After asking me “How’s the season going?”, fellow growers always ask me “How’s your labor situation this year?” Isn’t this really the wrong order of questions?  If I say the labor situation is great, then it goes without saying that the season is good. In fact, we all have a tendency to relate how we’re doing to the weather – too rainy, too cold, too dry, etc. but here on my farm, the personnel I have each year not only relates directly to how we’re doing financially, but is even more important to how I’m doing psychologically.
This year has been very different — and very good. I’ve turned over the operations at the farm to Susan Corrigan, my trusted farm manager. For a labor pool to help Susan, I have always had difficulty enlisting the help of locals. Over the years I’ve had the occasional good dedicated worker – some older and many younger. But, this year I hit the jackpot with a team of great workers, and not surprisingly, they are all young women.
Laura’s grandfather knew me from the local farmers’ market and two years ago mentioned his granddaughter had always helped him sell his vegetables at the market, but thought she might be more interested in flowers. I wanted her help at the market, but she wanted to work on the farm part-time. As a graduating senior ready to head for college, Saturday mornings were for sleeping, not doing the market.
Laura liked working in the fields, but I didn’t realize how much she liked it until this spring when she asked to work full time this summer. She had some friends who wanted to work too.
We’ve had four freshmen (Isn’t that the name of a group that predates me?) here all summer and now two have returned to school and the other two are working part-time and going to the local community college. These two have changed their majors to agriculture! Besides working on the farm, Laura has worked at our local farmers’ market on Saturday and our sales are way up.
All summer these ladies have come to work on time, they’ve worked hard, and they’ve had to be told something only once or twice before they “get it”, and they love working with flowers. Best of all, they’ve been able to keep up with Susan, and even she’s even impressed with them.
Our internship program has brought great people here who think they want to be flower farmers. These are almost always the best people to have around the farm because they are hard working and they ask lots of interesting questions. It’s always comforting to be with others who are falling into the addiction of flower farming. We’ll continue to run our internship program and hope to train even more future competitors. But, we’ll still want and need some local talent to get all the work done.
Maybe you too can find some freshmen girls in your local area. We hope ours will be back next year and will bring more friends.