During Recession, Hundreds Eye Local Farms For Work

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

Farmers in Palisade say it's an alarming trend -- hundreds and hundreds of people from across the country calling them, looking for jobs. A sure sign of the recession, they say, as people become desperate for a paycheck.

The peach orchards at Talbott Farms span for more than one hundred acres. And owner Bruce Talbott says 100 workers it what it takes for a successful harvest.

"We have had to go to extraordinary efforts to find workers for the last six or seven years," said Talbott.

He says most years, the farm only gets 20 to 30 applicants. But this year is not most years.

"In the last three or four months we've seen three or 400 people," said Talbott. "So it's been a dramatic increase in people looking for work."

Talbott says it's become extremely apparent the increase is due to layoffs, businesses shutting their doors, and an overall lack of work.

"They're coming off of construction, landscaping, out of the gas well industry," said Talbott.

And even more alarming, he says, they're coming from out of state.

"I'm getting calls from Nevada, from Arizona, from Virginia," said Talbott.

While he admits there are some positives to the huge wave of workers --

"It's a relief from the standpoint of having adequate hands to do the jobs we need to have done," said Talbott.

-- He says it's gotten to a point where he's had to stop taking down names and numbers.

"This is ugly," said Talbott. "And I really hope the economy stabilizes."

According to NBC affiliate KUSA in Denver, 1,799 Americans applied for 726 open seasonal farm jobs during the first quarter of 2009. Talbott says when you throw all the foreign workers farmers have relied on for years into the mix, figuring out who to hire gets complicated.

"I'm very uncomfortable when people are sitting four, six, eight months without work," said Talbott. "They need to work and they want to work."

Looking ahead to July, when the peach harvest is in full swing, he says the number of jobs versus the number of applicants tells a pretty sad story.

"We'll add another thirty beyond that," said Talbott. "And a high percentage of those will be returning people who have helped us in other years."

Other local growers 11 News contacted say they're experiencing similar trends, and have had to turn people away simply because they don't have the work for them.

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