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Leave a Legacy

RSS By: Kevin Spafford, Legacy Project

Kevin Spafford is Farm Journal’s succession planning expert for the Farm Journal Legacy Project.  He hosts the nationally-televised ‘Leave a Legacy’ TV, facilitates an ongoing series of workshops for farm families across the U.S., and is the author of Legacy by Design: Succession Planning for Agribusiness Owners.

Competition for Farm Employees

Feb 27, 2013

Row Crop   Microsoft clipart photoFrom Legacy Moment (02/22/2013).
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Have you been wondering why your son or daughter won't come home to work on the family farm? Check with your friendly ag supplier. When the farm economy is booming, so too are the companies that supply farmers and provide equipment. The title of a recent Wall Street Journal article tells the story. In "Farm Boom Sows Jobs Bounty," the authors gush over the job opportunities generated in the agricultural sector.
What the article doesn't say is that Dow Chemical, John Deere or Cargill might be your biggest competitor for help on the farm. So, while undergraduate enrollment in agricultural programs is increasing (up 20% nationally from 2006 to 2011), the number of graduates returning to the family farm is decreasing (less than 10% of the Purdue University class of 2012). All of this might speak to the need for a more business-like structure on the farm. Young professionals want to know there's a career track to follow.
When you're competing with some of America's biggest companies, you might have to do things differently than you have in the past to attract the best. Today, graduates are not only being offered competitive salaries and full benefits, but they might also receive signing bonuses and advanced job placement. As soon as they walk in the door, they'll be enrolled in training programs and leadership development, and hear about promotional opportunities and a whole slate of assignment options.
This might put the family farm in an awkward position. Though lifestyle is important, it might not be enough. As per examples across the corporate landscape, using proven business tools to manage the operation is necessary. Managers of the family farm might be well advised to:
• Employ job descriptions and define responsibilities.
• Define pay scales, bonus structures and benefits.
• Implement a performance review system for accountability.
• Encourage professional development for career growth.
• Chart a path to ownership or at least to increasing opportunities.
Your competitors are motivated. Not only do these companies need to expand to meet the growing demand but, like on the farm, an aging workforce is challenging companies to plan their succession. Not unlike the family farmer, the success or failure of a company's succession plan is a matter of survival. Every organization needs a well-prepared next generation to lead.

News & Resources for You:

'Farm Boom Sows Jobs Bounty' (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 14, 2013).
Establishing a family employment policy helps to instill a business-like environment for all family members participating in the business.
What if your college grad opts for off-farm employment? Could that be the best training ground?


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