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Plant your garden

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There was a discussion in the cruising anarchy thread about fishing 'cause food supplies might be a problem. A fair approach if you can get to your (or a) boat. Impossible right now in California. 

My response to the assertion that it'll all be fine 'cause food stuff is "exempt" was this:


2 hours ago, carcrash said:All food processing related business and work -- including specifically fishing, and all food markets including farmers markets -- is considered essential services and not subject to shutdown rules. Same with warehousing, trucking, fuel, repairs: everything to do with transportation is essential and is not restricted.So while there are concerns, none of what you mentioned are included.


I'm well aware of the "essential" designation - it applies to me. To be honest, as someone who works in this industry, I don't think you are paying attention. Or are misinformed. Unfortunately, this is common - few people are involved in ag or if they are it's commodities or ranching.

I'll give you just a few real-world examples:

  1. Local farms around here have seen a 50% or more drop in retail business for the markets that are open. Doesn't matter if their essential - a 50% drop in income will kill most farms in a matter of months. And do you think there's any government help for us? Hah!
  2. Many farmer's markets are not actually open. Others that haven't started their season may not open or open late - you can see this all across the central valley in California, right now. Meanwhile, what's in the field keeps growing or rotting... it doesn't just sit there waiting.
  3. Restaurants aren't ordering. Most of the folks I know sell direct and it's an essential part of their income stream. That's all completely gone.
  4. But the kicker is labor. Talking to a friend the other day... his regulars have disappeared. On the east coast especially many farms are waiting to see to make their early season hires. The feeling is generally that with what is essentially a cancellation of the guest workers program there's not a lot of point in planting certain crops. (Edit: See also this article) Overall the uncertainty is inhibiting investment. You don't just plant and hope for the best - you have to know what your going to do with it And this is exactly the time that these decisions are being made.

Inevitably someone will say there's lots of good ol American labor available now and it should be easy to hire. Of course you believe farm work is unskilled and easy. It's damned near impossible to find anybody at all, let alone people with the skills or motivation necessary. I'd love that not to be the case.

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Maybe it is the shakeup that agriculture has needed for some time now. In NZ we have much of our agriculture that has developed on the basis of a friendly government ensuring cheap seasonal labour from overseas. We are now finding out that perhaps this is no longer a viable system. Finding locals willing to do the work is not possible for a variety of reasons, laziness being well down the real reasons.

So how do we go forward, above my pay grade. But perhaps we need to consider crops that can be mechanised more. Those that require lots of labour become expensive for the end user. In the end we are discovering basing an industry around continual cheal manual labour is a failing business model.

Of course those involved in continuing the status quo are vocal and fund powerful lobby groups. I don't think this event will be bad enough to force a rethink of how to proceed.

As for planting a garden at home, great idea. Again it has pitfalls. The biggest here would be the growing number of renters that have no guarantee of stating put for longer than the next three months. Sections that no longer have the space to do anything but hopefully  grow a couple of early/late season plants.

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