Continued from Page 31

largest producers of organically grown

leafy green vegetables, Arnott Duncan,

said growers need to be willing to learn

what consumers want.

“You need to listen to signals, buyers

asking for certain products, time slots.

The challenge is to meet that need,”

Duncan said.

Large v Small Growers

He also touched on the

small versus large organic

producer issue, noting it is

not true the larger growers

are attempting to keep small

organic producers out of the

market. Local agriculture

groups may also

struggle to


service farm labor provider, noted that

securing a labor force has become more

acute in recent years and labor can be

the largest cost in production.

Due to more labor intensive practices

employed in organic production,

the need for skilled farm labor

is increasing. A 2018 study of

organic farming employment in ten

Washington and California counties

found that more workers are hired

per acre and more year-round

employment is offered than

on conventionally farmed

acres. More full time, year

around employment helps

provide livable wages for

California farm workers.

Arnott said new

technology is coming

that will reduce

the need

for many


jobs, but he views the next generation

of organic farmers will come from other

industries and adapt their knowledge of

technology to the farm.

“They will see organic production

as cool, fun, collaborative and

challenging,” Arnott said.

According to the Benefits Report,

farmers who grow organically use

more labor intensive practices than

conventional farmers to manage weeds,

insect pests and disease. Organic

systems also include a higher diversity

of crops, requiring more skilled labor.

Jenny Ramirez, director of human

resources for Harvesters Inc., a support

system for farm workers, said treatment

of workers, including providing a safe

work place is paramount in retaining a

labor force. Workers who feel they are

treated well by their employers tend to

Continued on Page 34

organic growers, perceiving them to

be a threat.

“It is not easy to move forward if

there is distrust between large and

small producers. That is a bridge

we need to build,” he noted. Large

producers are not monopolizing the

market, Duncan said. They do open

doors for organic products and create

spin-off opportunities for all organic


Duncan, who farms more than 8,000

acres of organically certified ground

in Arizona and California, said

learning to farm organically has been

a humbling experience for him.

“You have to be willing to learn, fight

your way through challenges and

learn how to deal with them. Don’t


Strong Labor Force

Maintaining a strong labor force

in organic food production is one

challenge producers face. Matt

Rogers, founder of AgSocio, a Bay

Area company that operates as a full

32 Organic Farmer April/May 2019

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