WATERLOO, Iowa - When it comes to the value of a well-trained workforce and sound management structure, farms are no different than other types of businesses: Employees make it possible to get more done, but managing workers and their work takes time, energy and efficient processes.
In farming, regardless of farm size or focus, or whether you manage one seasonal worker or a large year-round crew, good management can mean the difference between making headway on your farm's work or merely creating headaches.
Veteran farmer and educator Chris Blanchard will address the important question of farm employee management at a workshop hosted by Practical Farmers of Iowa on Thursday, March 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Waterloo Center for the Arts, located at 225 Commercial St. in downtown Waterloo. The event is free to PFI members and a fee for non-members, and will include lunch and coffee. Please RSVP to Practical Farmers of Iowa office assistant Lauren Zastro by Friday, March 8, at (515) 232-5661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The workshop, titled "Many Hands Make Light Work: Systems and Tools for Managing Employees on the Farm," will cover a range of topics, including: hiring and firing employees; developing an employee manual; implementing systems for accountability; timekeeping and payroll; daily and weekly planning; and leadership and management. Blanchard will also teach ways to create a productive, positive work environment by communicating clear expectations and implementing systems for efficiency and accountability on your farm.
"Labor is usually the single largest line item expense on most market farms, and the quality of your employees and the work they do will decide the profitability of any given year," Blanchard says, adding that it took him a few years to learn that he "couldn't possibly do it all myself."
Blanchard has owned and operated Rock Spring Farm, with up to 20 acres of vegetable production, since 1999. He has managed more than 100 employees at Rock Spring Farm, made hundreds of mistakes, and learned from them to create a positive, productive and inspiring work environment. As part of his education and consulting efforts through Flying Rutabaga Works, Blanchard has helped farmers develop employee management systems on operations large and small, and has had the opportunity to observe management systems that ranged from dysfunctional to beautifully functional.