Counting Farms, Counting People, Counting Cadavers

Employers can't find employees.

Among the hardest hit...nursing homes. First of all, their jobs are menial, and they're competing with others who are paying salaries at the bottom of the wage scale.

Should they pay more? Probably. But, their reimbursements from Federal and state governments are so low that they're not covering costs in many cases. Beyond that, the people in the available labor force aren't always desirable. One nursing home executive told me that at least a fifth of applicants are rejected, because they can't pass CORI checks. (Criminal record inquiries.)

So, nursing homes have to restrict admissions due to labor shortages.

Another employer having trouble finding employees is the Census Bureau. In fact, Secretary of State William Galvin just asked Representatives to seek out constituents who might like to apply for a census position, counting their neighbors, door to door. Don't call me. Call 888-325-7733.

The Westfield Athenaeum will be involved as a census center, where you can get help filling out the forms and get additional information. Again, don't ask me. Ask Pat Cramer at the library.

It's important to be counted, to secure our state's fair share of federal funds and political representation. How much is one person worth? An estimated $1,118. In Federal funds.

We're also counting acres, and according to the University of Massachusetts, our farms are getting smaller. But there are more of them.

In 1945 there were just over 37,000 farms in Massachusetts. That number declined to a low of 4,497 by 1974. But, by 1997 we were up to 5,574 farms. Unlike the Midwest, where the trend is toward fewer, but larger, farms, Massachusetts has more farms, but smaller farms. Nationally, the average farm is 487 acres. In Massachusetts, just 93 acres.

Most of them don't sell much. About a third of the farms in this state sell less than $2,500 a year and 55 percent have sales under $10,000.

Cranberries rank number one among cash crops, but growers are facing rapidly declining prices for the supply. If they reach $30 a barrel, as predicted, farmers will spend more to raise cranberries than they get to sell them. Just three years ago, growers got $65-plus a barrel.

Tobacco growers are doing much better, having seen sales skyrocket from $4.6 million to $24 million in just ten years. Land use for tobacco tripled, from 352 acres to 1,176 acres. Most of it in our own Connecticut River Valley.

Average age of a Massachusetts farmer? It's 55. And, 47 percent are over 55. And don't think all those folks on a tractor are men! There are 926 women farmers in Massachusetts, and they manage 47,374 acres. (There are 518,299 agricultural acres in Massachusetts.) That's all according to UMass' quarterly report on the economy.

The report also notes that 80 percent of the Commonwealth's voters are happy with the state of the economy. Some 400 people who were polled by UMass said that they are satisfied with almost every aspect of the economy-including the cost of living, job security, job opportunities, retirement, and taxes. Even the amount of money they're saving.

More numbers for you. Following up on a previous column-there are now three female governors (Arizona, New Hampshire, New Jersey), 28 female lieutenant governors, 65 women in Congress (9 in the Senate and 56 in the House). Also, 1,652 women state legislators.

What State had the first female governor? Wyoming. Nellie T. Ross won a special election and replaced her deceased husband in 1925. She beat out Miriam "Ma" Ferguson of Texas, who became governor just 15 days later, also replacing her husband. Ella Grasso, of Connecticut, was the first woman elected in her own right (1974).

Only one sitting governor has been assassinated, and died in office. William Goebel. January 1900. Murdered by his political opponents who questioned the outcome of the election.

Still more numbers. What are the top ten things to see in our neighboring hilltowns? According to the Jacobs Ladder Business Association: Glendale Falls, Jacob's Ladder Trail Scenic Byway, The Arches, Chester Depot Railroad Museum, Skyline Trail, Blandford's Historic White Church, Sanderson Brook Falls, Chesterfield Gorge, Bisbee Mill Museum, and William Cullen Bryant Homestead. For more info: 800/838-2474.

How many of the Hilltowns can you name?

Try Chester, Huntington, Middlefield, Woronoco, Montgomery, Russell, Becket, Otis, Blandford, Westhampton, Williamsburg, Chesterfield, Worthington, Goshen, Cummington and Plainfield.

Still another number. People don't die at home. Delta last year made $11 million shipping cadavers. And human remains are the number one cargo out of Daytona Beach, Florida's International Airport.

And, another. Only eleven states have cut taxes annually since 1995, and Massachusetts is among them. Others? Arizona, California, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Washington. Let me know...is an income tax cut important to you?

Enough numbers for a day.

All materials copyright 1997 - 2014