Potential sources of labor: Are these in your future plans?

Farms should think about different strategies to fill their labor needs in 2016 and beyond. Consider any and all of these options and strategies to obtain needed workers in the future.

Growers in Michigan should review their current methods for attracting and retaining workers and be flexible to try new methods and strategies to attract workers to the farm. Farms are competing with local manufacturers, construction, retailers, food service and virtually any other employers for a shrinking labor pool. Michigan State University Extension suggests the following 15 items that may spark some ideas you may not have thought about in locating employees. They represent sources and management practices that many successful farms are using to maintain their work force in the current tight labor market.

  1. Visit the Michigan Works Offices website and see items like Grower Profile and Interstate Job Clearance Order (Form 790).
  2. Build strategic alliances with other farmers (local, regional, other states) and other hand labor crops.
  3. Utilize temporary employment services, but be sure they are a licensed farm labor contractor.
  4. Make trips to the southern states to recruit workers; visit your workers in Florida or Texas.
  5. Provide licensed housing. Federal and state rules and regulations are involved.
  6. Contact your Intermediate School District, such as Holland Careerline Tech Center, Kent Skills, Allegan Tech Center, etc., or summer training programs for local youth. Also, local FFA chapters in area high schools can have students available for work experiences.
  7. Participate in local two-year and four-year college’s career nights. There are more students wanting to learn about food and farming systems and work experiences.
  8. Contact “faith based” groups helping settle refugees. You may need to supply daily transportation.
  9. Resolve your farms internal issues such as wage scale, benefits, scholarships, management training, inviting back current workers, improving your interview skills and improving your new worker training.
  10. Add “recruiting workers” as a line item to your farm’s annual business plan. It takes time, effort and money to do these items.
  11. Consider H-2A workers. This involves more paperwork and rules to follow, but more employers are going this route.
  12. Have a good labor lawyer and consultant, such as Farm Bureau Ag Labor and Safety Services, and others. It is essential to keep in the know on labor rules and regulations.
  13. Use employment ads on the web, for example a local farm advertising for workers on a newspaper website with a banner ad across the top.
  14. Advertise with agriculture job services. These are mostly for management level and grower level positions.
  15. Enhance your farms “word of mouth” success by providing current employees with written job announcements and emails they can forward to perspective employees. Have employees contribute to the wording on these announcements.

For additional information on this topic, contact your local MSU Extension educator.

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