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Fostering Culture in Your Farm Operation

Help Wanted!

“Why are people not applying for my jobs?” Do you find yourself asking this question? You took all the right steps. You wrote convincing job descriptions and advertised in all the right places, yet you haven’t received any applicants (or if you have, they aren’t a good fit). So, why don’t people want to work for your business? The missing piece could be your farm’s image or culture.

What is workplace culture?

Workplace culture on a farm is not about production. The culture of your family farm relates to its values, goals, and beliefs. It is about the way your farm communicates these values and exhibits them through its relationships with employees and the community. The culture of a family farm isn’t easily visible, and it’s often overlooked in favor of more tangible factors like production schedules, equipment and safety issues, livestock, and bad weather.

Why do farmers need to think about culture?

Keep this in mind: both current employees and applicants EXPECT a real value proposition from employers these days. It isn’t just about perks and flexibility any longer; employees are looking for more than a paycheck, and you need to be doing more than recruiting and hiring new staff members; you must also focus on employee retention. Workers want to feel they are part of the operation. They want to be seen and valued. Numerous 2023 surveys agree that going forward, US workers are seeking clear communication, leadership, and an emphasis on employee wellbeing from their employers.

How can you start improving your farm’s work culture?

Putting culture in the forefront may be tough for agricultural operations. Communicating business plans and being transparent with the whole family as well as employees doesn’t come easy to many family farm owners.

Review your current culture and its effects.

Start by taking the time to learn about what organizational culture really means and how it directly impacts the sustainability and productivity of your operation. The first step is realizing that the farm’s business culture hits every area on your farm! You could also start by developing or revisiting your mission and values statement. Where did you set the bar? Are you communicating your short- and long-term goals? Are you walking your talk and leading by example?

Consult with an HR professional.

If you have a dedicated person who manages the people side of your farming operation, engage that person to help you start this journey. Human resource professionals can help you rethink your norms. Work with them to review your business management practices relating to family and staff. If you have family working with non-family, you really need to keep that dynamic in your line of sight. A human resource professional can also help you develop employee engagement and retention strategies, attract new staff, and review and source strong employee policies, benefit practices, and programs.


These steps don’t necessarily cost money, but they do require real leadership from farm owners and leadership teams. Nothing here is rocket science, either, but it isn’t easy to put in place. To begin raising the bar on your workplace culture, define the bar first. Then, align everyone, provide training and mentoring, and communicate and engage; communicate and engage. Repeat as necessary until it sticks.

UnCommon Farms partners with family farms to provide the tools they need to grow and thrive in today’s market. For more tips on managing your farming operation, visit our our blog.

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