Finding skilled farm labor can be tricky. Knowing where to look for employees and developing a complete job description can help narrow the search.
Nationally, hired farmworkers make up less than 1% of all U.S. workers, according to the Farm Labor Survey of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The survey found wages, salaries, and contract labor expenses represent 17% of total variable farm costs, and as much as 40% of costs in more laborious crops such as fruits, vegetables and nursery products.
With money on the line, it is important for farmers to know just how an employee can help add to the bottom line. Writing a thorough job description can help.
Explaining the job
According to Darla Campbell, University of Missouri Extension ag business specialist, written job descriptions usually have six parts: title, job summary, job duties, job qualifications, work relationships, work schedule and environment.
Campbell outlines what each section should include:
1. Title. This briefly summarizes the position and indicate its level of seniority, like entry-level, manager or trainee.
2. Job summary. This area explains a position's duties, responsibilities, expected qualifications and physical demands. Campbell suggests writing this section last, because the summary reflects information included throughout a job description.
3. Job duties. In this section, list all required duties for a position. For each responsibility, estimate the percentage of total work time that it will take, and list duties in order of time taken, from the most to the least. “Because job positions may evolve, employers may state that a position could involve other duties as assigned,” she says. “It should help job searchers understand what the job is, and if it fits their ability and interest.”
4. Job qualifications. Include a list of skills, knowledge, experience, education, certifications, characteristics and required licenses essential to do the job. “If physical labor is part of the job, the requirement should be stated,” Campbell says. She gives the example of listing, “Employee must be able to routinely lift up to 50 pounds.”
5. Work relationships. The job description should state if the employee will be working with others or alone.
6. Work schedule and environment. This section should state work hours, overtime needs, time of day or evening, days of week and holidays. Environment involves whether work is inside or outside. It should also explain the job location and expected work conditions. Employers may want to elaborate on the type of interactions an employee may have with coworkers, managers, customers and vendors in this section.
Campbell says an application allows the employer to collect basic information and compare applicants on the same basis. However, applicants can also submit resumes.
Once the job description is complete, it is time to start using it to recruit employees.
Starting in the local community is a good option. “Consider traditional methods such as newspapers, radio and flyers,” Campbell says. “Never underestimate word-of-mouth advertising.”
She also recommends reaching out to local schools, FFA chapters and 4-H clubs for youth help. Consider reaching out to neighboring farmers or their employees about individuals looking for a job.
With the wide reach of social media, a post to Facebook or Twitter may result in a few leads. Farmers may also consider posting job descriptions on general career websites like Indeed, Monster or CareerBuilder.
For those without time for the recruitment process, consider reaching out to career websites specifically targeted to individuals with agriculture experience. A quick search for ag careers will lead you to those sites.
Ultimately, Campbell says finding the right farmworker takes knowing your farm needs, a detailed job description — and persistence in the process.