Oregon Family Farm Association,
An Oregon asparagus farmer’s video about labor shortages leaving crops unpicked in the fields received 2.8 million views on TikTok and prompted a local asparagus-picking event.
Shay Myers, chief executive officer of Owyhee Produce, posted the video to explain how border issues, the Covid-19 pandemic, and a backlog of United States Citizen and Immigration Services has created the worst farm labor shortage in two decades.
In the video, Myers, a third-generation farmer, explained that a lack of pickers meant throwing away $160,000 worth of asparagus that, if picked, could be sold to consumers. He said the 35-acre field produces 350,000 pounds of asparagus. But, because of the labor shortage, he said, the first week or so of the 10-week season had passed without picking the flush of asparagus, which accounted for about 20 percent of the farm’s total harvest.
After so many viewers saw the TikTok video, Owyhee’s owners decided to launch a free asparagus-picking event for the community, which drew 6,100 people on a Saturday who picked the early crop and prevented the waste of nearly 100,000 pounds of asparagus. People scheduled picking appointments through Owyhee’s Facebook page.
Myers, who posts five informational farm videos a week to social media sites, said local labor has filled the gap left by seasonal workers who can’t cross the border, although they need more intensive training to learn proper harvesting skills. He’s hopeful his regular crews will arrive in time to harvest the last of the asparagus and begin picking watermelon.
Last year Owyhee lost its onion crop because the supply chain broke during the Covid-19 pandemic. During the past decade, Myers said 80 percent of the asparagus market has been lost to Mexico, which pays workers eight dollars a day instead of $14 to $16 an hour, so farmers can sell their produce at lower prices.
The TikTok video can be viewed at
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