Local farms favor hiring foreign workforce

Sowell Orchards
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PALISADE, Colo. (KKCO) -- In Western Colorado, agriculture is a driving force in our economy. As the growing season approaches jobs are becoming available, but most of the farm work is done by laborers from outside the country.

Xavier Arevalo, of Child and Migrant Services, has the job of helping farm workers coming to the Grand Valley from outside the United States.

June through August is farm season here on the Western Slope and hundreds of farmers travel a great distance to do the work.

"They work hard because they want to help their families and of course they come here to get a better life," says Arevalo.

Bob Sowell, the owner of Sowell Orchards, uses the H2-A Temporary Agricultural Program to hire seasonal foreign workers.

"The Government dictates to us, what we have to do, what we have to pay for...which is pretty much everything," says Sowell.

Sowell is responsible for the workers transportation, housing and visas and the farm must pay them a state-regulated wage.

I asked Sowell why he prefers to use the H2-A Program instead of hiring local workers....

"So we can get our crop harvested," says Sowell.

Farm work is labor intensive and summer heat makes working conditions even more challenging.

“It's not a fun job, it's hot, it's fuzzy, you itch most of the day, you're carrying a 40lb bag up and down a ladder," explained Sowell.

Sowell says the demanding work conditions make it hard to hire locally.

“The local workers that we hire in the past don't make it past 2 days," said Sowell.

Claudia McClintock, the Executive Director of the Child and Migrant Services, says it’s a win-win situation.

"The growers have a ready hard working labor force first thing in the morning and the farm workers have a safe place to live," says McClintock.

For now, Sowell Orchards is able to have a well-run farm and Arevalo will continue to make foreign workers welcome.

"Welcome when they [farm workers] come from Mexico or different countries, they can feel like they are in their own country or in their houses," says Arevalo,

Bob Sowell, the owner of Sowell Orchards, is starting to hire for the upcoming trimming and peach harvest beginning in May and says locals are welcome to apply.

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