Good help is hard to find. That old adage has proven true in agriculture in recent years, especially in New York, where milk — a fairly labor-intensive commodity — tops the list of ag product output. But a few steps, including conventional and newer digital ways to reach workers, can help ensure you won’t face a farm labor shortage in your business.
“A strong workforce is the heartbeat of a successful farm or ag business. And for a lot of reasons, it’s getting tougher to manage labor, especially with larger businesses,” said New York Farm Bureau CEO Elizabeth Dribusch. “Every operation has specific needs, and that should be where you start the process.”
Begin by taking a close look at your business
Build your workforce by matching it to specific jobs you’ll need done. Some jobs — like working in one of New York’s approximately 3,600 dairies — require job-specific training and frequently updated instruction and continuing education. Knowing those jobs and the necessary qualifications will help you know where to start your search for workers.
“Think through everything you’ll need from the right new members of your workforce. Hiring at a large dairy will mean much different qualifications than a row crop or fresh produce operation,” Dribusch said. “It’s a good idea to write a job description for every worker, whether you’re hiring new people or retaining existing workers.”
Reach potential employees all the ways you can
Hiring as a process has changed drastically over the years. In addition to spreading the word in your local community that you are hiring, there are ag recruitment companies as well as online options for recruiting farm workers. This is where job descriptions come in handy. Create listings on popular jobseeker websites and on social media. This is a good way to reach a potential new worker who otherwise might not know you are hiring.
“Job websites like Indeed.com and common social media platforms like Facebook are good places to post information about the farm jobs you are looking to fill,” Dribusch said. “Make sure you include all qualifications and consider ways to get the right jobseekers excited about working in your ag business.”
Selecting your next farm employee
The steps you take in picking your next employee depend on the specific job and qualifications it requires. Some jobs may just require a simple interview. Others that require specific expertise may call for a written or oral test and references to get a feel for applicants’ skills. Make sure you match these final steps in the hiring process to the specific job and skills it requires.
“In the final stages of hiring farm employees, think back to the early steps of identifying your needs,” Dribusch said. “This stage is when you can get a feel for each applicant’s strength and weaknesses, and how they match with what you need from the position.”
Continue training and support well after a new farm worker hire
Once you’ve hired your next farm workers, continued staff training can help ensure they’re always equipped to do their jobs. Regular performance evaluations and training help ensure they’re ready and able to contribute to your ag business in the long term.
The New York Department of Labor also has resources available for both ag employers and workers, especially immigrants. Finally, things like competitive wages and retirement savings options can help retain workers in the long term.
Nationwide is the number-one farm insurer in the U.S.1 and the approved insurance provider of New York Farm Bureau.