The pond just east of Doug and Nancy Rupp’s brick home sparkles like a bright blue sapphire. The beauty of the pond is sweeter still, Doug says, because they were able to build it at a fraction of the bids received from local contractors, thanks to employee Kelsey Stamm.
“Kelsey said, ‘I can do that; we’ll just rent an excavator,’” recalls Rupp, who farms near Stryker, Ohio. Six days later, the new 19'-deep pond was finished.
The Rupps are participating in the Farm Journal Ultimate Farm Quest, a program to help them raise the bar of excellence for their operation.
Stamm’s intelligence, especially in regard to technology, can-do attitude and work ethic are traits that drew Rupp to the 37-year-old nearly six years ago. While Stamm’s farm equipment job at the time was stable, he needed flexibility to invest more time in his growing family.
Both Stamm and Rupp saw how the opportunity to work together could help each other.
“I told Kelsey he could work for me in the spring and fall and have the flexibility to do whatever he needed,” Rupp recalls. “He’s an adept mechanic and understands the technology of farm equipment. That’s something I’m not as knowledgeable about.”
Rupp’s ability to understand the type of help he needed to supplement his skill base is key, according to Robert W. Taylor, Purdue University ag economist. Prior to hiring a new employee, Taylor says, farmers should develop a list of skills needed and then actively look for and hire the person who can best fulfill them.
Personal interaction and hands-on tests are the best indicators of whether an applicant will successfully fill a position, says Gregorio Billikopf, an ag labor management farm adviser with the University of California Cooperative Extension.
“Whatever the duties that need to be filled are, they need to be demonstrated,” Billikopf says. On the flip side, Rupp says, employers need to understand what the employee values and provide that benefit.
Along with understanding Stamm’s need for flexibility, Rupp pays him well above minimum wage. Stamm says he has also benefited from Rupp’s mentoring and the opportunity to operate new farm equipment.
“In any relationship, it has to be a win-win situation for both parties,” Rupp notes.
Stamm agrees: “I have good days and bad days, and so does Doug. We just try to be businesslike and work through them.”
- December 2010