Recruiting labor for your farm

Maintaining a steady flow of applicants is helpful when a position suddenly needs to be filled.

Finding hired help willing to work on a farm that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year –including Friday and Saturday nights, July 4, November 15 and December 25– can be a real challenge.

Particularly for farms with several employees, do not wait until there is a position available to start recruiting labor. Maintaining a steady flow of applicants will prove helpful when there is a sudden need to fill a position. When thinking about labor needs on your farm, consider recruiting differently for entry level positions and experienced workers.

Create a job posting for entry level positions that very clearly describes the job for someone who has never worked on a farm. Michigan State University Extension recommends considering including information such as: the need to work nights, weekends and/or holidays, starting wage, hours per week, shift length, available benefits, skills needed, if the position is indoors or outdoors, what training will be available and the farm location.

Once you have the job posting written, you have to get it out there. Make the job posting available to current employees to share with their friends. Consider hanging it in stores, restaurants or gas stations that are nearby the farm. Think about places the type of employee you want to attract would be visiting and post ads there. Often times, Latino workers will shop and dine at different places, so be sure to place ads at those establishments. In Michigan, job postings can be placed on the Michigan Works! website where you can also browse applicants. Many farms have been successful in finding entry level help using the job listing site on Craigslist. Always have applications available to fill out on farm if someone stops by looking for a job, even if you are not currently hiring.

When looking for experienced workers, a job posting is still required. This type of job posting should be more detailed on the skills required than an entry level job posting. For an experienced worker, it is appropriate to give a range of starting wages or to say that pay is dependent on experience.

Experienced help can also be effectively found using the job listing site on Craigslist or by using professional recruiters specializing in agriculture. University contacts are another great place to find applicants. Although students coming out of college do not typically have a lot of experience, students are a steady flow of people that are motivated to learn and are excited to have a career in the industry. Many professors will keep in contact with former students and therefore have access to a pool of experienced workers as well. Another effective method of finding potential candidates is to spread the word that you are looking to hire through the variety of consultants that are on the farm daily. Because consultants visit many farms and often interact with the employees, they may know an employee who is looking for a change in employment.

Recruiting labor needs to be an ongoing process where you build a pool of qualified candidates. Waiting until there is an open position to begin looking for candidates can result in a small pool of applicants and having to hire a worker that will not work out long term just to have someone there short term.

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