Ky. Farmer Builds Housing For Migrant Workers

By Justin Wilfon

(SHELBYVILLE, Ky., April 26th, 2004, 4 p.m.) -- More and more Kentucky farmers are relying on migrant workers to harvest their crops. A popular federal program allows farmers to hire the workers, but it also requires that they find the workers a place to live. As WAVE 3's Justin Wilfon reports, one Shelbyville farmer decided to stop searching and start building.

On the Hornback farm in Shelbyville, there are the normal sights and sounds. But there's a unique feature as well: a newly constructed home for migrant workers.

Farmer Paul Hornback says the 2,000 square foot facility will house 10 migrant workers this summer. Hornback relies on migrant labor to harvest his tobacco. "I try to maintain a good employer/employee working relationship with them and I think this new facility will only add to that ."

Up until now, Hornback has been renting a nearby home for his workers, but this year he decided that an on-site facility would be more efficient.

Jody Hughes with the Kentucky Department of Employment Services, says Hornback should serve as a role model for other farmers. "When you can have a safe, reliable place to live ... I feel like this is going to be a way to attract employees to the farmers."

According to Hughes, "in the U.S., 90 percent of hand harvested crops are picked by migrant workers. On this farm it's 100 percent. That means it would be nearly impossible for Hornback to run his farm without them."

Hornback agrees. "The need for those type of workers is great and I can see that continuing on for the next several years. So that's why I made the investment."

Hornback spent $58,000 to build the living quarters, and while he says hiring local workers would be cheaper, he says he simply can't find them. "I've advertised for the last 30 days on the national job bank, recruiting domestic workers, and I've not had any referrals."

So now Hornback hopes his new facility will help migrant workers find him.

The program that allows Hornback to hire migrant workers is called the H2A. Kentucky is second only to North Carolina in the use of H2A workers.

Online Reporter: Justin Wilfon

Online Producer: Michael Dever