Many Erie County farmers are using more temporary agricultural workers known as H-2A workers. These are foreign workers willing to do the work that domestic workers are not.
With the growing season here, farmers are experiencing a challenge getting local residents to work for them.
“We tried to on our own for what we can find and our labor pool is getting smaller and smaller all the time. Last year, it was just miserable. We just had a terrible time trying to get our strawberries picked.” said John Mason, Owner of Mason Farms.
It’s been a challenge for many farmers in Erie County to hire workers to collect strawberries and all other kinds of fruits and vegetables. Some farmers, like Mason, won’t have too much of a struggle because he’s using plan B, hiring temporary agricultural foreign workers, known as H-2A.
Mason says the temporary employment of foreign workers has been around for years. Their role is to provide seasonal agricultural farm labor. He says hiring local residents continues to be an issue, but hiring H-2A workers helps him get the work done.
“I get yelled at when people know that I have Mexicans working for us that they say you’re stealing American jobs. We’re filling jobs Americans refuse to work at anymore.” Mason said.
With 200 acres to care for, Mason says he’ll have 19 workers to do farm work. However, this July, 14 of them are leaving.
Some farmers we spoke to say hard labor is needed to get food to the table.
“If there’s no one to work the farm, no one to get the food to market then everybody would be in trouble.” said Greg Havican, Owner of Liz and George Farms.
Havican is in need of, at least, 15 workers. He says he hopes many understand the importance of farmers needing a hand.
Mason says he takes care of the workers by placing them in his childhood home. He says the workers will be around for a certain amount of time, depending on the contract with the government.