Labor Series: Pt 9 ~ Navigating Labor Contractors ~ Tips from AgSafe’s Amy Wolfe

Farm-workers-700x468

Written by guest blogger, Amy Wolfe, President and CEO of AgSafe. AgSafe works to provide employers and employees in the agricultural industry with the education and resources needed to prevent injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. 

In today’s agricultural industry, contract labor is playing an increasingly important role in getting our vast array of commodities to consumers. Whether it’s a result of labor shortages or growers’ desire to minimize the risks inherent in being an employer, the number of licensed farm labor contractors (FLCs) is on the rise to help fill that need. It is imperative that farmers understand the legal parameters for FLCs and how to ensure they are working with a business legally in compliance.

Read on as I discuss the basics of farm labor contractors, how to find those that are legally registered, and what additional paperwork a farmer should request before working with one.

Continue Reading →

The Love Lives of Farmers: How to Make Rural Romance Work

Library_Congress_Nebraska-e1402330345935-680x474

A resettled young couple in Nebraska, 1936. Photo by Arthur, Rothstein/Library of Congress.

This article was first published on Civil Eats, June 2014. This article is now being republished with permission from the author, Kristina Johnson. Kristina is a Bay Area, freelance journalist focused on agriculture and rural life. 

When a friend of mine moved to a rural part of California, she called her new home “BYOB” or “Bring Your Own Boyfriend.” “The pickings out here are slim,” she said.

The problem with this advice was that my dater’s luck in the city hadn’t been so great either. And on the many nights when I waited for a guy to call, I doped up on rural romances. I treated my disappointment with the hope that outside city limits there was a place—Farmland, America—where the cowboys were monogamous and the vegetable growers knew how to ask a girl out.

So I started asking farmers about their love lives with plans to write about what I found. But I also had my own agenda: I wanted to know if I moved to the country whether there would be someone there worth having a relationship with. I was looking for the pastoral version of a romantic cheat-sheet, a farmer’s guide to successful matches.

Continue Reading →

El Pais ~ From Field to Table in 24 Hours (in Spanish)

External link

Report from the Food IT: Soil to Fork Conference at Stanford University, June 20, 2014.

by Rosa Jiménez Cano

“¿Por qué no hacer mostaza con vino tinto, con mi cabernet?”, proclama Barb Stuckey, autora de Taste un libro que invita a explorar nuevos sabores y quiere servir de inspiración para que los agricultores procesen su materia y lo vendan directamente en el mercado.

En el auditorio de la Universidad de Stanford, un centenar de productores, estudiantes con inquietud por dar con cómo será la comida del futuro e inversores con aire desaliñado atienden.

Stuckey, experta en crear nuevos productos, alerta de las tendencias a las que tendrán que adaptarse para mantenerse en el mercado. Instacart , Google Shopping Express y Amazon Fresh son tres servicios dedicados a enviar comida. La de Google no tiene productos frescos, pero sí empaquetados, a domicilio en menos de 24 horas. Se pide por la noche y la mañana siguiente está en casa. Otros optan por recibirlo a última hora de la tarde, antes de volver a casa y ya consumirlo ahí. “Es un nuevo intermediario, con el que antes no contábamos”, advierte, “pero que a la vez es una gran oportunidad”.

Como ejemplo, habla de las posibilidades que ofrece una nueva startupMunchery : “Es fresco y recién hecho. Si alguien busca Mac&cheese -plato de acompañamiento típico-, puede escogerlo fresco, recién hecho y tenerlo en casa, en lugar del habitual precocinado”, relata. Va un paso más allá: “ SpoonRocket promete que te lo lleva caliente. Esta tendencia va a estallar, tenemos que estar ahí”. Por estar ahí se entienden varios puntos de vista. Por un lado, para servir al restaurante directamente, pero también para entrar en estas aplicaciones emergentes y ofrecer productos frescos como frutas y verduras como una forma de completar el pedido.

Álvaro Ramírez es uno de los primeros en explorar esta nueva vía.Llegó de Nicaragua, donde su familia se dedicaba a plantar patatas. Es el fundador y consejero delegado de eHarvestHub , un servicio que centraliza la producción agraria de 30 granjas. “Sirve para negociar precios en tiempo real, acuerdos de distribución con grandes superficies o saber qué necesidades son frecuentes para planificar con acierto”, explica.

Sanjay Rajpoot, en el centro, junto a su equipo y, detrás, su invención.

En su plataforma ya trabajan siete personas, comenzó en enero con poco más de 30.000 dólares de familia y amigos, y ya ha conseguido 1,5 millones de inversión para desarrollar su producto. El modelo de negocio pasa por crecer en América Latina, donde se están dando a conocer y donde ya tienen siete clientes. “Por falta de tecnología más avanzada, hay muchas opciones que no usan”, lamenta. De cada transacción, se quedan con tres dólares. El equipo lo forman siete personas, el director técnico, José Sánchez, viene del gigante de la distribución Walmart.

Ramírez lo tiene claro: “Queremos ir del estiércol, del lodo, al plato”. Su valor más preciado reside en la trazabilidad, un compendio de datos sobre el tipo de producto, cuándo se plantó, cómo se desarrolló, cuándo salió del campo…, algo que los productores pequeños hasta ahora no se podían permitir. La mayor dificultad, darse a conocer. “Hacemos mucha puerta fría, aunque últimamente vemos que se informan unos a otros”, celebra.

Miriana Stephens es la directora de Wakatu , una empresa de Nueva Zelanda que se formalizó como tal en 1977 aglutinando a más de 3.000 productores. Nació con una valoración inicial de 11 millones y ya supera los 250. La adopción de tecnología de control y distribución ha sido clave para su crecimiento. Aunque el encuentro apenas tiene publicidad, considera que es dónde debe estar: “El futuro de nuestra isla depende de nuestra capacidad exportadora. El 90% de nuestra producción viene a EE UU”. La estrella de su catálogo son los vinos, que se venden en Trader Joe’s, los supermercados de moda.

En su opinión no todo es una cuestión de aparatos y programas: “Tenemos que ser más eficientes para que la próxima generación siga en el campo, pero también adoptar una nueva psicología en el negocio.Nos falta la línea directa con el consumidor, crear marcas propias y contar mejor la historia detrás de cada alimento”.

Melanie Cheng ha hecho del desarrollo de los pequeños productores su cruzada. Durante 10 años trabajó en Cisco, una empresa de telecomunicaciones. En 2002 comenzó a interesarse por la agricultura como un hobby. Nueve años después dejó su empresa para crear FarmsReach , una organización social, sin ánimo de lucro. “Quería poner todos mis conocimientos de gestión de redes en manos de los agricultores y no de las grandes corporaciones, cada vez más opacas”, se justifica. A la vez, trata de alertar: “Muchos granjeros se están retirando, viene una nueva generación que tiene que aprender, pero no solo en la granja, sino en las escuelas de negocios”. Entre los problemas más graves destaca la falta de capital, escasa mentalidad para hacer negocio y dificultad para encontrar canales de comunicación entre sí. En su plataforma tratan de paliarlo con software. El equipo está formado por seis personas en Estados Unidos y cinco desarrolladores de programas en India.

El pragmatismo es uno de los rasgos más comunes en Estados Unidos, forma parte de la cultura del “hazlo tú mismo”. Sanjay Rajpoot, de Sustainable Microfarms , con 20 trabajadores y laboratorios en Fresno, ha creado un artilugio, tan grande como una estantería de un metro de alto y uno y medio de largo, apenas 30 centímetros de profundidad, que sirve para el cultivo personal. Al creador el espacio no le parece un impedimento. “Cabe en la cocina, el garaje, el salón… Ahorra un 90% de agua, solo se da lo que cada cultivo necesita, y produce el doble de rápido”, insiste. El ingeniero de origen indio no da precio, aunque deja claro que se dirige a hogares con altos ingresos, e insiste en las bondades: control a través de una pantalla, sencillez de uso, más sano.

La ventaja más importante, en su opinión, es tener el control total sobre lo que se consume en el hogar. Un caso extremo, quizá demasiado futurista, quizá solo para algunos entusiastas con espacio en el hogar…

Member Spotlight: Bryce Loewen of Blossom Bluff Orchards

972132_10151665259364308_1149277334_n

Sun-dried fruit at Blossom Bluff Orchards

This week we’re featuring Bryce Loewen, of Blossom Bluff Orchards, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Since 1931, his family has been producing a wide variety of high quality fruit. Today, they grow over 150 varieties of CCOF-certified tree fruit on just under 80 acres.

In addition to selling fresh fruit, an innovative part of their business plan is to dry fruit and sell it year-round. During the summer months, the leftover peaches, plums, nectarines, and apricots are cut by hand, pitted, and then laid out on wooden raisin trays to dry naturally in the sun. During the cooler fall and winter months, they slice their persimmons and mandarins into thin disks and dry them in an industrial grade dehydrator. So tasty!

Read on as Bryce tells us about how he got into farming, what important pieces of advice he’s learned over the years, and where you can find his delicious fruit!

Continue Reading →

FarmsReach Social Media Roundup

On the FarmsReach Facebook and Twitter pages, we post a mix of news, inspirational quotes, photos and more each day.

For those who shy away from the information overload of tracking each of these social sites, here is your monthly “best of” roundup of posts.

If you like, you can “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter to access the information flow. Otherwise, we hope you enjoy our digest of best picks!


California drought: 19th-century laws give thousands of users free, unmonitored water, Contra Costa Times
safe_image.php
California’s drought-ravaged reservoirs are running so low that state water deliveries to metropolitan areas have all but stopped, and cutbacks are forcing growers to fallow fields.

Picturing Women Farmers, Modern Farmer
safe_image.php
Audra Mulkern writes and photographs “The Female Farmer Project” — a chronicle of in-depth stories about the rise of women working in agriculture across the country and around the world.

Continue Reading →

Organic Life Film: Becoming a Farmer & Maintaining Your Sanity, Too!

The-Organic-Life-Poster_Final_web

Written by guest blogger, Austin Blair, who is featured in the film The Organic Life.

As an individual farmer, you will face challenges in each farming situation, yet some elements of human nature (and perhaps more aptly, farmer nature) are inescapable. In my limited experience apprenticing on a non-profit teaching farm (Soil Born), running a small farm (now run by another farmer as Lunita Farm Design), and working for another farmer (Paul’s Produce), I have learned that balancing full days on the farm and a personal life is a constant dance.

My outlook was further informed by a supportive, non-farming partner, who certainly has an outside perspective on the issue. She has forced me to confront the conundrum of how to maintain a relationship and still be an effective farmer. (Spoiler alert: we’re married, so it can work!)

This has been my experience farming, and these are the things that have worked for us.

Continue Reading →

Birth of a New Nonprofit Organization: the Farmers Guild!

10839556895_c261027ccc_o

Last summer, with a shared vision, FarmsReach and the Farmers Guild joined forces to better connect the agricultural community in California. At that time, there was just one Farmers Guild in Sebastopol, which brought together anywhere from 20-50 farmers for a casual monthly potluck. FarmsReach had also recently launched its online platform to build stronger connections between both farmers and partner agricultural organizations.

Since then, both the Farmers Guild and FarmsReach have grown tremendously together.

With the help of FarmsReach’s funding and supportive online community, as well as the donated time and space by Guild member volunteers and Grange Halls, the Farmers Guild has expanded to six more regions, stretching from Mendocino to Nevada County to Santa Cruz – with more to come.

We first highlighted Evan Wiig, the founder of the first Farmers Guild and co-organizer of each of the new Guilds, back in September. Now it’s with great excitement that we announce the formation of the new Farmers Guild nonprofit organization in which he will serve as Executive Director.

Evan has been an infectious speaker and inspiring community organizer for the Farmers Guild and FarmsReach while we have worked together. Below I talked briefly with Evan about his plans for the Guilds going forward!

Continue Reading →

Labor Series: Pt 8 ~ Best Practices in Farm Labor Management

blog pic 1

Lunchtime at Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, Oregon

Our Labor & Worker Safety series continues today with tips to improve labor management on the farm. This feature is an abbreviated version of a 2006 study conducted by the California Institute for Rural Studies, written by Ron Strochlic and Kari Hamerschlag.

During the study, twelve farm owners and more than eighty farmworkers in California were interviewed to gain insight into the best labor management practices and the benefits that farmworkers value most.

Read on as we discuss the most outstanding practices identified in the study. It should come as no surprise that farmworkers value what most of us have come to expect or desire from our own places of work: a living wage, respectful treatment, safe conditions, health insurance, benefits, and the ability to advocate for improved conditions without fear of retribution.

We hope the following examples inspire you to think about your farm’s labor management practices and make improvements if needed!

Continue Reading →

Labor Series: Pt 7 ~ Practical Steps to Hiring Employees

Migrants

Our Labor & Worker Safety series continues today with a step-by-step guide to hiring farm employees. Even though it’s up to the employer to decide whom they hire, it’s a critical management decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you hire the right person, they almost manage themselves; hire the wrong person, and all the money you invest in training and compensation will be wasted.

Read on as we discuss which skills are needed for the job, the design of a selection process, getting the most out of the various selection tools, and suggestions on how to bring the new employee aboard the farm business.

Continue Reading →

Global Warming & CA’s Food Crisis ~ Adaptation Strategies for a Secure Future

california-drought-not-caused-by-climate-change

In 1895 a Swedish scientist discovered the greenhouse effect. At the time, the concept of trapping gasses in the atmosphere (creating global warming) was thought to be an ideal development for preventing the next Ice Age. Today, this perspective is very different. What we now call climate change is having far reaching negative effects on the planet’s agricultural resources. Temperature affects crop yield, soil moisture, pest population and disease prevalence, all of which hinder agricultural production.

In May, the Giannini Foundation hosted a one-day conference in Sacramento called “Climate Change: Challenges to California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources.” I attended the conference and spent the day surrounded by scientists, policy makers, and educators, learning about the implications that climate change will have on California food production.

Continue Reading →