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!