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Agricultural labor is commonly characterized as seasonal, migratory and often obtained only through third-party “labor contractors.” This system creates situations where families cannot permanently attach to communities, nor see to their children’s continuous attendance at school.
Over decades, T&D Willey Farms evolved a year-round production system unique to our region. By farming and harvesting throughout four seasons, we could permanently employ some 50 persons full-time, year-round on our 75 acres. This permanent work force offered many advantages. Our farm’s highly trained and experienced employees were highly motivated to guard the quality of what they produced.
Wasting Resources Means Wasting People
We cannot heal the country’s social wounds or “save” the environment as long as we cling to the outdated industrial assumptions that the summum bonum of commercial enterprise is to use more stuff and fewer people. Our thinking is backward: We shouldn’t use more of what we have less of (natural capital) to use less of what we have more of (people). While our need to maintain high labor productivity is critical to income and economic well-being, labor productivity that corrodes society is like burning the furniture to heat the house. – Paul Hawken, “Mother Jones,” March/April ’97
Though we are no longer employers, it remains a pleasure to engage with hard-working people taking pride in what they do. We have striven to maintain a non-coercive, non-toxic work place. Farm labor is backbreaking work, and those who perform it do not receive adequate compensation or respect. The improvements we made on our farm, though modest, are not generally available to farm laborers. Our farm was known in the area as a “good” place to work, and we are able to attract a high-caliber work force as a result.
While most earn minimum wage or slightly above, our staff was able to enjoy annual incomes roughly twice that of the average California farm worker. Year-round employment enables any farm employee to become stable members of their community.
Children’s educational opportunities are enhanced when their families have steady employment. After earning a permanent position on our farm, workers became eligible for an annual bonus and paid vacations.
We remain very thankful for the quality of employees we had, and we pray you appreciate the essential, unsung role they play in putting good food on our families’ tables each and every day.