A fourth generation farmer in Schultzville, PA (don’t you love the name of that town?) won’t be planting any tomatoes or pumpkins this year because of concern about finding enough labor to harvest them. Keith Eckel, 61, is the largest producer of fresh vegetables in the state, but made the decision two weeks ago to switch his normal 340 acres (2.3 million tomato plants) over to corn.
“We would end up with $1.5 to $2 million invested on the ground that we don’t know that we can pick up,” Eckel said. He usually relies upon 125 documented aliens who live and work on his farm for six weeks during the summer, but last year was only able to attract 75 and his labor contractor told him that it would be even more difficult in 2008.
He went on, “There are a number of workers hesitant to travel, legal or illegal, because of the scrutiny they are under.”
Even though his farm is within a six hour drive of one third of the USA population, labor uncertainty will allow for less local production in eastern PA.
It doesn’t make sense to me. I hope that we figure a way to allow for the production of fresh vegetables and other food in rural America.