How to find, hire and keep great farm workers
Updated: Feb 19
So you want to hire a few people for your farm. Finding the right person for the job is hard for any business but it is especially hard to find good help on the farm.
Farmhands need to be very reliable workers, very loyal (and stick around for the whole season) and don't mind a bit of manual labor and dirt. Some other things that you might want in a farmhand are a can-do attitude where they are not afraid to try new things and a logical way of thinking so they can figure things out on their own.. Do you have a few more you'd like to add to the list? Write them all down so that you can communicate that to your team who might be interviewing. Here are a few tips to help you find the best farm workers and field hands.
1) Provide candidates with clear expectations Give the low-down on the job and your expectations. If you're able to communicate what they need to accomplish and what is expected you can find out a few important things. 1.) Do they have the skills you need? 2.) Are they the right person for the job? 3.) Are they are going to be happy working for you? 4) Are they going to stay? (so you don't have to repeat this process as often.) 2) Test for motivation It's important that you find the person who is best suited for this job. That might not be a close friend or even a friend of a friend. Lots of people will tell you whatever you want to hear to get the job but you should make sure that they are motivated to work in this type of job and have the qualifications. Here are some possible questions to ask: Of course you want to talk about the job and a potential employee is qualified for the job but there is a lot more that you can find out and save yourself many hassles down the road.
-Have you ever done this type of work before? Go over the jobs they sited on their resume. Ask questions and get them talking about the job, what they liked, what they didn't, why they left.
-What was one of your favorite jobs doing farm work?
-What are your expectations of this job? Expand and talk about the things that they talk about and anything that comes up that concerns you.
-What are your expectations of your boss/co-workers/anyone else they will be working with?
-Do you have a reliable vehicle to get to work?
-How long are you looking to hold this job? (Talk about seasonal work if needed)
-How have you succeeded at your job in the past? And when have you failed (and how did you handle it?) It's also good to note what questions you are not allowed to ask. Things like age and race are off limits. Here is a helpful list of questions that are off limits to ask. https://www.betterteam.com/illegal-interview-questions 3) Provide follow up It's a good plan to know this before you start interviewing. When will you be getting back to applicants? What can they expect? What is the process? Here is a list of steps to take. Steps to take before you have your first interview:
Make a list of qualifications.Have an employment application that they fill out during the interview.Go over the application with them and ask questions about past jobs, time off and other things that are listed.Have a follow up plan and timeline for hiring. What are the next steps?Have a second person sit and interview them and then discuss which applicant would be best.Possibly have a working interview and see if they like the job, fit it and can complete the job. 4.) Be prepared There are many resources out there that give information on hiring and firing. Here is a link to a guide that covers farm hiring from A to Z and tackles many of the hard parts of hiring/firing. The guide covers:
RecruitmentHiringOn-boardingTraining and mentoringOperationsRetentionTermination.https://extension2.missouri.edu/M199 It's also important to think about if they will they be a contracted employee? Know the laws and how it will effect you. 5.) Places to post jobs: Here are a few places to post jobs that you have around the farm. If you have suggestions we would love to hear them!
Craigslist.com (The key here is to re-post this ad every 2 days until filled).http://www.pickyourown.org/jobsonfarms.htmIndeed.comStudentsPost a flyer on a local boardAsk neighbors and friendsWhen all else fails, using the federal H-2A program Additionally, here is a blog post on hiring immigrants through the H-2A program. https://www.farmaid.org/blog/fact-sheet/immigration-and-the-food-system/ Finally be part of the team. Sure, you're the boss but it shows a lot if you work a long side your employees at times. You could also plan employee fun time (when there's time) to bond as a team and show your employees that you care. Best of luck with hiring for the coming growing season!