Forrest shared his story as part of MECEP’s State of Working Maine 2022 report. Click here to view the full report, as well as other workers’ stories.
Forrest Lorette worked on dairy farms in the Skowhegan area from age 15 until graduating high school. Finding little opportunity for advancement in agricultural work, he transitioned to landscaping and hardscaping, and early this year began a new career as a machinist in a midcoast shipbuilding enterprise.
“I did 4-H from a young age, so it was only natural that I would transition into doing farm work. The first dairy I worked at was a small, dying family farm with 55 Holsteins. I made $5 an hour there. The second dairy I worked at was a much bigger operation, and they paid $12 and then $15 an hour. Back in high school it was just pocket money, but even at $15 an hour, that’s not a lot to live on.
I left the agricultural business when I realized there was no way to make good money at it, and it’s dang near impossible to start a milking operation from nothing.
In my new career I see a lot of challenging obstacles to overcome. The best part of being in a union job is the benefits — I get paid extra for working over 40 hours, I have health insurance, sick days, paid vacation. To me it’s fantastic, and the union really has your back on most stuff. Farming is the toughest job in the world, but people that have farm experience have the capability to fix stuff in the farm-hard way, thinking like a farmer. In my opinion that’s what the industrial field needs more of.”