Farmers Take Housing Matters into Own Hands

By: Aaron Luna Email
By: Aaron Luna Email

Last year a large percent of Olathe's Sweet Corn crop almost wasn't planted due to a lack of worker housing. This year one farmer is taking matters into his own hands to make sure that doesn't happen again.

In the town of Olathe sweet corn rules.
John Harold with Tuxedo Corn says, "the town has been very supportive of making sure the sweet corn industry continues in this valley." But last year it almost didn't a half century old federal law stopped farmers from using public dormitories for housing seasonal workers. A law Harold has been trying to change for the past five years.

"Realized about six months ago it was a dead end street," says Harold.
He knew he had to do something or risk not planting. "I don't have an option other than to find housing," says Harold.

That's when a house mover in Montrose called with several old detached classrooms he didn't want to take to the dump. Harold decided to make a deal. "It's a considerable investment at my age I wasn't sure I wanted to make, but I have no choice."

The old classrooms are being remodeled on Harold's property which allows him to legally house the 48 seasonal workers he will need to meet a new contract with grocery giant Kroger company. A contract that will increase production 25 percent.

Which is good news for Olathe sweet corn lovers as well the town.
"Were probably going to be able to increase our local labor force by three to four hundred percent this year," says Harold.

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