Colton Ramsdell got his first farm job at the age of 13, picking vegetables. A year later, he was introduced to dairy farming. He's been in love with his job ever since.

What You Need To Know

  • The recently created NYS Farm Laborers Wage Board decided to delay a decision on whether or not to lower the weekly overtime hours threshold from 60 to 40

  • While understanding the intention, many in the agriculture industry, including employees, say if the extra overtime means a farm will cut staff or shut down, they don't want it

  • The board will revisit the decision, perhaps as early as November. Many ag groups and workers plan to continue to let the board know it does not want the change

He was hired at Birch Creek Farm in Henderson in 2017, He loves his fellow staff, and of course, the animals.

"Everybody here is local. We're, from five minutes down the road to 20 minutes down the road; everyone is right here and local," Ramsdell said of his fellow staff members feeling like a family.

Birch Creek Farm supports about 40 families with full-time employment. However, its structure and success took a hit last year when the state required farms to pay farm workers overtime if they worked more than 60 hours in any week.

It's something that Colton knows, and says many others outside of these farms don't, that while perhaps well-intentioned, is making farms — which have no control over the prices they get paid for milk and crops — less competitive and puts jobs like his and even entire family farms at risk, even more so than the alarming rate in which they are already closing.

"We understand it’s not 9-5, 40 hours a week. We all have the same goal. We want to do a good job, and when the animals tell you it’s time to work, it's time to work," Ramsdell said.

That's why so many, not only farm owners, but everyday employees like Colton, were on pins and needles waiting for a decision from the recently created New York State Farm Laborers Wage Board.

The discussion was lowering the number even further to only 40 hours. However, when the board's decision was due a short while ago, it decided to delay any decision to see how COVID-19 impacts the economy.

"We've lost, just around here, I know a lot of farms that we've lost already that employed people that I know, people that other people know around here and to lose more to labor laws, is something that we really can't afford to do," Ramsdell said.

The decision to delay was applauded by many in the North Country, who still plan on loudly advocating for the change to be rejected, as the board could revisit everything as early as November.