Labor Woes? – Five Ideas for Finding the Help Your Farm Needs

Fall is an exciting time for many operations, as there’s no better validation of a successful growing season than bushels safe in a bin. But fall can also highlight operational shortcomings, such as not having enough help to bring in a crop safely and efficiently. No matter how you look at it, it’s logistically impossible today for most operations to be a one-person show these days—it takes a team. But in our conversations with growers across the country, we know that finding adequate help to keep the farm running on all cylinders is a constant challenge.
We don’t have a silver bullet, but if you’ve tried the classifieds with no success and are open to getting a little more creative, here are some ideas that might be worth trying.

  • Think outside the country. A lack of local candidates may mean that you’ll need to find them elsewhere and facilitate the logistics. The US issues 60,000 to 80,000 H-2A (temporary ag worker visas) each year. Yes, there are fees and forms, but groups like USA Farm Labor can help with the process.
  • Think younger. When you can’t find the help with the experience you need, you may have to train your own. If you’re near a tech school of any kind, it may be an option to form a relationship with the ag education department. And if you find a student that has potential, consider paying for his/her tuition in return for part-time work during school and full time work for a year or two after school. Training your own workforce likely takes time you don’t necessarily have in spades now, but can pay off down the road when they’ve been trained the way you want them.
  • Think beyond your own network. There are recruitment firms that specialize in ag and work with potential candidates all day long. They may have someone who could be a fit. Yes, they’ll come with a fee, but most good ones will also return your fee if the candidate isn’t a long-term fit.
  • Think social. According to the 2017-2018 Agribusiness HR Review from, over 70% of ag employers are using social media to recruit for open positions. In terms of platforms, 79% prefer to use Facebook for recruitment. By paying a small fee to boost your employment ad, you can put it in front of potential candidates in your area that depend on social for their news and entertainment.
  • Think benefits. While cash will always be king, extra perks can sometimes make the difference when it comes to employee interest, as well as retention. Retirement and healthcare options are meaningful, but sometimes it’s the employee lunches, meat for the freezer at Christmas and planting and harvest bonuses that can make your operation shine above other potential employers.

And one last additional consideration for those struggling to find enough labor: in addition to looking for help, how can you better utilize the help you have now? Are there things you can do to better streamline to-do lists and maximize efficiency? Do you have a good gauge on how long tasks should take versus how long they’re actually taking? If not, check out our work order system and best practices when planning your crew’s work to see how better tracking and analyzing tasks within your operation could help with your overall productivity.

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In Search of a Leader!

Jolene Brown, CSP, CPAE, December 27, 2019