Minimum wage laws can be a real pain, as many low-margin agricultural operations have noticed.
The standard approach to dealing with them is by hiring illegal immigrants off the books with a modest amount of cash paid under the table.
But why pay any labour at all? And why risk getting busted by the feds?
This month, our nations universities are churning out scores of fresh graduates with a high demand for “real-world skills” and some idealistic notions about agriculture, which they probably gleaned from reading a Michael Pollan article in the NYT Sunday Magazine. And they’re willing to work for free on your farm.
NYT: Erin Axelrod, who graduated from Barnard College last week with an urban studies degree, will not be fighting over the bathroom with her five roommates on the Upper West Side this summer. Instead she will be living in a tent, using an outdoor composting toilet and harvesting vegetables on an organic farm near Petaluma, Calif.
As the sole intern at a boutique dairy in upstate New York, Gina Runfola, an English and creative writing student, has traded poetry books for sheep.
And Jamie Katz, an English major at Kenyon College in Ohio, is planting peach trees at Holly Tree Farm in Virginia.
Having spoken to a recent Barnard grad, we’ve confirmed that there are pretty much zero jobs available for these people. The individual we spoke to knew of one classmate who had found employment. Working for free on a farm (the college kids like organic, “sustainable” agriculture, but our guess is that a lot of them would be willing to work for corn and a few apples a day at any farm) is pretty much the perfect opportunity for them.
That being said, try to avoid getting one of the uber-bratty ones, that doesn’t know when to check their politics at the door.
Back to the NYT:
Sometimes, the interns can get a little too political. Recently, an intern in Florida wanted to report her organic farmer for using antibiotics on sick sheep. Under national organic regulations, that is permitted as long as the treated animal is separated from the herd — a fact the young agrarian did not know.
Ugh. And next thing you know she’ll be passing out copies of Das Kapital to the actual paid laborers at the camp, explaining how they’re the oppressed ones.
Also, if you’re a recent college graduate, and are interested in providing your free labour to an organic farm, take a look here.
(photo via [email protected]!)