Skip to comments.Major Northeast tomato grower ends crop over migrant shortage
Posted on 03/24/2008 3:39:21 PM PDT by raybbr
CLARKS SUMMIT, Pa. - Saying the nation's immigration system is broken, Pennsylvania's largest grower of fresh-to-market tomatoes announced Monday he will no longer produce the crop because he can't find enough workers to harvest it.
Keith Eckel, 61, a fourth-generation farmer and the owner of Fred W. Eckel Sons Farms, said he saw a dramatic decline last summer in the number of migrant workers who showed up to pick tomatoes at his 2,000-acre farm in northeastern Pennsylvania.
He said Congress' failure to approve comprehensive immigration reform had hindered his ability to hire enough workers to get his crop to the market. Most of Eckel's workers came from Mexico.
"There are a number of workers hesitant to travel, legal or illegal, because of the scrutiny they are now under," said Eckel, whose tomatoes have been shipped to supermarkets and restaurants throughout the eastern United States. "So there are less workers crossing state lines."
Eckel, who planted 2.2 million tomato plants last year, said he also will stop growing pumpkins and plant half as much sweet corn as usual, resulting in a loss of nearly 175 jobs.
Eckel, one of the largest growers of fresh-market tomatoes in the Northeast, said it cost him $1.5 million to $2 million to plant and harvest a tomato crop , too much of an investment to risk not having enough workers at harvest time.
"The system to provide our labor is broken and the emotion surrounding the immigration issue is standing in the way of those in the political arena moving forward to solve it," Eckel told a news conference at his farm in Clarks Summit.
(Excerpt) Read more at philly.com ...
Legalize the 20 million ( min wage, ss tax, state withholding, medical ) and this guy will scream he still needs illegals to work for the few scheckels he tosses them!
Obviously, you have never put your money on the line to try and turn a profit.
If you think this farmer is making a political statement and didn't try to find workers, your immigration psychosis is at a dangerous level.
This country has a SERIOUS problem with illegal immigrant, but doing NOTHING is just as bad.
Congress is doing this country a serious disservice to it's citizens by not addressing this issue in a balanced sensible fashion
So his solution was to have the gubmint bring in more workers. His next step would have to be make the gubmint prevent those workers from going to construction jobs which pay better and aren’t as back breaking for said workers. Does that about cover it?
boo hoo! I can’t pay slave wages so I’ll stop growing ‘maters. Boo hoo!
Wonder how hard he has tried. Nearly $17 an hour is a pretty high wage. When I was growing up in the sixties, we kids hired ourselves out to do harvest work. The whole school district would shut down for two to three weeks to allow everyone to work. We would choose a picking partner, dress in warm clothes (it was usually early October) and go to the designated pickup place (often the schoolyard) to wait for some farmer to pick us, load us in the back of his pickup and drive us to the fields. We worked from dawn to dusk, making at first, $.07 per hundredweight of potatoes picked and bagged. The first year I was seven years old and my partner and I each used baskets designed to hold fifty pounds of potatoes, to be dumped into gunny sacks which held two baskets’ worth of potatoes. We earned, together, $1.63 for that first day’s labor—partly because our arms were too short to properly hold the gunny sack and partly because we were too little to lift 50 pounds at a time. Later I worked on combines where pay was more like $1.50 an hour. If we were lucky we worked everyday for the whole harvest break and then went back to school with new clothes and Christmas shopping money.
There were plenty of migrant workers doing the same thing, making a lot more money, but it didn’t seem there was much of a shortage of Gringos working also. It’s a different world, though. My kids turn their noses up at fast food jobs or retail jobs as “beneath” them.
“This country has a SERIOUS problem with illegal immigrant, but doing NOTHING is just as bad.”
The fields beside my parents NC place produce millions of tomatoes each year. A few years ago the grower sold out to a group of Mexican pickers who cleaned it up and made it more productive than it’s ever been.
“Folks like Mr. Eckel helped create this problem.”
FOURTH GENERATION or this farm, That would be around a 100 years, so he knows the financial story far better than anyone else here.
You response is accurate, but incomplete.
He is forced to compete with other farmers who aren't hassled about the status of THEIR workers.
The solution is to enforce the immigration laws evenly.
why would a legal worker be afraid to cross state lines ?
perhaps this farmer doesn’t want to pay a decent wage...
Exactly what part of that statement is BS?
We do have a serious illegal immigrant problem, our borders are being overrun
Congress has done nothing palpable to the American public to address this problem
McCain / Kennedy was not he answer
Tomatoes can grow inside too!
Little Space? Grow Vegetables inside
What are the odds this “farmer” is a millionaire but is too cheap to pay Americans a decent wage. And an earlier poster is probably spot on — my bet is he plants corn for fuel and gets his government subsidy to boot.
I emailed the newspaper with the following: RE: Farmer Keith Eckel to end tomato planting due to decrease in illegal migrant workers. Did Michael Rubinkam ask Eckel whether he had actually tried to advertise locally/nationally for laborers for this or last season? I can guarantee you that my 17 year old son, who now works as a dishwasher for minimum wage, would gladly pick tomatoes for $16 per hour. I also would consider that job over the high-stress job I now have, which does not pay as much. Me, Johnstown, PA
Didn’t McLame say that gringos wouldn’t pick lettuce for $50 an hour?
Bet we’ll pick tomatoes for it!
THANK YOU! Back in my day we picked strawberries and ‘pickles’. We were happy to earn our own money. NOW, I hear about illegals who don’t mind doing the jobs I used to do.
“um - lemme guess what hes gonna grow now....biofuel?”
Make more money that way than upping labor pay a couple of bucks an hour.