Guest Opinion: So, you need some extra labor force on the farm?

As the American farm continues to grow and evolve, the need for extra labor increases. Unfortunately, many of us as agriculture producers did not sign on to become human resource managers.

In addition, agricultural producers, as a group, tend to be very independent, do-it-ourselves types and the transition into people managers instead of maybe “livestock or crop managers” is not the easiest.

Thus, if we are going to be successful in the future and our success is dependent upon hired labor, as managers we need to develop the necessary skillset.

Below are some tips to intentionally recruit and hire quality employees. Some of the information is adapted from information found in a handbook, “Recruiting and Hiring Outstanding Staff,” written by Bernard L. Erven of Ohio State University Department of Ag, Environmental & Development Economics.

Recruitment and hiring

Once an operation’s managers have determined they need to hire someone, either part-time or full time, they will need to put together a plan for recruiting and hiring outstanding staff.

No simple or even complex recipe guarantees hiring success. Agriculture cannot meet its goals by hiring at the bottom of the barrel. We need to attract good people who are willing to work for others.

Hiring good people has nothing to do with luck. The employer who seems lucky in always finding high-quality people, rarely is lucky. Instead, these agriculture producers most often depend on carefully made plans and a reputation as an excellent employer. Both of which take time and patience.

Hiring checklist

The following eight steps are a sample checklist that producers can utilize to help them succeed in hiring quality employee(s).

  • Determine the labor and management needs of the farm business that the new employee is expected to address.
  • Develop a current job description based on needs.
  • Build a pool of applicants.
  • Review applications and select those to be interviewed.
  • Interview.
  • Check references/background checks.
  • Make a selection.
  • Hire.

Some ways that you can build a pool of applicants is by keeping a list of applications that ranked high as you were filling previous positions.

Looking to online databases in which potential candidates post their resumes may provide potential candidates depending upon the job you are looking to fill within your operation.

If the position also requires some technical or post-secondary knowledge, you may look to various trade magazines to see who is leading the industry in your area and “creating a stir.”

Consider working with universities or technical schools and offer internships at your operation. These often are a great way of seeing if someone might be a good fit for your operation long term.

Attending various industry conferences or association meetings is a way to network with others and promote your business as a superior place to work.

Don’t forget to use social media platforms to your best advantage as they may help you attract a candidate who may not have previously been aware of your job posting. These include such places as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. As you build your pool, it is always a good idea to get permission if you plan to retain resumes and personal contact data, keeping in mind the data collection and information privacy laws within the United States.


Another factor that needs to be considered is personal values. Ask yourself what is important to you as a person? Are you courageous, respectful, a collaborator, driven by performance, have a positive attitude? Are you honorable, trustworthy, driven by success? These are among many, many values that you may have as a person.

Would you want to work for you? If not, what changes should you make to be someone who others can work for?

Take a true look at your values and try to hire people with similar values. You will be more apt to connect with that person or group as they work in your operation towards your overall purpose, vision, and mission of your operation. — Tracey Erickson, SDSU Extension Dairy Field Specialist

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