Northwest Asparagus Comes A Tad Early

By Anna King

PASCO, Wash. – Northwest farmers are beginning to harvest the first asparagus of the year this week in southeast Washington. That’s a tad earlier than usual. Growers across the region are keeping an eye on how many asparagus workers show up for the harvest. Last there was a farm-labor shortage.
A bin of fresh “grass” as farmers call it, is ready to ship to a packing shed. By Anna King.
A bin of fresh “grass” as farmers call it, is ready to ship to a packing shed, where it will be prepared for restaurants, cruise ships and supermarkets. By Anna King.

At the Middleton farmstand, asparagus – both purple and green -- is selling by the pound to passersby. Bins of fresh asparagus are brought here right off the fields. Workers come and go. At the helm is Laura Middleton.

Laura Middleton and her daughter Lacy, 8, tend their family’s farm stand near Pasco, Washington.Laura Middleton: “It’s stressful the first couple of days, so I’m feeling a little stress.”

Middleton says they’re recruiting and organizing crews, getting paperwork sorted out and starting deliveries to processing sheds. They’ll hire nearly 100 people in the next weeks. Each plump spear is sliced off under the ground by hand.

Middleton says her operation has enough labor for now, though she’s still looking for a few more experienced workers. Last year increased violence and tighten security on the border meant fewer workers in Northwest fields.

Throughout the region, growers say it’s still too early to say whether they’ll have enough seasonal farmworkers to pick this year’s cherries, apples and pears.

Copyright 2013 Northwest Public Radio
 

Laura Middleton and her daughter Lacy, 8, tend their family’s farm stand near Pasco, Washington. By Anna King.

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