Owyhee Produce invited the public to pick and take home free asparagus on Saturday at one of its fields in Eastern Oregon.
Shay Myers, a third-generation farmer, told us he didn’t have enough workers to harvest his 350,000 pounds of asparagus and take it to market.
“It’s getting to a point where farmers across this valley and across this nation want to give up,” said Myers. “We are tired of the bureaucratic process we have to go through and all of the requirements that we have that they don’t have in Mexico.”
Owyhee Produce normally gets most of its workers from Mexico through the H2A program that legally brings migrants who want to work, but because of problems at the southern border, those workers were delayed in getting to Idaho and Oregon.
“The H2A program is a good program but it doesn’t work like it should,” said Myers. “It’s just that disconnect between the government officials who are trying to do their jobs and those of us who are trying to supply food if we don’t have people here for 90 days this whole crop is gone, which is why the people are in the field right now.”
Instead of letting this crop go to waste Owyhee Produce allowed people to pick asparagus on Saturday and the count they had this morning was around 2,500 people.
We would like to say thank you to the farmers who are opening this up to the community I’m sure everybody out here is really appreciative,” said Robert Mullens who came with his family from Parma, Idaho. “It’s probably helping a lot of people.”
Delay in H2A workers
Myers cited the delay in the H2A workers, but he also said unemployment benefits and other factors from the pandemic have made it hard to hire workers, and if we are being honest Americans don’t want to work in the fields.
This marks the second crop in a year that Owyhee Produce has lost, last year they dumped onions after COVID-19 broke the supply chain.
Earlier this week Shay Myers posted videos on TikTok and one of those reached 2.8 million people, Myers decided to let people come get their asparagus, but he has concerns about what this might do to the asparagus market locally, but he thought letting this food go to waste would be worse.
Myers told us that the United States has lost 80 percent of its asparagus market to Mexico in the past ten years because American farmers can’t compete.
“Mexico pays eight dollars a day versus 14-16 dollars an hour here, how can we compete with that?” asked Myers. “We can’t.”
He also hopes the people who came to pick asparagus develop an appreciation for farmers because Myers thinks the only way things will change is if it is demanded by American consumers.
“I need awareness,” said Myers. “I need people to understand where their food comes from and how hard we work and how hard we fight to get food on the table.”