Farmers Report Labor as One of Top 3 Concerns: Farming in NC Survey

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In the soon to be released “Farming in NC Survey” report,  farmers, especially those farming for 10 years or more, ranked labor as one of the top three concerns for their farm’s viability. Farming on a small farm requires significant labor to produce the food we all eat. Farms today struggle to adequately staff their farms, often using a combination of family members, hourly workers, visiting workers from other countries, or engage in apprenticeship programs to fill their labor needs. This 2019 survey, a partnership between the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Carolina Land and Lakes RC and D, and the Organic Growers School, is a follow up to 2015, “Barriers to Farming in WNC” survey.  Organic Growers School’s upcoming 4-hour workshop on November 11, 2019, will showcase how to structure labor on a small farm through the eyes of established regional farmers.

According to one of the over 200 survey respondents from around the state, “Labor is by far the biggest challenge, both finding labor and having the funds to hire labor while waiting for the income to return,” stated one respondent. Farmers are often balancing production demands, seasonality of work, ebbs, and flows of product, and natural disasters wiping out crops.

Learning which labor structures best fit your farm operation and how to train and educate farm employees and apprentices is critical to success. Organic Growers School’s upcoming 4-hour workshop will showcase how to structure labor on a small farm through the eyes of established regional farmers. This workshop is for those who are already farming or who are just starting out to understand systems and structure of on-farm labor. Legal and financial considerations will be highlighted and discussed to better understand which labor structure best fits your farming model.

Danielle Hutchinson of BNH Enterprises, who co- farms 50 acres of certified organic vegetables and hemp, and is one of the workshop presenters remarks, “When we began, we made very specific labor decisions based on previous farm labor experiences. Now we are struggling to find persons who would like to work in middle management.”

Vanessa Campbell of Full Sun Farm, another farmer presenter for the workshop, has hosted apprentices on her farm for 20 years. This year she will share her experiences with developing a farm manager position. Participants who attend will have a chance to delve into how to structure labor on their own farm for increased success and education.

Participants will:

Learn about different ways to structure labor on your farm including apprenticeship, paid hourly workers, visiting farmworkers, and volunteers.

Learn how to incorporate education on the farm.

Understand legal considerations you need to know for your labor structure.

Be aware of equity issues with on-farm labor.

Hear about labor from experienced farmers running successful farms in WNC.

Register online for this upcoming workshop for only $40 (dinner included!).

Date: Monday, November 11, 2019

Time: 4 to 8:30 p.m.

Location: Creekside Farm and Education Center, 339 Avery Creek Road, Arden, NC

Cost: $40 per person (dinner included)

Instructors: Danielle Hutchinson (Beacon Village Farm), Vanessa Campbell (Full Sun Farm) and Lindsey Jacobs, Esquire

The Organic Growers school has been providing organic education to farmers and home growers since 1993. The organization  grew out of the volunteer efforts of a group of farmers and extension specialists who gathered to discuss the need for nuts and bolts, region-specific crop growing information applicable for farmers in Western North Carolina. From this meeting, OGS was born, along with a mission to deliver practical information about organic agriculture at a reasonable price. Organic Growers School is the premiere provider of practical and affordable organic education in the Southern Appalachians, building a vibrant food & farming community by boosting the success of organic home growers and farmers in our region.