New Jersey growers face labor challenges

05/31/2013 12:11:00 PM
Andrew Nelson

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.

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