Success at planting requires preparedness in three categories: inputs, equipment and workforce.
“In my experience, many farms have the inputs and the equipment ready; the workforce, not so much,” says Bob Milligan, senior consultant at Dairy Strategies and former Cornell University professor. “This workforce planning failure often results in crop enterprise owners and employees working very long hours that are both unsafe for them and unhealthy for the owners and employees' relationships with their family and friends.”
Maximize your team’s time and energy this spring by following these recommendations from Milligan.
- Pad Your Bench. Be certain that you have a sufficiently large workforce to ensure timely planting without asking workforce members to work unreasonable hours, Milligan says. “Hiring part-time seasonal employees often requires creativity—retirees, moonlighters, etc.,” he says.
- Go Over the Game Plan. Organize and hold a meeting, perhaps around a meal, for all crop employees to outline your plans and review the training materials you have prepared, Milligan recommends. These update meetings are also important once planting is in full swing.
- Put Backups in Place. Utilize cross-training to reduce stressful long hours for primary operators. “I find that owners and employees often work too many hours because they are not willing to stop because there is no one to replace them,” he says. “Often, it works best for the relief operator to work during the day enabling the primary operator to work when no else is around and when it is dark.”
- Take Care of Your Team. Ensure that everyone has breaks, is hydrated and properly nourished.
- Check In Often. When long hours are required (as they likely will be), look for signs of stress—irritable, abnormal behavior, overly tired—in yourself and your co-workers.
Management and leadership should be your top priority. Don’t let your urgent to-do list derail leading by example and managing your team, Milligan says. “If you do not, you personally may get a lot of work done, but others will be less productive, and the efficiency of planting will suffer,” he says.
3 Leadership Priorities for Planting Season