A few weeks ago, the UVM New Farmer Project and Women’s Agricultural Network asked for your input on how farm labor challenges affect your businesses. You gave us quite an earful, and we couldn’t be more grateful!
Over 330 people responded to our survey, providing us with lots of data and new insights into labor challenges on small-scale and diversified farms. We’ll use your input to guide future programming, but in the meantime, we want to briefly share highlights of the survey results so far.
Comfort with “Being the Boss:” Overall, farmers who responded to the survey reported confidence in your ability to be “a good boss” and to create a positive work environment.
Your top 3 labor challenges? Managing employees efficiently; training employees to work independently, and finding skilled labor. “I spend spend too much time holding hands, not enough time with big picture stuff,” one farmer reported.
In open-ended comments, a number of you shared concerns about the cost of labor and your desire to pay workers a fair wage. “I won’t have employees or apprentices until I can pay them appropriately for their labor,” explained one farmer.
Profitability & Quality of Life Dimensions: About a third of survey respondents indicated that the costs and/or stress associated with managing employees takes a significant toll — on farm finances and on farmers’ quality of life. “Labor seems to be everyone’s biggest stress,” observed one respondent. But about two thirds of you indicated that you believe that employees make positive contributions to your farms.
Judging from the survey, farm labor is emerging as an important business management concern for new farmers. While less than half of aspiring farmers said that employees were definitely part of their vision for their farm, the majority of beginning farmers have employees, and many of them are hiring labor early in their business development. About 72 percent of beginning farmers (less than 10 years commercial farm experience) who answered the survey reported having employees, and about 57 percent of those with less than 3 years commercial experience have employees.
As one respondent said: “We have to do more to figure this out.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Your thoughts? We’re interested in your insights and observations on this topic. Leave a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.