Eastern Michigan labor meetings for produce growers and dairies

Labor was a limiting factor for producers in 2016.

Lettuce harvest underway with many employees. Photo: Ben Phillips, MSU Extension.
Lettuce harvest underway with many employees. Photo: Ben Phillips, MSU Extension.

“No one wants to work anymore!”

“Where do I find labor around here?”

We heard these a lot this past summer. Most growers fall into two camps. The first group operates at a level that relies on migrant labor, and may have scaled up at a time when migrant labor was not under as much scrutiny. Now, they find it difficult to keep up with regulation, and competition for migrant labor in other sectors. The other group has maintained a level of production that was accomplished with close family and friend networks. With older family retiring and younger family going to college or taking other jobs, they find their labor networks dried up. Both groups have to face the question of downsizing, mechanizing or expanding their labor network and knowledge.

There are some hard truths to face when it comes to farm labor, and it’s not always society’s problem. Sometimes it helps to get specific about things that are within our control. For example, if the applicant pool is not very deep, you could throw up your hands and blame it on “the kids these days,” or review your job description and the audience it is reaching.

There are some obvious and not-so-obvious interpersonal skills that can help with employee recruitment and retention. However, the circumstances and solutions to one person’s labor shortage may not work at another operation due to the business model, scale or personalities involved.

In response to that need, Michigan State University Extension is offering two Ag Labor Meetings that aim to address some techniques that are helpful to make good employee management decisions, and to help highlight resources to expand your labor network. We have invited experts from MSU, regional labor agencies, regulatory groups and a panel of growers who use H2A to help address some of these pressing issues. The two meetings will be held:

  • March 6, 9 a.m. – 3 pm, at the Saginaw Valley Research and Extension Center, 3775 S. Reese Rd, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
  • March 7, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Cabela’s, 110 Cabela’s Blvd, Dundee, MI 48131

Register for either one at 2017 East Side Ag Labor Meetings. Registration is $20, or $30 for walk-ins. Lunch is included.

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