In last week’s newsletter I discussed the complications of getting a particular crop to market for a holiday that creates extra demand for that crop.
But holidays, particularly 3-day weekends in the summer, cause all kinds of other problems for farmers who grow fresh produce. Like many other businesses — stores, amusement parks, restaurants, hotels, etc. — we are actually busier for the holiday. Our crops don’t stop growing and our employees don’t get an extra day off*. And it’s not much fun coming to work at 5:30 a.m. when the fireworks go past midnight the night before.
Covid brought a new term for the people everyone else counts on to keep going to work no matter what: “Essential Workers”. These were the folks who staff the emergency rooms, drive the ambulances, stock the shelves of grocery stores, and harvested the crops, among other tasks.
Among the ironies that accrue to essential workers is that many of them even have to work on the day set aside to celebrate them — aka “Labor Day”. Actually giving them the day off, all of them, is inconceivable.
The holiday this year got folks in the media talking about “Four Day Workweeks”, more paid leave, and other nice-sounding ideas for reducing “people’s” stress levels and helping correct work-life imbalance. The people in question are the same people who are now at least partially working from home instead of having to go into their workplaces.
Covid was a national emergency, and it created some space for things that are not normally accepted by Americans: shortages, inconveniences, and limitations. Some of those continue to this day, or have even gotten worse. Many restaurants have closed, and others have limited their hours due to understaffing. Quite a few retailers closed for the July 4th holiday this year, citing burned out and overworked staff as their primary reason.
But I haven’t heard anyone discussing a permanent shift in our nation’s “Everything, now!” approach to the economy. Internet commerce in particular seems to be conditioning people to expect even more stuff, even faster. An army of Amazon employees is working nights, weekends and holidays to keep those wish lists fulfilled.
Farmers may have paved the way, years ago, for the internet economy by ensuring that Americans could walk into a full-stocked produce department any day of the week. Shelves might have been empty of a few items during critical periods last year, but I don’t expect we’ll see that again very often. Nor do I expect we’ll be working a four-day work week at Terra Firma in the summer. Ever.
*– note we do provide “holiday pay” for employees on certain holidays when attendance is mandatory, including 4th of July.