Labor Challenges: An on Farm PErspective

Session II: 1:30pm - 3:00 pm

Changing immigration dynamics and policies have intensified the farm labor shortage, with special challenges for labor-intensive organic farms. This workshop will feature a timely discussion of the issue and its implications for the organic sector. Hear from farmers about the realities of labor shortages, impacts on their farms and innovative strategies for managing this challenging time.

Speakers: Ray DeVries, Ralph's Greenhouse; Levi Fredrikson, Oregon Tilth; Laura Masterson, 47th Avenue Farm; Ramon Ramirez

Speaker Bios

Ray de Vries was born in 1952 in Friesland, the Netherlands. His family immigrated to the United States in 1958. In 1960, the family moved to west Mount Vernon where they dairy farmed for 20 years. Ray never had much interest in farming, so he went to school and studied shop. After finishing school, he wanted to see the world so he moved to Iowa and taught shop for three years. In 1979, Ray returned to the Skagit Valley to help his dad retire, and the next eight years were spent doing construction work. In 1988, Ray started helping his dad Ralph with his out-of-control retirement vegetable garden. Since then, he’s been farming organically-grown vegetables such as leeks, carrots, beets, and other cold-weather crops that grow so well in the Skagit Valley. With the help of a number of good people, the farming continues to this day.

Levi Fredrikson (Moderator) is a Certification Services Officer with Oregon Tilth. He has a background as an agricultural educator, farm family business consultant, and grower. Levi has managed operations raising grass-fed beef, diversified vegetables and row crops, cannabis, and orchards/vineyards.

Laura Masterson is a fresh market vegetable farmer with over 20 years of experience. She started the 47th Avenue Farm in 1996 on a double lot in Portland to grow tasty local veggies for her friends & neighbors. Fast forward two decades and her passion for growing the best possible produce has expanded to include 50 acres of production in 3 counties. Described in the local press as an "Urban Über-Farmer," Laura's CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program is one of the oldest in Oregon. The 47th Ave Farm currently feeds over 200 families year-round and provides produce to award winning local restaurants in the Portland Metro region.  She was appointed by the Governor to the Oregon State Board of Agriculture where she served from 2010 - 2018. This board advises the Oregon Department of Agriculture on policy & develops recommendations on key agricultural issues across the state. Laura was the first CSA farmer to ever serve on this board and her perspective – that of a small, first generation, direct to market producer – gave voice to a rising tide of similar new farmers across the state.

Ramon Ramirez is a founding member of PCUN, Oregon’s Farmworker Union, and a movement elder in Alianza Poder, formerly known as the CAPACES Network, Ramon  served as President in April 1997- November 2018. Ramon serves on the Board of Director's of the Farmworker Housing Development Corporation, Center for Social Inclusion, Farmworker Justice, Alliance for a Just Society and the United Farmworkers of America Foundation. Ramon is an advisor on free trade to US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. Ramon is currently involved nationally and internationally in the efforts to obtain a legalization program. Ramon works with Fair Immigration Reform Movement, FIRM through the Immigration Organizing Committee of the Center for Community Change. The coalition leading the fight for comprehensive immigration reform.Ramon was awarded the 2003 Leadership for a Changing World by the Ford Foundation, The Jeannette Rankin Award and is a Alston/Bannerman Fellow. Ramon was awarded the 2009 UTNE Reader 50 Visionarionaries of the World Award and recently was chosen Latino Hero of the Year by Regency of Oregon.