Collaborative Solutions to Farm Labor Challenges: What is feasible?

Project Type: Research Only
Funds awarded in 2019: $159,988.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2022
Grant Recipient: New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Kevin Cody
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
Jennifer Hashley
Trustees of Tufts College / New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
This report explores collaborative farm labor solutions from both farm owners and farm workers through focus groups and surveys collected through a research project supported by a Northeast SARE Novel Approaches grant. This report outlines the feasibility of collaborative solutions to labor challenges and proposes a path forward. This report broadly refers to the proposed solutions as “collaborative labor solutions.” In some surveys and focus groups, the solutions were more specifically referred to as “Entity X” as part of a specific narrative used to solicit feedback. Broadly, in any collaborative labor solution, farms across a given region (possibly reaching across multiple states) would pool their resources into a new entity that would recruit and hire workers, distribute them across participating farms, and take care of the legal, financial, administrative, and Human Resources (HR) work involved in employing people. Farm owners would pay this entity an hourly rate per worker, and this would cover wages plus the entity's overhead. We used the shorthand “Entity X” to refer to this framework in our focus groups. From there, the details of Entity X were meant to evolve to specific needs and desires. A collaborative labor solution could take the form of a farmer-owned cooperative, worker-owned cooperative, farmer-owned LLC, or a wholly separate temporary labor company. Depending on the structure and the specifics of the business model, farmers (and/or workers) could have the opportunity to invest—as well as the obligation of taking part in leadership and finding creative ways to generate a profit. Within any structure, participants would have to solve complex problems: balancing the scheduling needs of different farms, accounting for often unpredictable changes in those needs, ensuring the right balance of skills for different farms, maintaining fair wages, and providing housing and/or transportation for workers. This guide discusses the understanding of producer and worker perceptions of labor problems and the potential for collaborative solutions and proposes a path forward. Included in the guide is a discussion Toolkit for Farmers to further explore options in their regions/localities. The guide also includes fact sheets for each of 13 Northeast state on the Basics of Farm Employment Law.
Decision-making Tool, Fact Sheet, Workbook/Worksheet
Erin Hannum, Farm Commons
Rachel Armstrong, Farm Commons
Target audiences:
Farmers/Ranchers; Educators; Researchers
Ordering info:
Jennifer Hashley
[email protected]
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
733 Cabot Street
Beverly, MA 01915
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.