Farming, Flexibility, and PFML: A New Mexico Tale
Amidst the sprawling pecan orchards that grace the landscape of New Mexico's Mesilla Valley, I stand at the crossroads of farming, family, and the future. My journey as a farmer and employer has unveiled a pressing need for Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML) in our state. It's a need that resonates throughout New Mexico, transcending boundaries and touching the lives of countless families. It's high time our lawmakers recognize and address this call for support.
The story of our farm is one marked by resilience and adaptability. When we first arrived here, we were met with the delightful challenge of what to do with the abundant pecans on our land. We rolled up our sleeves, learned the intricacies of pecan farming, and started by selling our harvest in the shell, as is customary. However, this approach came with its own set of uncertainties. Prices fluctuated wildly, making it increasingly difficult to cover the costs of caring for our trees properly.
Faced with this dilemma, I embarked on a quest to make our farm more profitable, not just for us but for our fellow pecan farmers in the community. In January 2020, we initiated the establishment of a shelling plant, a move that promised to stabilize prices and attract more customers. Little did we know that the journey ahead would be fraught with challenges, primarily the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these hurdles, our team's spirit remained unbroken, and in September of that year, we finally received our final inspection permit, marking a significant milestone. What started as a venture led solely by my sister and me now supports four employees, and it's only growing.
Throughout this journey, I've come to realize the importance of flexibility, especially when it comes to accommodating employees' needs. As an employer, I've witnessed firsthand the trials and tribulations faced by my team members. From unforeseen illnesses to the need for time off to care for family members, life can throw unexpected challenges our way.
In response, I decided to offer flexible hours to my employees, an approach that has not only eased their personal burdens but has also led to improved job satisfaction. For instance, when my sister needed surgery, I implemented comp time, allowing her to balance her work hours effectively. Flexibility became the cornerstone of our employment structure, and our employees responded positively.
This experience has made me acutely aware of the importance of PFML. As a small business owner, I believe it can provide the peace of mind my employees deserve when life takes an unexpected turn. Serious illnesses, family emergencies, or other unforeseen events should not force employees to choose between their income and their well-being. PFML would help bridge that gap, ensuring that employees have the financial support they need during challenging times.
New Mexico families and businesses need PFML to thrive. I urge our state lawmakers to make PFML a reality in 2024, as it's high time we put families first. Together, we can create a brighter, more compassionate future for all New Mexicans, where families flourish, and businesses prosper.
Kristen Worthington is the owner of Worthington Farms in the town of Mesilla Park, NM.