Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon SK
Labor is the single biggest expense in any farm operation. Big ag’s reliance on migrant labor has been a source of controversy for a while, but use of unpaid help by small scale farmers is also starting to gain attention. That is why SPIN-Farming is viable. It is owner-operated, and the owner does most of the work, with occasional help from family and friends. When the need for outside labor does arise, SPIN farmers can afford to pay a living wage rate because they are savvy about how they use labor.
For instance, three hour work sessions focused on specific tasks a few times a week is optimal. Managing labor is a big time suck for a farm owner, so the less of it you have to do, the better. Short, focused work sessions eliminates the need for much oversight, and you don’t have to factor in a lunch break.
A few years ago we did a guide on how to make productive use of those who want to volunteer, and the management efficiencies it outlines are just as applicable to paid labor. As we said back then, more and more people are realizing that making the world a better place is up to them, and many of these enterprising and visionary do-it-yourselfers are finding their way to SPIN farmers. How to meet their goals and a farmer’s needs, while also following local labor rules and regulations, is up to each SPIN farmer to figure out. The important point to understand is that the cost of labor has to be factored into the cost of production and prices, and if a farm operation can’t afford to pay a living wage to workers when they are needed, it’s not a viable business.
Have a savvy labor day!
See part 2 of Honest Work/Honest Pay here.