Christopher Ranch, which grows garlic on 5,000 acres in Gilroy, Calif., announced recently that it would hike pay for farmworkers from $11 an hour to $13 hour this year, or 18%, and then to $15 in 2018. That’s four years earlier than what’s required by California’s schedule for minimum wage increases.
Ken Christopher, vice president at Christopher Ranch, said the effect of the move was immediately obvious. At the end of last year, the farm was short 50 workers needed to help peel, package and roast garlic. Within two weeks of upping wages in January, applications flooded in. Now the company has a wait-list 150 people long.
Amazing. In all my years of reading about the latest crops-rotting-in-the-fields crisis, I’d always been under the impression that the Law of Supply and Demand had been repealed for California growers. And now this hereditary landowner has had a breakthrough insight denied virtually all economists asked to comment on the labor economics of immigration. Mr. Christopher ought to be the frontrunner for next fall’s quasi-Nobel in Economics.
Seriously, Gilroy is in the southern end of Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley, so housing costs are extremely high. I would imagine stoop laborers in Santa Clara County either commute in from far-away or sleep in bunk beds in something barracks-like.
Presumably, the grower will eventually sell his land to a housing subdeveloper for a huge amount of money (potentially in the billions if they can get over $200,000 per acre for their 5,000 acres), but in the meantime it’s nice to make a profit off farming too.