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Nationwide Labor Shortage Hits Quincy Tomato Farm

Pictured here are tomatoes growing on a vine.
Dan Gold
A Quincy tomato farm is struggling to find workers. The owner, Graves Williams, also owns two packing houses. He says there was a labor shortage before the pandemic but says now it’s worse. Even after raising minimum wages from $9 to $11, he can’t get people to come work for him.

A North Florida farm is feeling the effects of the nationwide labor shortage. High Hope Farms is based in Quincy, and its owner, Graves Williams is struggling to find workers even after raising wages. Williams also runs two tomato packing houses in Quincy and Gadsden County. This June, he was short about 200 people to pick and pack his tomatoes. Williams says that caused him to lose about 25% of his crop.

"So it's a problem. The labor situation is terrible," Williams says.

Williams says there were labor shortages before the pandemic but says now that shortage has at least doubled. To bring in more people, he's raised the minimum a worker can earn from $9 an hour to $11.

"Now I'm going back to work in October, and I'm already contemplating raising that to $12 an hour," Williams says.

This year, Williams says he recruited about 78 locals to work in his packing houses. After a month, he says only four remained.

"The rest of them wouldn't even make a week. They just won't come to work. You know, they'd found other things to do," Williams says.

Williams says prices to transport his tomatoes have also risen. And he says supply chain issues cause delays in getting the materials he needs to ship his products.

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.