Market rates and labor costs affecting local farmers

EDEN, N.Y. (WIVB) – The owners of Amos Zittel and Sons say they understand the gamble of losses and profits in farming, due to the weather and prices each year. However, due to a number of issues, this year has been worse than others.

“You have good years and you have bad years. But on a bad year, when your labor costs are only going up, you can imagine what that does to the bottom line,” David Zittel, one of the co-owners of Amos Zittel and Sons said.

Their family has been growing fresh vegetables for the past 118 years.

This year, they had up to 90 people on staff during the peak harvest season. It goes from April to October. However, things have been tough, because minimum wage keeps increasing.

“With the increase of minimum wage, our biggest problem is that the bottom side of our people who work for us has been inflated. So much, that obviously everybody above minimum wage wants more than too.”

In addition to rising labor costs, low produce prices are also hurting their bottom line.

“The problem with that is we’re in a global marketplace with produce,” Zittel said. “Our surrounding states having lower minimum wages and they’re obviously producing the same crops as we are. If I go to sell a carton of produce and ask my buyer to give me more money, because I’m paying my employees more. There’s no way he’s going to agree to that because we sell truckloads of stuff.”

Zittel hopes market prices will be higher next year.

As for the cost of labor, he said they may have to get creative to find ways to recoup the costs.

“I think we’re looking more and more to mechanization. However, people is our business. That’s what we’re all about. Without people, we’re not in business.”

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