Macon Food Story, Chapter 9: How Georgia’s farms rely on the H-2A visa program

Down a rough dirt road on a farm near Byron are five old houses occupied by 25 men known to few in Middle Georgia, but they play an important role in the local economy.

Without them, some say, the local peach growing industry couldn’t survive.

They are all residents of Jalisco, Mexico, and travel 1,743 miles each year by bus to work in the Dickey Farms orchards in Crawford County on a temporary visa, known as H-2A. They are among an estimated 400 H-2A workers in Middle Georgia this year working in all of the orchards and are among about 60 employed by Dickey Farms.

Robert Dickey, owner of Dickey Farms, said without H-2A, peach growing here would likely consist of just a few small pick-your-own orchards. In a good year, Georgia’s peach crop generates about $50 million, with most of that coming from orchards in Middle Georgia. Packing houses at Dickey Farms and Lane Southern Orchards are also popular tourist attractions, and peaches generate other associated jobs, such as truck driving.

Although H-2A has not been a target of President Donald Trump’s immigration reform efforts, Dickey has concerns about the program being restricted or even eliminated.

Read the full story here.