Fresh Facts Week 42: On Labor, Bicycle Rides, and the Heat of Summer

By June 14, 2015Newsletter

Volume 8, Week 42, June 7-13, 2015

Tomorrow is June 8th. It is forecast to be our first 100+ degree day. Normally—whatever that used to be—we would have had several of those in May.

Stone fruit ripens fastest when the temperature is in the 80’s and that explains why our harvest has been progressing at such a blinding rate. We are harvesting varieties at the 1st of June that shouldn’t be here till the end of June.

We also seldom harvest on Sunday just because everything and everyone does better when we get a day off, but today is the second Sunday in a row we’ve had to pick. If we get next Sunday off, next Saturday will be 20 workdays in a row. Paydays are nice, but people get tired.

On the happy side, we have been able to keep up and I have to say that 2015 has been the highest quality year I’ve ever participated in. I think we’ve got the best flavor ever as well. Hope you’re enjoying it.

While we’re on the subject, and because our purpose is to educate in as transparent a manner as possible, let’s go a bit deeper into the inner workings of a peach farm. About 75 to 80 percent of our farm expense (and it’s similar for your vegetable farmers as well) is labor. Those of you who have come to visit are always astounded by the number of people required to produce your box of produce.

As you know, we provide year-round employment for the folks who tend your crops, dental and vision for everyone and their families, and a matching 401K. That costs us about 11 bucks an hour a couple years ago, and as it stands right now, we’ll be at 16 dollars all in next year. I wish it could be 50, these guys deserve it.

But very quickly, you can see that if 80 percent of your costs are labor, and that goes up 50 percent, your total cost just went up 40 percent. This is true throughout U.S. produce land. That coupled with lack of water, an aging labor force, and no replenishment farm labor explains why you see less and less produce of USA in the produce aisle and markedly higher prices. We can reverse this trend, but it’s going to take some attitude changes by the elites.

On the happy side, we are getting the highest prices ever for our fruit; more for the #2s in fact than the #1s 5 years ago. Most business people won’t tell you when things are good, but this isn’t business, it’s family. I just want you to know what’s going on.

Hey, I bought a new bicycle. I was really into it 8 or 10 years ago, did some 100 mile rides—most notably Big Sur—but I broke my collar bone on each side in a couple different blunders about 6 months apart and swore off it for awhile.

But I’ve always wanted to ride across America just to say I did it, so I got a pretty nice bike. They’ve come a long way since the old one; you can shift just by pushing the brake lever to the side, the new computers are insane, showing not just time and distance, but heart rate and cadence and then the whole ride uploads to your phone when you’re done. What they haven’t done is make the infernal seat any more comfortable.

I’ve been riding a couple hours every other day with old friends who’ve worked me over pretty hard and have come a long way in just a short time; tomorrow afternoon when its 103 should be a hoot.


Author Uncle Vern

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