The New Jersey farm business generally has difficulty recruiting and retaining long-term employees because it is a seasonal industry.
But at Alstede Farms in Chester, 2021 has been a year like no other when it comes to finding help.
Farms, like other businesses in the Garden State, are suffering from a labor shortage. Alstede Farms is struggling to fill positions, from cashiers for the retail store or U-pick operations, to administrative positions.
Students are filling the labor shortage on the 800-acre farm, at least for now.
âWe’re going to see a lot of this bandage ripped off and it’s going to hurt,â said Kurt Alstede, owner and general manager, at New Jersey 101.5. “Once the students get home, it’s going to be really tough.”
Alstede attributes the small pool of workers to generous unemployment benefits, which come with weekly bonuses for a few more weeks, as well as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on childcare, and older workers who choose to retire rather than risk their health at work.
âOur senior employment rate is minuscule compared to what it normally would be,â said Alstede. “There’s just no one there.”
According to the New Jersey Farm Bureau, the agriculture industry has had to adjust its operations in order to provide the same quality products with fewer employees.
“The consequence of the labor shortage has forced producers to raise wages, but wholesale producers do not see reciprocal prices for their increased input costs,” said Ben Casella. , New Jersey Farm Bureau Field Representative. âThe retail supply chain has raised prices for the consumer, to help stabilize profits, but it is to cover the increased retail spending for labor and those dollars are not coming back. not to farmers. “
Casella said farm retail sales were also forced to push up wages and consumer prices.
Alstede said it’s not just their own inflated wages that are causing the financial strain – manufacturers and suppliers they have dealt with for years have also struggled to find help, so they pass on increased costs. of labor on the farms they supply.
âWe have no choice but to increase our prices, our retail prices, to cover our higher production costs and stay open,â said Alstede.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at [email protected]
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