Farmers Share Employee Engagement and Retention Tools

10:00AM Sep 27, 2019
Whitesides Dairy 007
Farmers Share Employee Engagement and Retention Tools
( Farm Journal )

Q: What employee benefits do you offer to your team?

Gregg Halverson | Grand Forks, N.D. Black Gold Farms is now managed by the fourth generation of the Halverson family. They grow potatoes on 25,000 acres on farms in more than 11 states.

We offer benefits that allow us to compete with the industry in general. Certainly, we have health insurance, dental insurance, 401(k) participation and paid vacation, along with other benefits. We also offer production incentives and profitability bonuses. Our employee base is extremely important to us and we need to be competitive with the local John Deere dealership or the co-op. Longterm employee retention at Black Gold is really important to us. We’ve offered health insurance for a long time, but we have sweetened the pot recently to be more competitive in a tight labor market.

Lon Frahm | Colby, Kan. Lon Frahm is the sixth generation to manage Frahm Farmland in Colby, Kan., which produces corn and wheat on 36,000 acres. Lon partners with his brother and sister.

We offer all the traditional benefits, including full-coverage health care and paying tuition for continuing education. Over the years we’ve put an emphasis on employee giving. Each year I put around $1,000 per employee in an employee-advised fund through the local community foundation. They decide where to donate those funds. Some donate them throughout the year, and some give the money all at once. Some choose to give the money to local churches or the community food bank. Others use the money toward things like the tree project in local parks. When there are local fundraising dinners in town, I buy enough tables for the guys and spouses. Then I decide how much I want to donate toward the cause and divide that money among them — giving them each a check to bid with. They get to bid on items with what would have been the corporate donation money. I’m still giving the amount I want to give, but the focus isn’t on me, it’s on them. They go home with something that is of more value to them than me. It’s been fun to share the joy of giving with them.

Jeremy Visser | Stanwood, Wash. Jeremy Visser is partners with his dad and brother in Natural Milk Family of Farms, where  they milk 8,000 cows on multiple dairies in northwest Washington.

We offer a full company health plan for our employees. We pay 75% of the premium and employees pay 25%. The employee portion of the premium is $60 per month. If they participate in our program, they have access to vision and dental insurance too. Our team members can add their own family on their medical plan, but they pay for their family’s premium. A lot of them add their wives, but not many of my guys put their kids on our plan. In Washington, if you make less than $77,000 per year you can qualify for Apple Health Insurance, which is dirt cheap, but it only applies to children. We also offer vacation time. After a year, everyone will get 60 hours of vacation. Additionally, we offer paid sick leave and personal time off. That is a state-mandated program.