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Farm Labor Dilemma

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Touch the Soil News #749 (feature photo – Benjamin Gisin, Touch the Soil News) As any gardener knows – planting, tending, watering and harvesting food crops– is not accomplished without diligent effort. While industrial crops like corn, soybeans, wheat and hay are heavily mechanized, vegetables and fruits are not. For home gardeners it is hard to imagine what it would take to harvest just one acre of intensely planted broccoli or carrots. It is therefore not hard to understand when large produce growers explained to Congress last year that America can import labor or import all its fruits and vegetables. John Oxford, a Vice President of one of the largest…

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“Ghost” Farm Workers

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Touch the Soil News #431 Sarah Horton, a University of Colorado Professor of Anthropology, just finished a 10-year study on migrant labor in California. The work was published in the July issue of the Anthropology of Work Review. Horton’s work focused on migrant workers in California’s Central Valley – the fruit and vegetable basket of America. So what is a ghost worker? It is an illegal immigrant who is working using someone else’s legal documentation, often supplied by and encouraged by the farm owner/employer. Farm workers call this practice, which renders them invisible to state and federal governments, “working as a ghost.” Horton’s work revealed that unscrupulous employers who provide…

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The Lettuce Robot Has Arrived

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Touch the Soil News # 132 The most labor intensive crop is lettuce. One of the most labor intensive tasks in lettuce farming is thinning the lettuce plants early in the season. Once the lettuce takes stand, thinning gives the remaining lettuce plants room to grow and mature to market-size lettuce heads. Advanced Lettuce-thinning Robot Entrepreneur Jorge Heraud, from Salinas Valley in California founded Blue River Technology. The company invented what they call the LettuceBot. The LettuceBot can thin lettuce plants automatically and without labor. Consider that at the present, it takes about 50 farm laborers two days to thin a 15-acre lettuce field. The LettuceBot, using cutting edge robots,…

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