GFP056: Hiring Farm Workers

The hiring of farm workers can be a really tricky process. How do you know you're going to hire the right person? What's the process like if you've never done it before? That's what we're talking about (and more) in today's podcast episode. I have had several changes with staff on farm lately. People moving on, moving up, moving sideways, moving West. I need to fill some spots to ensure that all the work gets done that needs to get done. I have had a pretty successful time hiring new employees, even on a temporary basis.

For general farm labor I look for a couple of things:

  • Physically able to do the hard work required on farm
  • Willingness to take direction and work as part of a team
  • Good attitude and flexibility to handle diversified tasks
  • Earnest desire to make the world a better place

Those are pretty hard and fast rules to figure out in the interview process (for me). I've been burned before when someone doesn't hit those points. Note that I didn't necessarily say anything about farm experience or experience with an particular agricultural enterprise. If you know what you are doing on your farm there's a safe bet that you can teach the right person just about any part of it.

I had a lot of luck with searching out local farm help (which solves the housing question) by putting an ad up on Craigslist. I was pretty specific about what I wanted in the ad. Here's the exact text that I included:

Diversified farm specializing in poultry seeks part time farm hands Camps Road Farm in Kent, CT

Job requires: - ability to repeatedly lift 50lbs (feed bags) - comfort working with chickens - work in all types of weather - work well as part of a team or by yourself - punctuality

About the job: We are looking for motivated individuals looking for some extra work throughout the summer and fall with potential for the future. Typical tasks are gathering and washing eggs, putting out feed for chickens, and other poultry-related chores. We also have an apple orchard, hop yard, and some vegetable production that have big projects this fall, but we're mainly looking for pastured poultry help.

This is a great opportunity for someone who wants to come a couple hours a day to collect and wash eggs.

To apply: All applicants must have appropriate documentation for working in the US. Please respond to this e-mail with some information about yourself while requesting application.

Hablamos un poco de espanol en la granja.

Right click here to download the MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • A simple process for finding farm labor
  • What it is like to take over a farm someone else started
  • Moving an existing farm to a new piece of land
  • How leveraging your network of customers can help you find farm land

Interview with Ruth Blackwell of Mud Creek Farm

ruth blackwell

Ruthie grew up in Cabot, Vermont, surrounded by dairy farms.  When she was a kid, her parents grew pansies and sold them wholesale to farm stands.  As soon as she was old enough, they had her and her brother out in the field transplanting, boxing, and watering.  They also planted an enormous garden, and she remembers her and her brother being told to “go graze” when they asked for a snack; they would eat dirty carrots and freshly shelled peas for hours.

Once Ruth started working, she had a million different jobs.   She always loved working with her hands and being creative, and she went to art school.  But after floating around doing different things, she went to New Zealand and WWOOFed (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) for half a year, and it reminded  her how much she likes the dirt.  When she came home, her dad and his partner decided to turn the old homestead into a farm again, but vegetables this time.  She moved back to a little house next door and helped get things off the ground, then migrated to the Rochester area, where she worked at PeaceworkFarm for four years.  She fell in love with the CSA model.  She loves knowing the people she's feeding and having that direct connection to the community around her.

In 2013, she started working at Mud Creek as Farmer Erin’s assistant manager.  She learned a whole lot from her, and is proud and humbled that she was taught to take over the farm.

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

If you had to hire someone tomorrow what questions would you ask them to figure out if they would "cut it" on your farm?

What have you learned from past hiring experiences that will help you going forward with new hires?

Farm quote of the episode:

I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.

Larry Bossidy


Thanks for taking the time to listen in, and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below, send me an e-mail, reach me on Facebook , or leave a 5 star rating in iTunes if you liked the show.