Smart Thinking Will Lessen Common Grower Problems [Opinion]

Smart Thinking Will Lessen Common Grower Problems [Opinion]

Rodney-and-Brent-Jackson-going-over-numbers-FEATURE

Rodney and Brent Jackson compare how each crop against its past performances. Photo by Jeff Hyde.

When I interviewed Brent and Rodney Jackson of Jackson Farming Company (Autryville, NC) for the September 2018 issue of American Vegetable Grower‘s cover story, we discussed the issues they wrestle with most.

I could tell these two weren’t complainers. Instead of getting mad about obstacles to their goals, they spend a lot of brain power figuring out how to overcome them.

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To get a glimpse into why this operation won American Vegetable Grower’s 2018 Grower Achievement Award, here are two issues they’ve worked hard on.

Finding Quality Labor

Labor is the No. 1 problem for all growers in 2018. Local labor is nigh non-existent, and H-2A is cumbersome and expensive.
Despite the challenges, the Jacksons have 27 full-time employees in addition to their H-2A seasonal workers.

“[North Carolina] is at full employment, 3.8% or 3.9% unemployment rate — close to an all-time low,” Brent says.

To secure labor, Jackson Farming Company offers full-time employment, a healthy hourly wage, and a retirement fund. With Obamacare, the farm was able to offer health insurance, but now compensates through higher wages instead.

“We go to a local community college to find people interested in working in ag,” Rodney says.

Gaining Food Safety Arbitration

Another issue with big implications for a farm is food safety. When growers find out their produce is linked to a food-safety-related outbreak, it can be devastating.

“My thoughts on that, we’re guilty until proven innocent,” Brent says.

He and Rodney have fought hard to change that, in part by working directly and proactively with the FDA. As an NC state senator, Brent ushered in a law that gives producers a “rebuttable presumption,” or placing the burden of proof on the accuser, not the producer. Due to the Jacksons’ efforts, FDA will soon introduce a way to resolve differences between states and FDA during inspections or investigations.

In August, the Jacksons invited FDA to use their farm to roll out the national on-farm readiness review initiative. Its aim is to help government agencies better understand farming to enable a more accurate assessment when problems erupt.

The Jacksons think big when it comes to resolving challenges. Your win is well deserved!