I know it has been radio silent from Farmer Mike and team, and I am guessing that has been a pleasant change of pace for you!
It is that time of year when I put out the call for returning members. This helps us determine how many new members we will need to recruit for a total of 150 families to support the farm for 2020.
This year, the letter is a bit different…
I would like to do something out of the ordinary in the farming world: pay our farm employees a living wage.
I would like to increase pay by an average of 15%. We must be able to price at a point that makes farming a profitable business, worthy of the next generation’s pursuit.
With the increase in pay, the price of our CSA shares has increased by 15%. I know, this is a lot. But it is the only way I see us bringing up the hourly wage of the folks that grow our food for us.
What is Farmer Mike doing with this increased share price?
I am increasing our minimum rate to $14/hour (previously $12/hour). Our full-time staff/farm leaders will increase to $18/hour, and I will pay myself, for the first time ever, $22/hour. This is all based on a 40-hour workweek from April to November. To compare, operations like mine pay $8/hour.
If you do the math, this increase in pay makes nobody rich. It’s still such a meager salary. But it’s helps offset individual health insurance costs and allows the farm’s workers to live a comfortable life and provide for our families.
Will the share size increase?
The share is determined by what the fields have to offer and what we can feasibly harvest in a week that assures there’s enough for everyone. The point of this increase is not related to the amount of food harvested. This price increase is solely to reflect the real cost of living for the people that work our farm.
Why is Farmer Mike doing this?
I am very concerned with the future of small-scale, sustainable farming. It is not sustainable for farmers and farm workers to accept unlivable wages. Without changing wage, we are at risk of losing our local food system. This is what we need to do to stay in business.
It is my goal that we can start to change course. I believe my plan is a great first step to encourage other farms to consider reevaluating the real cost of the work they do and being paid a fair wage to do it.
But what if I can’t afford that increase?
If this increase is out of your budget, please email me directly. I can work with you to adjust the share price and find a way for you to still be a CSA shareholder within your family’s finances. We want you to eat well and be part of our community.
I want to encourage all of you to really think about what I am asking of you. My goal is simply to change the perspective about what food truly costs. It is new, and a challenging task I am asking of you, but the only next step I am willing to make. I hope you will join me in this next chapter. Thank you.
This has been in the planning stages for months, but just the other day Washington Post wrote an article very similar extolling the virtues I described above, check it out!