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Dr Sarah Taber @SarahTaber_bww
, 25 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
There's a very established playbook that farmers try to respond with when I talk about their shitty labor practices.
1: the whine. "But I'm nice to my workers & so are all my friends!"

First of all: if you were that confident it wasn't about you, you wouldn't feel the need to remark on it. Might even say something like "Yeah, that's true" bc you have eyes & can see what's happening around you.
Second: there's not a single shitty employer in the world who thinks of themselves as a shitty employer.
I've worked w farms that were literally poisoning their workers w careless chemical use. Right out in the open. Guess what? These guys talked a gREAT game about what benevolent employers they were.

But these farmers' great self-esteem had nothing to do w reality.
I've also been really lucky to work w farms that really *do* put in the work to make a good work environment. They 100% exist.

An interesting thing about them: they do it by having specific labor practices. Being a good boss isn't something you ARE. It's something you DO.
Farms with good labor practices can tell you specifics about what they're doing. "We give a retention bonus after X weeks.""We have a succession of crops so folks have a full season of work instead of 6 weeks here, 6 weeks there."
If they have the size to pull it off, they run their own H2A program & send their own foreman down to Mexico to recruit the year's workers. They do NOT use outside H2A contractors (basically a rent-a-worker program), bc those are shady asf.
Farms w their own H2A program also allow workers to refer a friend to come work for the next season. But ONLY ONE. Why? Because if a worker's referring you tons of people, HE'S A HUSTLER. He's charging people $ for an introduction to you. Yes, that's a thing. A big thing.
(If you've ever wondered how it is that farmers keep saying "but we pay fair wages!" & farm workers keep saying "I only get $2/day" or whatever, that's a lot of it. A hiiiiigh percentage of farmworkers' money can get siphoned off by whatever network connected them to gigs.)
Farmers are, by & large, pretty clueless that any of this is happening IME. That's the point. There's a whole system in place that brings them the labor they want & they don't ask questions. A lot of farmers won't even learn Spanish, so they couldn't ask around if they wanted to.
You can tell a farmer *actually* treats their workers well bc they display some situational awareness of how their labor gets there. They understand what workers are up against, and they take those proactive measures to keep it at bay.
This isn't hippy-dippy stuff. When you can't talk w your workers, you miss big problems in your business. And there can be shady ppl in their life siphoning off lots of the $ you're paying them.

What does that do for keeping your farm running? For reinvestment in your community?
That's why I'm so suspicious of farmers whose one line is "But I'm nice to my workers!"

If that's all they have to say for themselves, that's how you know they're in la la land. There's way too much willful ignorance going on in this industry about labor. Let's cut the crap.
2nd line of defense: "condescending."

God bless "condescending."

That's how you know someone's got nothing to actually say for themselves. All they can do is fuss about "condescension" because they can't actually say you're wrong.
It's also an interesting reveal into that person's psychology. Condescension means you're treating somebody less than their station.

Half-baked farmers know our society sees farmers w a certain reverence, & demand to be treated accordingly- or else. THAT's condescending.
I don't play that game.

If you're good at your job? Doesn't matter what that job is. I respect you. Pickers, plumbers, farmers, doctors, janitors, truck drivers, I don't care. I respect anybody who's professional & responsible with their work.
I *don't* dole out respect just based on a job title. That's like giving out "#1 Dad" mugs just for knocking somebody up.

A participation trophy, if you will.
But participation trophies are what a lot of farmers have come to expect. They know that very few people actually understand what they do, or how to tell who's good at farming. And half-baked farmers milk it accordingly. They think "farmer" is supposed to be a magic status badge.
There are great, professional, highly-skilled, responsible farmers out there. And it's not fair to *them* to claim that mantle unless you can back it up with real legwork.
A brief word on ag twitter. It has a saying: "You have to give respect to get it."

Anyone notice what's not mentioned there? Being good at your job!

It's just a fancy way to say "Kiss my ass, and I'll kiss yours."

That just says so much about what's broken in agriculture.
If it's not clear yet, I'm not running for a farm twitter popularity contest. If you think the stuff on this account is helpful, that's great. Please use it. If you don't, cool. You can have an amazing life minding your own business.
My goal with this account is to beef up the "sustainable ag" info available for consumers w some science & general business mgmt info. The general public is incredibly frustrated with ag's slow rate of change. Someone should talk about the very real reasons change isn't instant.
Some of the reasons won't reflect nicely on our ag institutions. Oh well. I'm not gonna tell folks it's all good, because it's not. We need to back up this "no BS" reputation by actually cutting the BS.

If you feel weird about someone airing your dirty laundry, wash it.
Wrapping it up: the labor practices I talked about here are a distilled-down hour's worth of sustainable business training. I just put it out here on this website for free bc it's important for folks to know. If you found it useful, pls to tip the waiter.
*half-baked farmers. The pros are like *drags a cigarette* "yeah here's another thing"

Note that's half-baked vs pros. Not "small vs big."
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