4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020


The Impacts of COVID-19: Farms Struggling To Find Enough Workers

Posted at 3:27 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 13:01:03-04

LANSING, Mich. — The coronavirus pandemic is having a unique impact on rural America. Ashley Sampson is at an orchard facing a worker shortage at a critical time.

Farm life isn’t easy but sometimes that life picks you.

Curtis Rowley, a farmer shares "Oh I don’t know about that. When we were little boys I think it was my dad pushing us out the door all the time. But as you get older, it gets in your blood, you seem to stay around"

Curtis Rowley is a 4th generation farmer in rural Utah. Here to the side of us we have a tart cherry orchard. On this side we have a gala block apples, but peaches are his specialty. "Not by color, not by size. I cut em open and I smell em. Knowledge passed down through his family taught him how to dodge the always humming farm equipment.

We got a mower here and a tractor here. He knows what to do when mother nature turns on the AC. We try to prevent frost in the spring by being up on the benches but there are some things that even a seasoned farming family can’t plan for.

We were still pruning when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Like many in this business they rely on outside help for planting, pruning and harvesting. Rowley utilizes the H-2a Government program that allows employers to bring foreign nationals to fill temporary agricultural jobs.

As they shut down all that border shutdown and everything at the end of march our guys happened to be right there at the border at the time he says, luckily the group got through but now it’s the harvest an “all hands on deck” time he’s feeling the pinch.

It’s really tight, I won’t say it’s perfect. The window for picking doesn’t stay open for long somewhere between three and maybe four days if that. He’s tried other options like offering jobs to people furloughed or laid off.

They’ll say can we come help a little bit but as soon as their job opens back up they go back to that and that’s understandable and unfortunately harvest time is also back to school time, so to hire high school kids to pick apples, it’s just not gonna happen.

Rowley says he will squeeze through the fall harvest but others won’t be as lucky. So yeah there’s a lot of people still looking for help still as for the future, this farmer says his family will remain planted, ready to weather whatever storm comes their way.

We’re planning on being here farming and continuing to grow this fruit. Ready to weather whatever storm comes their way.

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