Skilled labor in demand
This week we’ve been better understanding the labor issues that are plaguing tree crop farmers by featuring apple and cherry growers Mike and April Clayton. Often farm labor is referred to as unskilled, but April says that’s simply not the case.
April Clayton… “It's a skilled labor, picking apples. If they pick the apple and they pick it wrong, they could take next year's bud. Or if they don't get the stem, that goes to be a cull. Also, if you grab the apple too tightly, you can bruise the apple and those will get thrown out as well. So it is a skilled labor and you can't, you know, just drop the apple into the bag. You have to place it to prevent bruising. So it is gentle, but it has to be going fast.”
The labor issues stretch far beyond farmworkers. Mike says they’ve struggled to fill spots for equipment operators as well.
Mike Clayton… “The labor market is very tight all over the place, especially when it comes to trained equipment operators on a farm. We normally have four professionals I would call them, equipment operators, and this season we've only had two all year. We've been trying to hire a third for a year. We've got a house available, good benefits and wage, and we just haven't been able to find anybody.”
Lack of access to farm employees is one of the biggest threats to speciality growers like the Claytons.