Lack of migrant workers causing problems for local farmers

VAN BUREN COUNTY, Mich. - The batch of warm weather in March keeps taking a toll on farmers.

Thursday was the first day of the asparagus harvest in Southwest Michigan, more than a month ahead of schedule. It means a big loss right because there are not enough people to pick the crops.

“Mother Nature has her own way and what she does, we have to put up with,” said a Van Buren County asparagus farmer. We will call him Rick, he didn’t want to associate his farm with immigrant employment although he employs about 100 immigrant workers.

Rick said at his 300-acre farm they’re losing about $5,000 per day because they cannot pick asparagus fast enough.  It’s an industry that relies on the migrant labor and there won’t be any on the farm for two more weeks.

“Local people just don’t want to do that type of labor,” said Rick. He said harvest is earlier this summer than he can ever remember.

With warm temperatures, asparagus grows about one inch each day and needs to be picked quickly before it spoils. “We have a handful so (of workers),” Rick said. “We’re doing the best with what we’ve got.”

About 20 workers came early but the farm housing is all but empty. 80 more migrant workers won’t be here for another two weeks.

Every field they can’t get to will be mowed and wasted. Rick said all they can do is wait until help arrives. “That’s all we can do and hope for cold weather and hope we don’t get any more of those 80-85 degree days.”

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