The article “UC Davis report: Farm labor supply from Mexico is falling fast” in Fruit Growers News discusses the dwindling supply of labor from Mexico that the Ag industry has come to rely on in the United States. I read this article after skimming through the headlines of The Signal in my inbox. The Signal is a new weekly newsletter produced by Meister Media that highlights trends in ag technology and automation. How does the industry begin to address the issue of declining labor from Mexico? It’s time to embrace technology and innovation and the companies that will develop the solutions to overcome these challenges that the industry faces. Let us help you get back to farming.
How can you make crop production more profitable and efficient? It starts by minimizing expenses. Today, I also read on GrowingProduce.com that, “According to a report recently released by the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), U.S. farmers and ranchers earn just 14.6 cents for every dollar American consumers spend on food.” This is the lowest value since this statistic was first recorded in 1993 by the USDA. So how do you do more with less?
Invest in tools that will optimize the productivity of your workforce
We are told from many of our customers that using the InstaCaliper cuts the time it takes to caliper trees and count inventory in half. You have just made your nursery more productive.
How many hours and office staff were staying one, two, maybe even three hours after picking ended to count, hand-enter, and calculate total hours worked and pieces earned? Eliminating these time-consuming processes just made your farm more productive.
Find ways to ensure that you have accurate labor costs
When we initially tested the FairPick scale out in cherry orchards, we found that, on average, each cherry lug weighed about 18.5 pounds. Each lug should hold 20 pounds of cherries. 1.5 pounds of “missing” fruit adds up quickly. Paying by weight ensures that you are only paying for the fruit harvested.
The only way to justify the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” or “it’s because we’ve always done it that way” mentality is if you accept that nothing has changed since you started farming. Tariffs haven’t increased, farm income has remained the same, technology has not progressed, labor has remained constant and abundant…. Being a productive, profitable farm looks different than it did 50 year ago, even 10 years ago.
Every obstacle a farmer faces is an opportunity for the Ag Tech industry to grow.
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At 2nd Sight, we believe that there is a better way. That there is an easier way. We’re on a mission to develop Ag tech that allows the grower to work smarter, not harder.
Have you ever had to hand count and caliper 10,000 trees, not just once, but every year? Have you ever had to manually enter this measurement data into a spreadsheet to get your nursery inventory counts? Have you ever thought that there might be a system out there that automates this time consuming and tedious process?
This is where we come in. You’re not the only one who wants a better solution. At 2nd Sight, we do the work to develop the quality, reliable, and innovative technology that solves common problems you face in the Ag industry because we believe that there is a better way too. Let’s work together to make farming fun again.
Interested in counting and sizing ten trees in ten seconds? Watch this video. Give us a call so we can set you up with the solution you’ve been thinking about when it comes to recording inventory at your nursery.
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I try to keep up on a lot of the news related to the specialty crop and nursery industries. Every week, each Ag publication seems to have another article about labor. A recent article in Fruit Growers News entitled, “Growers get proactive for workers relations” is a must-read for any farm manager feeling the pains of finding, recruiting, and maintaining workers.
For any business, the employers’ relationships with staff can be complicated. In Ag, it’s complicated even further by job seasonality, wage rates, federal and state labor laws, food safety regulations and audits. However, anything an employer can do to improve the relationship with staff is going to create a company culture that makes the farm a better place to work. When labor supply is low, your farm needs to be more intentional about becoming the “employer of choice.”
In another article, "Ag census shows drop in farms, acres and income," the Capital Press summarizes data from the recent Ag Census: “Slightly more than half the farms, some 1.1 million, reported losing money. The average loss was $20,997 … For the farms that made money, the average gain was $125,754. In all, per-farm net income averaged $43,750, a 2% drop over five years earlier.”
What does this all mean? Your labor is likely your biggest expense and per-farm income has, on average, decreased in the recent years. It is critical to your farm’s success to manage labor well. If your farm income does not increase, then your expenses must decrease in order to be profitable or maintain profitability. How can you connect your team to reach new levels of productivity? Andrew & Williamson Sales, the company featured in the FGN article, is investing in their employees. By providing more and better training, clearly defining expectations, improving communication, and being more transparent, they are striving to be the “employer of choice”.
How is spending time and money on your employees going to save you time and money? High employee retention and return rates is one way. Training new employees is expensive. The “learning curve” of any new farm worker is expensive. And let’s face it, when you feel like you’re cared about, told that you’re an integral piece of the produce supply chain, and part of a team, you’re more willing to invest your own efforts. Fruit, vegetables, or ornamental trees left in the field won’t make you any money, either….
Where does better labor tracking come into play? Fairness and transparency. Building trust with your workers by implementing a system that pays fairly could be part of your farm’s labor solution. Money motivates. Make sure your workers are getting paid for all the work they’re doing from the minute they scan their employee badges, to the precise number of pounds of produce picked, to the piece count of trees pruned. The benefit of a 2nd Sight system? The employee can always get a record. Print field receipts via Bluetooth printer or 2nd Sight FlexHub printer so that the work is transparent and the paycheck is no surprise.
From the worker’s perspective, “I’m getting paid for every minute and every bit of my work.” From the grower’s perspective, “I’m only paying for the time worked and activities performed.” A win-win if you ask me.
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