While many workers in Columbia County are facing unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic, spring jobs are opening up in several sectors, including the Oregon nursery industry.
The Oregon Association of Nurseries (www.oan.org) has published an online list of nursery and greenhouse businesses that have indicated they are hiring seasonal and temporary help.
As unemployment rates skyrocket during the COVID-19 outbreak, OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone said the list provides the contact information of potential employers for anyone who may have recently been laid off or displaced from work.
Spring is the peak season for agricultural workers in the ornamental plant industry.
“We operate within a tight time window, set by Mother Nature, so that we can move a beautiful but perishable product to market when it’s needed,” Stone said. “Some of our growers have come forward to say they need help and have jobs available for people. If people can work and customers across the United States can still receive Oregon-grown plants and trees, which are the best in the country, it’s a win-win.”
Oregon’s wholesale and retail nurseries are continuing to operate under the ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ executive order issued by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on March 23.
Stone characterized the industry as dependable to work in. Agriculture is broadly recognized as an essential sector of the economy. Oregon’s nurseries and greenhouses generated nearly $1 billion in sales in 2018, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture — making them the number one segment in Oregon agriculture. Nearly 80% of the plants and trees grown in Oregon are shipped out-of-state and internationally.
Positions may be available at all levels of production, often with little to no prior experience in agriculture required. Safety training is integrated into standard work assignments. Retail positions also may be available.
“Our industry cares about safe practices,” Stone said. “Mitigating the spread of pests and plant diseases has been an ongoing initiative throughout the history of Oregon’s ag sector, and our growers are used to stringent procedures to protect quality and health.”
The nature of the manual and skilled labor assignments are often outdoors or in designated workspaces that are already in compliance with social distancing recommendations. Measures are already in place to protect staff and consumers from the spread of pathogens in safe work
According to our 2018 Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, there were about 130 people employed in “crop production” in Columbia County, which would include nursery workers,” Oregon Employment Department work force analyst Shawna Sykes told The Chronicle.
For more information about nursery and greenhouse employment, visit the Oregon Association of Nurseries’ seasonal/temporary help page, which is updated regularly and can be found at www.oan.org/seasonalhelp.
Employment opportunities may also be found through the Oregon Employment Department, 500 N Columbia River Highway #320, in St. Helens, or by calling 503-397-4995.