6 tips for keeping good farm help

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Matt Andreas milks around 1,250 head of cows and farms an additional 3,500 acres on Andreas Dairy Farm in Sugarcreek, Ohio. He currently has 23 employees with a third of those employees working more than 10 years on the farm. Andreas knows the struggles of finding good help on the dairy farm, but has also put a good system in place to keep him employees happy and working hard for him.

9.22 farming 101

1Training
“We are fortunate that we are big enough in size that I have a farm manager” who handles the training, said Andreas. Andreas Dairy hires employees on a week trial period, which is explained in the interview and hiring processes. Andreas also offers training and retraining courses in milking. An incentive to getting through the course and passing the test could result in a raise.

2Set expectations
“We document everything,” said Andreas. “We let employees know up front in the interview and hiring process that we will be keeping records.”

Andreas says one thing they do not tolerate is tardiness. “If you are a no show and you don’t call then you’re done.”

Penn State Extension advises having an employee handbook that lists compensation, hours, sick leave, benefits and disciplinary policies.

3Feedback
Employees want to know how they are doing. Provide performance reviews to workers to let them know what they are doing well and where they can improve. Provide feedback on even the smallest of jobs as frequently as you can. Allow employees to fill out a self-evaluation of their current job. This may reveal where the employer failed to communicate a job to the employee.

“We do monthly meetings with the farm manager, herdsmen, nutritionist and vet,” said Andreas.

The farm manager then passes the information on to the milkers and other farm hands. Often times feedback is given right in the parlor as things are happening.

4Make it fun
“Happy farmers are productive farmers,” according to a Penn State Extension article. Treat employees to a cookout, ice cream social or bonfire after putting in extra hours or just working hard. Sometimes a company trip to another farm in the offseason can keep workers engaged or give them new ways of doing things around the farm.

Lead by example and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, working alongside employees during the tough seasons. You can keep employees motivated and gain some respect.

“Employees look to other employees to keep the positivity,” said Andreas. “If they are not doing their job right it affects the other employees.”

5
Create value
According to PSU Extension, “job titles, profit shares, bonuses, and team meetings can all help employees feel like they are part of the farm team.”

“I always try to implement the ideas of the herdsmen,” said Andreas. “Sometimes things work that I didn’t think would.”

Andreas said they are the ones on the grounds, working with the cows everyday and often times see more than he can.

6
Benefits
Andreas does provide health insurance and retirement packages for his employees. “If you don’t offer health insurance it is hard to find people,” he said.

Another benefit Andreas has found to be important is vacation time. “I’m finding that more and more of the younger generations want that personal life,” he said.

“I’ve worked pretty hard to make it a team approach,” said Andreas. “No job is perfect and we have to do the best we can do.”

Andreas said, he has confidence in his team and knows if he wants to take a weekend off, his team will get things done they way they should.

Sources: Penn State Extension, Finding and Keeping Good Employees; Matt Andreas, Andreas Dairy Farm.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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Catie Noyes lives in Ashland County and earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture communications from The Ohio State University. She enjoys photography, softball and sharing stories about agriculture.

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