Old Mission Peninsula farmers are in the news today. Specifically, my niece, Heatherlyn Johnson Reamer, is featured in a story on 9&10 News about farm labor.
When I was a kid growing up in the 1960s and 70s, large groups of migrant workers would head north every year to work on the farms. In the early days, they’d set up camp in tents; later, they stayed in buildings provided by the farmers.
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Those days are long gone, and now finding good labor to help harvest the crops is a challenge. Especially with the current delay in the H-2A Visa program, which allows foreign workers the ability to enter the U.S. for temporary or seasonal agricultural work.
In the 9&10 News story, Heather, who handles the bookkeeping for Johnson Farms and keeps things humming along, says the delays to the program could be detrimental, especially looking ahead to apple season.
“A million pounds of apples, it takes us on average 10 to 12 weeks to pick all that, and that’s with a crew of 12 to 20 workers. If I only have 5 or 6 workers here, the crop will not get off the trees, so it’s pretty bad.”
She adds that the work shortage travels up the food chain, all the way to consumers’ dinner tables.
“Without these people who come in and do these hard jobs, there will not be food on your table, there will not be goods in the grocery stores. Food comes from the farm, and luckily in our area, there’s a lot of strong farm-to-table in Northern Michigan, which is great. But without our crew, we could go out of business.”
Watch the video below, and read the full story here.