American Vegetable Grower asked Gibbs Patrick of Patrick Farms in Omega, GA, what have been the three biggest changes that have occurred since he began farming with his father in the 1970s. He easily rattled them off: increased expenses, labor, and pricing.
Expenses, he says, have more than doubled – sometimes tripled – in price, in terms of fertilizers and fuel.
How has the farm overcome those obstacles? “We minimized labor, minimized spending, and watching all of our overhead,” was Patrick’s response.
Unlike expenses, however, pricing remains stagnant, unless growers in another area of the country experience some sort of disaster, he says. “When everyone has a good crop and you are pumping out produce during the peak of the season, the market generally gets really cheap,” he explains. “There has to be a disaster somewhere else to make a profit, which is unfortunate.”
In the area of labor, the farm had recently been using the H-2A program to get the 500 workers it needs to harvest its crops. This year, however, thanks to the recent changes to the program requiring additional wage increases for employees — among other things — it will be too cost prohibitive to use H-2A workers, says Patrick.
So where will he find the labor he needs? Patrick says he has hired all domestic workers this growing season.
To date, he says he has enough labor on the farm. “We have 300 workers now and are expecting an additional 150 to 200 workers that will be here in the upcoming weeks.” All farmworkers, he says, are domestic.
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