Agriculture

Ventura County experiencing shortage in field workers

Increased prices in economy may be to blame

Farm worker shortage

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. - It's that time of the year for hayrides, corn mazes, and pumpkin picking. For McGrath Brothers Great Pacific Pumpkin patch in Ventura, the harvest has not been that easy this time around.

“This year specifically we started with a crew of about 18 and as of this week we are down to five workers," said Nick Franek, Manager at McGraths Great Pacific Pumpkin Patch.

Ventura is just one of many cities in California having a hard time finding people to work in the fields. According to a recent survey conducted by the California Farm Bureau Federation farmers and ranchers are facing major problems in hiring people to work in agriculture.

“I can’t speak for the greater county, but for pumpkins specifically we have had a credibly difficult time finding labor," said Franek. "The labor that we do find often jumps ship and goes to other farms such as berries, cilantro or celery.”  

Franek says he understands it’s easier to transport strawberries that weigh nearly an ounce than a 30-60 pound pumpkin. But they are not the only ones around the county that are experiencing these issues.

“I do know that many of the lemon picking companies are experience labor shortage as well and it’s harder to staff the crews that go through and pick our orchards,” said Franek.

The president of California Farm Bureau said in a statement that farmers have been offered higher wages, benefits and more year-round jobs. This isn’t solving the problem. In fact, it’s making it harder for farmers.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to farm in all of California and especially in Ventura County due to the increased wages that small farmers have to pay out," said Franek. "There is also increased rents that we have to pay just to farm on the land, and the increasing cost of crop treatment such as fertilizers.”

Some farms around California have said the shortage has ruined their crop season. That hasn't been the case or McGrath's Pumpkin Patch yet.

McGrath's Pumpkin Patch is free admission and features tracker rides, hay maze, and farm animals. For more information visit http://www.greatpacificpumpkins.com.


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