My bosses from last summer have a new help wanted ad for blueberry pickers and weeders up on Craigslist. This time they’ve omitted the fifty-pound minimum requirement, instead noting, ” It may be possible to earn from NOTHING to $50/Day – Depending how well you pick.” As a frequent l0w-volume deposit bottle rat, I certainly describe the $11.10 or so that I earned on my worst day in the berry patch as “nothing.” Even the ADHD spazz earned sixty cents or a dollar the day he was fired, and that was with a running average of maybe two percent attention. They must be really scraping the bottom of the barrel if zero is the minimum productivity they’re willing to explicitly expect from their pickers.
This help wanted ad also admonishes applicants, parenthetically, “Please have an application before coming out, failure to do so may result in not being hired – following directions is important!” I’ve previously argued against having new hires for menial farm jobs fill out formal applications. In this case, however, the directions that applicants are expected to follow are contradictory. The same ad calls for pickers aged 13+ in one paragraph and 16+ in another. Wow Very Explain. It looks like the remnants of an old ad got pasted onto the new ad and left there: not a good look for employers who bang on about the need for attention to detail on the part of their seasonal berry pickers.
What’s disturbing about this ad is that it’s some of the most competent and aboveboard help wanted advertising in American agriculture. This is the level of disarray that prevails on farms run by people who are actually trying to do right by their employees, their communities, and their country. I can’t find any ads at all for fruit pickers in South Jersey right now, even though I heard a grocery store ad the other day announcing that fresh New Jersey blueberries were back in stock. The growers there are probably using shady, semilegal crews.
I don’t know where the hell rock bottom is in this business, but I doubt I’ve seen it yet. The sad thing is that I probably have found American agriculture’s best practices in hiring, and that I have found so much more sleaze than honesty, so much more evil than good.