There's no doubt that farm work is cyclical. Intensely busy seasons follow periods with less pressing demands on our time. In the winter, we might tell our employees they're done for the day by 4 p.m. During that time, maybe they aren't working Saturdays—and their families get used to spending more time with them. But come spring all that changes.
As the farm leader, you have a window of opportunity before planting to build understanding about work schedules with your employees—and the key people in their lives. When April arrives and planting is in full swing, employees' families might be caught off guard because their loved one is working late nights and weekends to get the crop in. Employees can feel a lot of tension between the demands of home and the important work that has to get done.
I know a farmer who does a great job of setting expectations with his employees and their families before planting and harvest seasons. They have a pre-season gathering in March where spouses are invited for a steak fry. They also host a picnic for employees' families before harvest.
These meetings set expectations: We're coming into planting season. It's going to take long hours and commitment. Your safety is important to us, so we need people to be fully present when they're at work. You can expect that there will be long hours and days where we'll be asking everyone to contribute a lot of time and effort. There's a lot of work that has to be done in a short time. Remember that it's temporary and it's a part of the business of farming.
This farmer explains how lack of focus during planting could negatively affect safety and yields. For a successful farm, everyone needs to contribute to the farm's top yields.
He's enlisting family members' support and expressing his appreciation. The best way for the employees' families to understand the seasonal nature of farming is to hear it from you as the farm leader.
Bringing the whole group together gives spouses the opportunity to see that their spouse is part of a winning team. By proactively setting expectations, the farm leader finds less frustration, more focus and better support for his team from home.
- Record situations where you typically find yourself thinking: Why didn’t my employees remember that this is what spring is always like?
- List the people who provide home support to my team.
- Consider the message that needs to be shared—and a good way of sharing it. What points are most important for everyone to understand and remember as we enter planting season?
Reprinted with permission of Corn + Soybean Digest