Could Good, Affordable Housing Solve Farmworker Shortage?

Articles | January 10 2017

By Tim Henderson

SPRECKELS, Calif. — Like many farms facing labor shortages in the West, the Tanimura & Antle vegetable farm in California’s Salinas Valley was in a bind for the 2015 harvest season. It was more than 225 workers shy of the number needed to gather crops, and it had to plow under about $500,000 worth of produce.

“We were really in a panic,” said Carmen Ponce, a vice president of Tanimura & Antle. “We had gone through our waiting lists. We have been in business 33 years, and we had always had people wanting to work for us.”

Western Growers, a group representing more than 800 fruit and vegetable growers, packers and shippers, has called labor shortages the biggest problem facing its members in California, Arizona and Colorado. The number of young, recent arrivals from Mexico who could be counted on to provide farm labor is down dramatically. And although the employment of Mexican-born farmworkers in the U.S. has been steady, around 400,000 a year, those workers are aging and less inclined to move around the country from growing season to growing season.  (Read more)