Karst chat with Armock: To look inside the apple

04/07/2011 04:04:26 PM
Tom Karst

10:13 a.m. Karst: What is your sense of the labor situation in Michigan? Will the H2A program be leaned on more in the future to supply workers?

10:14 a.m. Armock: We are reliant on a mobile work force, and there is a segment of it that - they are documented workers but they may not be legal workers. That's very problematic. The H2A program hasn't been very widely adopted in Michigan but I suspect if our elected officials don't have the courage to do something about providing a stable work force as we go forward, then we may be moving toward that end, which is less than ideal. We have a strong workforce now that every effectively harvest crops, whether it is vegetables, blueberries, peaches or apples. When you go to H2A, they aren't t necessarily be the same people we are enjoying now.

10:15 a.m. Karst: So some H2A worker might have less skill or experience with harvesting produce than current workers?

10:16 a.m. Armock: Instead of having a mobile work force, you have certain contractual obligations in terms of length of time; you have the cost of transporting workers here and back. It changes the cost dynamics of operators.

10:17 a.m. Karst: Five or ten years out, what would like to see the industry look like compared with now? How would you like to see it evolve?

10:18 a.m. Armock: For the industry in total. If I could make wishes for the industry, it is ultimately what we can do for the consumer and what the consumer wants. If the industry can better understand what the consumer wants and spend our research dollars and spend our collective efforts to deliver it, we would have an even more dynamic industry than we have now.

It is all about filling consumer needs. Everything is changing faster and faster. We've gone from planting orchards and not getting any production off of them for seven or eight years and not being profitable for half a generation to now being able to plant orchards and recovering our year on year growing costs in the third or fourth season. So we can realize the fruit of our endeavor in a much quicker time frame than what we used to. That will make us become much more quickly adaptable to whatever the market place brings to us.


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