Staffing & Employment

Staffing & Employment

What type of agricultural business do you have or want? Livestock? Wine? Eggs? Organic fruits and vegetables? Many choices in this field exist – biotech, farmer’s market, firewood, greenhouse plants, fish farming, hydroponics, ornamental cactus and even ladybug farming. The possibilities illustrate that each of these markets has its own personality which will begin to define the number and types of people and resources you will need to make a go of a specialty agricultural small business.

Finding and Hiring Staff

In all likelihood, if you have chosen an agricultural niche for your small business, you are the subject matter expert in the technology and techniques required of your new business. As you add staff to your enterprise, you will be the teacher and quality control/subject matter expert. Therefore, it is highly likely that you will need people working for you on the production side of your business. Things to look for in filling these needs are: ability to learn quickly, reliability/dependability (on-time and not absent), ability to do some manual work, as well as the paperwork.

If you are not the subject matter expert, and are instead the financier, accountant, marketer, grant writer, etc., then you will have to recruit or develop someone with the technical expertise your business requires. Check places like your local college or university for individuals who may have the talent, knowledge and skill sets your business needs.

If you are acquiring someone else’s small business because they are retiring or getting out, it is very common to include, as part of the purchase negotiations, an assurance of technical knowledge and help for a defined time period. This will allow you to continue to operate the business while you find the new technical expert you will need. Also, industry publications like the Farm Journal are excellent sources of information, contacts, and industry trends and resources.

With today’s social media, utilize your list of contacts and let them know you have a specific employment need. This will probably satisfy your talent search faster than you can imagine. If you use your search engine to query “employment agencies near {zip code},” not only will you get names of a variety of hiring agencies who can relatively quickly provide you with suitable candidates but you will also see a number of boards on which you may post your job opening at virtually no cost.

Seasonal Staffing

Depending on your business, you may have different staffing needs based on the season (i.e., planting or harvesting), so you will need to develop a reliable supply of “seasonal” and/or part-time workers. College students are often a good source of such help. If you are thinking about using migrant or seasonal workers to fill this need, please know that specific laws exist concerning how such workers are treated and compensated. Information on this topic may be found in a variety of places, including the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment Law Guide - Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection.

Also, if your business requires specialty activities like the application of pesticides, herbicides and/or fertilizers, many local community college and trade organizations offer classes on how to perform these tasks safely and effectively.

In today’s environment, it is probably best to minimize the number of full-time employees on your payroll. Not only do you have a number of tax obligations (social security, Medicare, unemployment, etc.), but legislation requiring paid benefits continues to place the burden of things like medical insurance, paid days off for sick leave, paid holidays, etc. squarely on the backs of business owners.

Please refer to the Human Resource information for further suggestions and ideas on finding and hiring employees and staff.