The communications revolution has made it more difficult to predict what workers will do, Wetherbee said.
“Every worker has a cell phone now, and they’re in constant contact all the time,” he said. “If they think there’s a better opportunity somewhere else, they’ll go there.”
Good growing weather and pollination thus far this season could bode well, Wetherbee said.
“If you have a good crop, and they can make money, they’ll come.”
Freshwave Fruit & Produce LLC, Vineland, N.J., also is keeping a wary eye on the labor situation this summer, said Skip Consalo, the company’s president.
Blueberries are Freshwave’s top crop, and the company has 35% more acreage this year.
Peach growers, Consalo said, are able to get a pretty good handle on labor, but blueberries require a lot of hands to get picked.
Jersey growers will keep battling it every year until Congress comes up with some kind of immigration reform, Consalo said.