Farming’s Human Heart

Posted in Blog, Farming on Thursday, May 11, 2023

Farm laborers play an essential, and often overlooked, role in the success of Washington state agriculture.

Farming’s Human Heart

NONE OF US WOULD EAT if we didn’t have a farming landscape based on safety, innovation, and human touch. In Washington state we are fortunate to have so many locally grown items that fill our grocery store shelves and restaurant plates. None of that would be possible if we didn’t have people who work hard every day to care for our food and the lands where it is raised. From the laborers in the orchards and fields keeping them free from pests and harvesting at the peak of freshness, to the bookkeepers and managers who implement safety standards and ensure everyone is treated fairly, the heartbeat of a farm would collapse without the people involved in caring deeply for the animals and plants they are growing.

Farm labor is a hot topic in Washington, and it's something we need to discuss in order to really understand the full situation. As new technologies are implemented on the farm, labor needs have changed over the years, and both growers and farm laborers are adapting to the changes.

As machinery, computers, and GPS have changed how laborers do their jobs, they are still critical to a farm’s success. Farmers trust workers with thousands, if not millions, of dollars in equipment. Plus the millions of dollars invested in each crop. The trust between farm owners and workers is incredible and it’s part of the unique culture within agriculture.

On many Washington farms, the same farm workers return year after year. Many of them have been a part of the farm for years and are considered part of the family. Many workers also bring relatives and the next generation with them when they return for the season. Farmers create tight relationships with their workers, and it’s often a relationship that is passed down from one generation to another. The importance of multi-generational farms goes beyond the owners. Laborers and owners have worked together for generations and they have a mutual respect for each other. They both need each other.

Farming is not an easy job. It’s never been easy work, just ask any farmer over 50. I remember as a kid picking rock, pulling weeds, and herding cows. Now, as an adult, I appreciate the sweat
and grit that work taught me. The farm isn’t just a place or an 8-5 occupation. It is a life. And it takes many people to make it successful.

Since humans began harvesting food either through gathering native plants or by growing specific crops, it’s been hard work. How do we value that? No matter how technologically advanced equipment and systems become, there will always be an element of grit, tenacity, and labor required. As a person who eats, I’m so thankful there are farmers and workers who are willing to work hard and ensure my food is as safe, affordable, and delicious as possible.

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