Although many feel that for a small farm, labour is generally
available and steady; a number of farmers identified it as an area of
potential risk. In certain areas, there is a shortage of available and
productive labour. Labour costs can also be highly variable and depend
greatly on the level of hand weeding required–a piece of land or
specific crop susceptible to infestation can drive up the cost of
Some farms use volunteer workers from the WWOOF (World Wide
Opportunities on Organic Farms) and apprenticeship programs to attract
enthusiastic people to farms to work while learning more about organic
farming. Others look for summer students and even apply for funding
assistance through government programs. However all of these sources of
labour may not provide the reliability and security required.
Scale can impact labour requirements and management issues. One
farmer stated that they managed their risks by staying small. The
larger the operation, the greater the risk exposure if labour is not
available and the management time and skills required. At the same
time, the absence of outside labour can literally place 100% of the
risk, physical workload and stress on the back of the farmer.
Farmers need to carefully evaluate different tasks. As farms scale
up, there is often a shift to using more mechanized systems and
reducing reliance on hired help.
The following strategies and tactics can be employed to manage the risks associated with Labour: