Jason Kendall on the impact of COVID-19 on Kendall Farms

US (CA): “Pleased to be back at 100% labor, but we could use another 20%”

They had to cut their labor by 60% when the COVID-19 crisis started in early 2020, but Kendall Farms, a California flower farm, is now back to 100% labor. Still, with this year’s rise in sales they could actually use another 20% of additional labor, reports Jason Kendall. After a fire destroyed 80% of their crop in 2007, and being severely impacted by COVID-19 since early 2020, Kendall is finally looking forward to a hopeful future, while trying to navigate more possible challenges. They are even planning to expand their current production of 350 acres of 500+ total by another 25% over the next couple of years.

Kendall Farms

High demand
According to Kendall, they are currently experiencing a complete opposite situation compared to early 2020. “In April last year we lost 40% of our sales but it rebounded very quickly ever since. Sales in the following Summer picked up drastically, especially for the supermarkets. As a result, we made up for our losses. Yet our wholesale side still struggled, as events such as weddings were shut down. This year, sales have been increased by another 25%, as the demand has been huge. Especially our new eucalyptus varieties have been gaining a lot of popularity recently, as we are noticing that people are excited about new and different types of textures.”

From 40% to 100% labor
In March of 2020 Kendall Farms had to cut labor by 60%, as their sales had dropped by 50% at that point. “Fortunately, we received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, which enabled us to bring everyone back.” Still, with the 30% of extra sales, being back at their normal amount of labor is not enough. “With this year’s growth in sales we could probably use another 20% of additional labor.”

As they are in need of more labor to meet the demand, Kendall Farms have been adding more and more automation recently, especially in their bouquet production. “For example, we have machines that tie and cut the bouquets before packaging, as well as automated labeling and boxing. This severely speeds up the process and helps mitigate our demand for labor.”

While the sales have been increasing rapidly, labor is not the only challenge they are dealing with. “The weather has been a particular challenge, as we have had a really dry year. As a result, we are forced to supplement with local district water, as just using our wells is not enough. Another concern is the uncertainty concerning government regulations. If there is another lockdown implemented, we do not know how that will affect us and the economy in general. Fires are also always another concern in California, as we experienced in 2007 when we lost 80% of our crop because of a fire. It is difficult to navigate the future with so many possible challenges.”

Hopeful future
Despite the challenges, Kendall is content with how things are going and excited about the future. “We have been around for over 30 years and we have had to deal with many ups and downs. Therefore, we are grateful for our current situation, with there being such high demand and prices for flowers. We have room for expansions, so we are hoping to expand for about 25% in the coming year, and planting more eucalyptus and wax flowers. Also, we will definitely keep automation a big part of our future. No matter the challenges, we stay motivated because of our love for flowers.”

For more information:
Kendall Farms
Jason Kendall

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