farm hand of course isn’t year-round. It’s not a nine-to-five job. It’s totally dependent on the crops and when (or whether) they come in and how long the season lasts. Another consideration is the lack of any public transportation; farm hands need to have a reliable vehicle in order to work.

Workers’ cooperatives are being tested in Colorado and some other locations, which might provide answers here in our own area.

A simple solution isn’t immediately available. But with more people thinking about the issues, more solutions are naturally found. Got ideas? Let us hear them!

Points to ponder …                                                  Terri Jenkins-Brady

* “The Good Food Collective exists to strengthen our regional food system through efforts to address food security, food justice & equity, and our regional food economy.” Sounds like our own LFN!

Tastebuds at war?

Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked” has interesting tidbits of history throughout.

Who thinks about how WWII, now several generations removed from everyday life, still impacts all of us, even in our homes? Yet it does.

As Pollan states, “Beginning after World War II, the food industry labored mightily to sell Americans – and American women in particular – on the processed-food wonders it had invented to feed the troops: canned meals, freeze-dried foods, dehydrated potatoes, powdered orange juice and coffee, instant and super-convenient everything.”

Then he goes on to quote Laura Shapiro, in her book Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America, the food industry strove to “persuade millions of Americans to develop a lasting taste for meals that were a lot like field rations.” He adds, “[t]he same process of peacetime conversion that industrialized our farming, giving us synthetic fertilizers made from munitions and new pesticides developed from nerve gas, also industrialized our eating.”

Points to ponder …

Terri Jenkins-Brady

Stats

Geographic limitations suggest that food systems could be more effective at regional levels than at exclusively local levels (e.g., Clancy and Ruhf 2010). Local and regional food systems may have their greatest opportunity for scale in regions that have urban population centers with close proximity to rural areas boasting available farmland (Timmons and Wang 2010).

If you enjoy shopping at a farmers market, you’re definitely not alone any longer. According to excerpts from the article by Jeffrey k. O’Hara, “Market Forces: Creating Jobs through Public Investment in Local and Regional Food System,” 63% of shoppers at a local farmers market interacted with fellow shoppers.

At chain supermarkets, only 9% of the customers interacted with one another.

If stronger community ties can be built while discussing the newest crops or the availability of okra or corn, that’s got to be a great side benefit.

Here’s a link to the report, carefully researched by O’Hara.

It’s a lengthy report, with explanatory graphics, might be something to peruse before any crops are in and available.

Points to ponder …

                                                                                                Terri Jenkins-Brady