Summit Farmers Market Letter to Summit Downtown Inc, Fellow Vendors and our Awesome Customers
November 14, 2016
Mike Rassweiler – North Slope Farm
Organic Produce, Flowers and Specialty Herbs
Serving the Summit Downtown Farmers Market Starting in 1998
Over the last ten years North Slope Farm has run an experiential Farmer Training Program –
serving local markets with Organic Produce and Exceptional Local Products!
In 2017 North Slope Farm will retire from the Summit Farmers Market,
focusing closer to home…
We will miss the Summit Market – but we are hopeful the Market will welcome “New” Farmers – building their Farm Business, still developing their products, to best serve our customers.
Kyle and Rita invested themselves in Three Years of Training, at North Slope Farm – focusing on Food Safety – Organic Production – Exceptional Customer Service – and have proven themselves worthy of an opportunity like Serving Summit Shoppers!
Their Operation, Harvest Moon Organic Farm, maintains the scale of production that North Slope has occupied and will dovetail nicely with Existing Vendors and Regular Sales. We believe most vendors will support our encouragement to welcome Harvest Moon Organic Farm, to replace North Slope Farm, for 2017! Please note their info below!
Thank You for a Great Market, and for Supporting Local Agriculture!
Meet the Growers:
We’re Kyle and Rita, a couple of young aspiring farmers who were born and raised in Hillsborough, NJ with a passion for growing healthy, sustainable produce in New Jersey. After apprenticing for three years at North Slope Farm in Lambertville, NJ and with nearly 10 years of farming experience between us, we’ve joined the Incubator program located at Duke Farms in Hillsborough NJ to start our own farm business. We are a diversified organic vegetable farm that offers 60-70 varieties of vegetables including kale, salad mix, Swiss chard, onions, squash, beans, peppers, heirloom tomatoes, even ginger and turmeric. Finishing our second season as Harvest Moon Organic Farm we’ve grown in size from two to four acres of production and gone from one part time employee to 4 full time employees. Our operation markets its products through a small CSA and participates in six farmers markets, Millburn, Sea Bright, Duke Farm to Table, and Asbury Fresh’s Friday, Sunday and Belmar.
Bret Morgan, Founder, Asbury Fresh Farmers Market:
“Kyle, Rita, and the Harvest Moon team have been a pleasure to work with these past few years. Their produce is always top notch and they are always some of the easiest and most pleasant farmers we’ve worked with over our six year history. I particularly respect Harvest Moon’s creativity in crop selection. They continue to grow a good mix of tested crowd favorites along with new and upcoming varieties of crops that really adds a unique element to our market. Each week I look forward to what the have to offer, I know many members of our community are in agreement that Harvest Moon is a huge asset to our market.”
Cara Kent, Market Manager, Asbury Fresh:
“Asbury Fresh was extremely lucky to have Harvest Moon Organics on board with us this season. Kyle and Rita are dedicated people who are wonderful to work with. They have a perfect attendance record and offer a high quality product. They would be an amazing addition to any market.”
Consideration of Farm Worker Wages –
December 2, 2015
Michael Rassweiler, North Slope Farm
When I began to formalize my concept of a Training Program, in 2006, the question of how much to pay a Trainee, and what costs are associated with providing Training were the hardest to resolve.
I began by utilizing the NJ State Minimum Wage as the Entry level rate, for an untrained worker. Then established a slightly higher rate, from $8.25 (Min rate in 2015) to $8.75 if a Trainee had some relevant work experience.
There were small increases; $1.25 per hour for Trainees as they moved from the First year to the Second year and an additional $.50 per hour for Third Year Trainees. With a final $1 bump to $11/hour for any Graduates of the Training.
Providing Mentoring and Training for Farm Workers can be associated with a Wage Rate that is lower than the rate paid to a Trained or Experienced Laborer. The Trainee can expect that precious FARM Time will be dedicated to allow them Time to:
- Be exposed to Explanations of Activities and Plans
- Be Introduced to New Concepts and Equipment
- Research their Questions and Concepts, and pursue Special Projects
- Develop a Focus that will assist in their Professional Development
- Participate in Policy and Strategy Discussions to expand their Conceptual Horizons
- Participate in Administrative Tasks to improve their Understanding of Business Mngt.
Three Primary Factors have weighed heavily on me over the years;
- What is a Reasonable Minimum Wage?
- What is a Reasonable Wage for an Experienced Farm Worker?
- How can a Small Farm be Profitable with High Labor costs?
A Reasonable Minimum Wage: I believe that a worker should not expect to work at the minimum wage for long – it is a wage rate set to ensure that no one is taken advantage of (Youths, Seniors, Immigrants, Developmentally Challenged or otherwise new to workforce) . The minimum wage should allow someone who is working full time to; rent housing, maintain health insurance, maintain a heathy diet and some Quality of Life – for a year. A worker needs to invest themselves in their Employment such that they contribute to the success of the Business – at which time they should be able to request and receive wage increases that reflect true “Cost of Living” and “Contributed Productivity.”
So a reasonable State Minimum wage must reflect the estimated annual cost of Housing, Health Insurance and Food. This is a difficult number to establish, and it changes, sometimes dramatically. Local Counties should be regularly preparing estimated “Cost of Living Assessments” and publishing the information to assist Government in Planning, Businesses in tracking worker needs and Citizens to assess if they are paying too much for services compared to their earning potential.
There has been many broad Political Statements about “$15 minimum wages” from restricted application’s (for instance: “Government Contractors”), to regional actions, for instance, Cities requiring a higher than average Minimum wage to account for Urban, High Costs of Living.
The topic that Small Scale Farmers need to be vocal about, is that Wages take up a large portion of our budgets, cutting into “at risk” profitability. Establishing an arbitrary and high minimum wage makes it very difficult to bring untrained workers into the Industry, to say the least. Discussions of Minimum wages should lead to research into minimum “Cost of Living” – which leads into discussions of the Cost of Local Housing, effective Public Transportation and cost of / Access to Health Care and Food.
Don’t Mess around with Minimum Wages too much – Highlight and Invest in, Sustainable Communities, that foster environments for viable Businesses and Workers.
Most Important – What is a reasonable Wage for an Experienced Farm Worker? In questioning Farmers and Managers that I consider to be running Viable, established businesses, the rates paid to workers vary according to the Workers. Some Workers are very productive, are ready to work early and keep working late, without complaining, losing or degrading equipment. These workers tend to be offered “high” rates of pay ($13-18/hr), sometimes with benefits like housing and overtime (which is not a requirement for Agricultural labor, though it is for most other workers). These workers tend to be long term employees, coming back year after year, often associated with Government Programs to allow Farmers to bring in Seasonal workers from other countries. The highest wages tend to be with businesses estimating a Million Dollars Gross Sales, and Small Farms, like North Slope Farm, struggle to compete for workers.
Some workers are productive sometimes and not so productive other times. They are quite often distracted and even disgruntled. This requires careful monitoring and intercessions by their managers, often leading to creative solutions, but just as often leading to the termination of employment. Small Farms experience high levels of turn over, often benefiting from productive workers for only a portion of a season.
I am very aware that if I hope to retain a good worker from Year to Year, I will need to provide enough opportunity to earn, that they will be able to find a nice place to live, and cover the costs associated with a simple lifestyle. The Wage will need to be competitive to other opportunities, but it also needs to be realistic from the prospective of what the Worker will Produce or Contribute to. This is the challenge of attracting good Labor to Perennially Struggling Small Scale Operations.
My top wage needs to be relevant to my Business Earnings and Viability. Since 2006 North Slope Farm has published Seasonal Summaries, including Profit and Loss and Worker Hours. In that data, there is a relationship that can be associated between the number of hours we worked and our actual productivity, in the form of earnings. From that relationship a realistic hourly rate might be teased out, though it will be complicated by the age old – how much should be profit? – and how much should the first year Trainee be paid, compared to the Farm Manager and experienced staff?
In 2015, we achieved our Gross Earning Goal of $150,000. Gross wages paid were about $66,000 including Employer contributed Taxes. So, wages consumed about 44% of our gross income Not including myself, as owner and Farm Manager (my payment comes from any Profit). I have always used 30% as a maximum goal for how much Payroll should consume of the overall Earnings, so we do not quite make it this year. Also, as an employer, I feel I should increase my worker’s pay, to account for a renewed assessment of Cost of Living, and to endeavor to retain workers whom I have invested years into Training.
North Slope Farm will be applying a general Wage increase for 2016, not as a reflection of our Business Viability, but to try to retain good workers, in a competitive labor market. It will force us to increase our Gross Earnings by a minimum of 10% from $150,000 to $165,000+/-, according to a rough estimate of how much we’d have needed to earn this year, if everyone was at the New Rate of Pay..
I expect 2016 to be unprofitable as we grow into higher wages, but I expect that continued focus on productivity and professionalization of Workers, will lead to a stronger business over time. I don’t have a whole lot of optimism though, for new Small Scale Farms, trying to get started with high wages. As a Society – that cares about eating good food, and fostering sustainable communities – We need to be aware of the Bigger Picture – its not just about Wages – Its about Viability. If you can afford to invest in the Community – You Should.
North Slope Farm is committed to investing in its Workers, increasing wages and fostering an environment that is livable. We encourage our workers to keep their eyes and minds open, to learn and contribute. We are investing in Wages beyond our immediate profitability, and Time for our workers to learn and grow, hoping they will be more able to contribute to our community. We will strive to grow our production and sales capacity. In a few years, I hope we will catch up with these increases, at least we will restructure to keep the farm productive, even if production and focus might change.
Winter Solstice 2014-
At North Slope Farm, Winter Solstice is honored as an ancient, human celebration. We get together at ‘the Farmhouse’ to share foods and beverages, music, stories and laughter.
2014 will be honored on Sunday December 21 – 5pm into the evening. If forecast for Sunday is Dire – Party may be pushed earlier to Sat!
Some details; there will be food and drink avail, but please bring something to share. The meal is Pot-luck, there will be a table to set your dish, likewise the party is BYO – tho we will have a big hot water station and our dried herbs to sample as Tea.
Musicians are encouraged to bring their instrument, as group jams often occur. A safe zone for instruments will be established by the Players…. If you think you’d like to offer some song / music and want to confirm details call North Slope Farm at 609-460-4636.
Location – and parking..
Musicians and early arrivals will find space in the “Farmhouse Parking Lot” at 1701 Linvale-Harbourton Rd, 08530. It has limited parking tho and the overflow is around the corner on Rock Road East.
Park at North Slope Farm to be sure to find a spot – 386 Rock Road East, 08530. From Route 579, turn onto Rock Road East, the first driveway is the Farm entrance. Overflow parking will seem like you are following a long and winding road, but don’t worry, you will follow a trail of torches back to the party and it’ll be fun!
Clothing – wear solid shoes, walking from parking, if at all rainy, in recent past, you will encounter Wet Ground. Party will be inside Farmhouse but, weather permitting, there will be a celebration ‘Campfire’ outside as well.
Any questions? call mike at 609-460-4636
Hope we see you there, but wherever you are; ‘Happy Solstice’
North Slope Farm received notification from the New Jersey Department of Health, that Seniors can expect to receive funds from the Federal Government, that are to be invested in local Agriculture, at Farmers Markets!
Seniors.. Do you know how to access these Funds? Call the NJ Health Department 609-292-9560
Fund Raiser for Moving Creations, Inc
Saturday October 5, 2013
4 – 7 pm
20 East Mount Airy Ave, 2nd Flr
Philadelphia, Pa 19119
North Slope Farm has pledged to host a supporter of Moving Creations, Inc
Certificate of Reservation
By committing your Contribution
6757 Greene Street, Suite 330
Philadelphia, PA 19119
You Reserve Your Campsite at
North Slope Farm
386 Rock Road East
Lambertville, NJ 08530
Certificate Valid thru November 2014
Contact us early so we can plan and advise!
Excellent opportunity for ‘safe’ Adventure.
Friday, June 28, 2013
Summit Downtown Inc., Board of Trustees, voted on Wednesday, June 19th – ‘To maintain the Summit Downtown Farmers Market, at the Lot, located on the corner, of Deforest Ave and Maple Street.’
North Slope Farm represented the basic, stated opinions, of the Five Long Term Produce Farmers, at the Board Meeting, and we thank everyone for their time and attention.
Summit, like any City, is always seeking ways to support and foster it’s “Downtown”, as a place that citizens will come, eat, shop and socialize. The Farmers Market is a big part of supporting the environment.
Thinking about these issues, one item remains clear – To foster a “Farmer Friendly” Farmers Market – Listen to your Farmers!
Good Luck Everyone!