Labor problems continue

06/10/2014 04:01:00 PM
Andy Nelson

Michigan vegetable growers will likely feel the heat this season more than the state’s blueberry growers, DeWaard said.

“Blueberry shippers seem to be able to offer a little bit more, as far as wages go,” he said.

Jordan Vande Guchte, a Superior salesman, said many growers and shippers in Michigan have accepted the fact that they can only rely on themselves when it comes to labor.

“I don’t place a lot of priority in hoping Congress will do something,” he said. “We’re just playing the cards we’re dealt.”

Labor is not as much of a concern for Paw Paw-based Spiech Farms LLC, said Steve Spiech, the company’s president.

One key for Spiech Farms is that is uses the same workforce in Florida, Georgia and Michigan for its blueberry harvest, Spiech said.

Once the Florida harvest is done, half of the crew goes to Georgia, half to Michigan. The crews are very similar from one year to the next.

“We employ from March to November,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of trouble finding workers.”

Another grower-shipper that wasn’t having as many labor headaches as others was Hart-based Todd Greiner Farms, said Todd Greiner, chief executive officer.

The company, he said, has no concerns it will have to mow over any of its asparagus plantings this year.

“Most of our workers are returning from years past,” Greiner said. “We have adequate labor. The industry, in general, though, needs to get something worked out.”

Greiner said the proposed labor group managed by the farm bureau could be one possible solution.

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