Jada: Reminiscing on my younger harvesting years

Part of the Hoffman Harvesting crew moved further west yesterday to Limon, Colo. Some of us stayed behind but will be heading that way later today. Being here at the campground in Goodland, Kan., has reminded me of all the fun times I have had on harvest especially swimming at this particular campground. There were several other harvesters with their kids and we would all go swimming each afternoon. I think I grew fins at this place! The same campground supervisor, Karen, is still here and now it was her job to make sure my nephews behaved instead of me. My sister and her kids visited us for the last three days and her kids swam in the same pool she and I took over when our family harvested here. It was so fun! Thanks for visiting us!

When I was around 14 years old, my parents hosted their first J-1 worker. This foreign exchange trainee was fun to have around. He had a neat accent and I loved learning about his country and their customs and cultures. I remembered asking my parents if can we have more of these fun people come work with us. At the time my dad said we will never have an all “foreign crew”.Since then, we have had people from all over the world come and work for us.Today, we have an all foreign crew.

When I was younger, my parents always hired neighbor boys who grew up on the farm and knew how to drive machinery. They would work with us for the summer and then go back to school in the fall. Today, the dimensions of the business have evolved affecting who we hire. More people are growing fall crops.As a result, fall harvest has become an important revenue maker for our business. Like most harvesters, Hoffman Harvesting cannot hire students anymore because our season lasts until the end of November. Every year we try to hire American workers by advertising in area newspapers and farm based publications, but are unable to because they either do not want to work a seasonal position or they are students. As a result, we hire foreign workers.

There are many pros having foreign workers. When we hire foreign workers, they have made a commitment to give up their life as they know it for 6 months and travel overseas to work. They are here and they want to be here. It isn’t uncommon for American workers to work part of the summer and quit. Finding workers in the midst of harvest is hard to do. As a result, Hoffman Harvesting hires H-2A workers.

We have friends from Denmark that work for another harvesting crew. They have worked for their employer for 5 years and wish to continue to work in the United States. However, a change in laws no longer permits Danish people to work in America with an H-2A visa. Many harvesters feel that if the government is changing laws to make it harder for these types of workers to enter America, they should be helping us find employees that want seasonal work and are willing to do the work we require our employees to do.

On another note, why do foreign people wish to come to America to work? There are many reasons. I plan to interview our crew and let you get to know them. Our 2009 crew is an interesting group and diverse group. Check out my next post with an interview from our South African workers, Jozua, Charles and Carin.

 Jada Bulgin can be reached at jada@allaboardharvest.com. All Aboard 2009 Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and DuPont Crop Protection.


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