The biggest fresh garlic producer in the nation is giving its employees a hefty raise, reflecting the desperation of farmers to attract a dwindling number of farmworkers.
Christopher Ranch, which grows garlic on 5,000 acres in Gilroy, Calif., announced recently that it would hike pay for farmworkers from $11 an hour to $13 hour this year, or 18%, and then to $15 in 2018. That’s four years earlier than what’s required by California’s schedule for minimum wage increases.
Ken Christopher, vice president at Christopher Ranch, said the effect of the move was immediately obvious. At the end of last year, the farm was short 50 workers needed to help peel, package and roast garlic. Within two weeks of upping wages in January, applications flooded in. Now the company has a wait-list 150 people long.
“I knew it would help a little bit, but I had no idea that it would solve our labor problem,” Christopher said.
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