Fruit farmers say there's a shortage of workers - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Fruit farmers say there's a shortage of workers


Fruit farmers across Michiana say they expect a bumper crop, but it's not all good news this harvest season. While there's plenty of produce, some say there aren't enough workers.

Jeff Lemon says it's a good year to be a farmer. "Record year and we're hoping to have record quality."

His family has been farming for 158 years and owns Lemon Creek Winery. "Probably one of the larger grape crops we've ever had for the juice and the wine."

But a big crop leads to a different challenge. "It's becoming more and more difficult to find available farm workers."

This is one of the busiest times of year for fruit farmers and Lemon says they began pressing their first load of grapes Tuesday. "We get into harvest time, especially when there's multiple things being harvested as there is pretty much all summer long-the shortage is really starting to show up."

He says he has six full time labor workers that Lemon Creek provides housing for year-round, but he would like to have double that amount. The problem is, he says it's not easy to find those workers. "A big part of the shortage can probably be attributed to a little bit of tightening on the border patrols and border crossing."

He says most of the agriculture work force are immigrants. "I'm a big proponent for controlling our borders. But I don't want to see our borders closed. We need a workforce and we need a growing workforce."

He says the efforts to weed out undocumented immigrants has some workers nervous. "I think that has kept them from moving around when they might finish the job in one area of the country and move to another area where there is work-that mobility puts them at risk to being caught."

He also says the improving economy is allowing workers to do different jobs besides just working the fields. "We're going to have some challenges on our farm getting everything harvested in a timely manner."

Especially with so much to harvest this year.

Lemon says he has been meeting with other farmers in the area who are experiencing the same challenges. They are pushing for the government to continue looking at immigration reform.

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