Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, March 27, 1993, Image 32

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    A32-Lancaster Farming, Saturday, March 27, 1993
Farm Employers Learn How To Attract, Keep Workers
Lancaster Fanning Staff
Co.) —An almost ideal class
room setting would include a
respected, charismatic teacher
with a solid grasp of the subject,
and a class of several eager, will
ing students.
While that may be the epitomy
and the rare reality for those within
the traditional educational system,
it is not the norm for the many
seminars coordinated and offered
to those in agriculture.
Normal agricultural seminars
are a series of speakers with hand
outs and slide shows or overhead
projector transparencies.
However, on Wednesday, Dr.
Bemie Erven, professor and
Extension specialist in labor man
agement at Ohio State University,
used about every classroom teach
ing trick in the book and a few
others to evoke participation in
discussions, and to pass along
techniques and tools for hiring
farm labor.
Erven, who grew up on an Ohio
farm, has degrees from Ohio State
and University of Wisconsin and
just recently returned from a year
at Cornell University, N.Y., where
he worked with several national
leaders in farm and personnel
Twenty-one people attended the
Intercourse $3O-per-person,
$5O-per-couple event, held at
Harvest Drive Restaurant, on
Wednesday. A repeat of the class
was held Thursday at the Allen
town Days Inn.
The seminars were sponsored
by the Penn Stale University
Extension offices of Chester and
Northampton counties, and
included a noon meal. The seminar
went from 9 a.m. to a little past 4
Specifically, Erven covered
finding, recruiting, training and
keeping farm employees.
While he followed a certain for
mat, the professor said that he tries
to stay flexible in his presentations
to the needs of the group. He said
the dialogue and participation was
above his expectations.
The program was the fust one of
its kind offered by extension in the
area, and will likely return, accord
ing to Alan Shock, multi-county
extension agent However, Shock
said that the program will likely be
picked up under the Dairy MAP
program, which is a coming series
of intensive educational offerings
designed to aid successful opera
tion of a dairy farm.
According to Erven, manage
ment is nothing more than the art
of creative problem solving.
In order to be a better and more
efficient manager, it helps to be
exposed to a number of different
tools used successfully by others
according to certain scenarios.
The key of the information
offered from Erven seemed to be
that a personal desire for honesty
and a constant re-evaluation of
perspective, facts and priorities,
can help establish a working envi
ronment desirable and mutually
beneficial to the employer and
The lessons offered by Erven
were numerous. Those who parti
cipated said they felt the seminar
was worth the cost
His teaching technique seemed
to be to hint at the what he was try
ing to convey, through partial, sen
sationalized statements, or through
ancedote and actual or reported
The participants then offered
summaries of what he was saying.
He would stay on a topic until it
was clear that the concept was
grasped and that the “students” had
vocalized an understanding of the
The group was set up in a semi
circle around Erven, who manned
his overhead projector and fre
quently used a portable black
board, but spent most of the time
traveling the room, maintaining
eye and verbal contact, offering
participants equal access to
He also relied on humor to cre
ate a sense of ease.
Among some of his offerings,
he warned the group about seeking
identical-quality people for all jobs
on the farm. The point was to build
a force with multiple talents,
viewpoints, and personal goals.
The reason was so that the work
force not only gets along better
because worker infighting from
direct competition is lessened, but
because of the greater depth of
experience and skills which can be
brought to use.
“Every dairy farm should have
somebody who doesn’t like cows,”
he said.
He said that the employer has to
be honest with self-analysis and
figure out who they are and what
they want out of life and their busi
ness, before starting to decide what
they want others to do.
He told the group they must
‘Know yourself. Know your farm.
Know your strengths and
One of the class participation
activities included breaking the
group into four groups two
groups were to write down the
advantages of working at a farm,
the other two groups were to list
the disadvantages.
After a 10-minute period, the
group got back together and, using
a blackboard and chalk. Erven
wrote down the reasons.
He and the participants
reviewed each of the reasons
For each advantage, they talked
about validity of them as selling
points for a job. For each disadvan
tage, they talked about ways to
minimize the disadvantage or eli
minate it
On the list of advantages were
working with living things; diver
sity of job; outdoor working; flexi
bility in hours; job satisfaction in
creating a needed product; no traff
ic problems to get to work; work
with family; and recreational
perks, such as hunting and fishing.
The disadvantages were work
ing in miserable weather; long
hours and low pay; dangerous; no
vacations; little chance of
advancement; fewer benefits than
non-farm jobs; the work is never
finished; jobs are undefined; and
their is low prestige.
Of course, other considerations
for both points of view were given,
but Erven limited the issues to
those which could be listed and
dealt with in a reasonable time.
The conclusion reached was that
there are “Some very important
pluses in farm work,” Erven said.
The disadvantages, he said,
could be addressed through
management creative problem
For miserable weather, the solu
tions provided by Erven and the
group was to provide adequate
protective clothing for workers,
which would include rain gear,
boots, etc., and to also consider
modifying equipment to provide
for worker comfort.
Erven said that many studies
and farmer seminars deal with ani-
mal comforts and improving their
environmental working conditions
to get more efficient results.
He said that same concern
should also be address toward the
The issue of long hours and low
pay is one by which the farm
employer knows he is getting free
work beyond a reasonable number
of hours.
According to Erven, a study
showed that farmworkers working
beyond 40 hours a week were
being paid $1.60 for each addition
al hour.
At 60 to 80 hours per week, a
worker will get tired. Tired people
make mistakes and take shortcuts.
Erven said that employers have to
look at the potential losses which
can be felt to a business when ask
ing workers to put in long hours for
low pay.
On the other hand. Erven told
the group, “Good labor manage
ment is not an excuse for poor bus
iness management” His point
being that there is a lot of work to
be done in setting up an organized,
functional farming operation, and
labor management is but one
Erven said that the reasons
given most often by an employer
for an employee leaving a job is
compensation. However, Erven
said that employees reveal that
compensation is far down the list
in what keeps them on a job.
While not suggesting that pay is
unimportant. Erven said it’s not
everything employers have to
realize they can and do offer more
than compensation for work
“Employers tend to overesti
mate pay and underestimate job
He also told the group they must
treat their workers as individuals,
as people. He said there is no for
mula for success in estalishing a
good relationship.
He said that rewards and
incentives expected or
unexpected should be in place
for good performance. He said that
if a worker is doing a good job,
instead of giving that worker
money (depending on the worker),
there are other creative ways to
reward that person that shows that
you understand what that person
likes. It does two things; it helps
create a loyalty and it doesn’t have
to be as expensive, or more expen
sive than a cash bonus.
Another guideline Erven
offered is that small businesses
should be regularly losing their
best employees and their worst
Although purposefully losing a
good worker may not seem like a
good move, it is important to rec
ognize when a worker is overquali
fied or has worked up to a position
where there is no longer any room
for advancement.
Erven said in these cases, it may
be best to talk to the worker, sug
gest trying to help him secure a
better job, tell him that the busi
ness can’t afford to pay him what
he is worth.
The key to it is, the farm gets the
benefit of having a good worker
who is moving up. If the employer
tried to keep a good worker with
out eventually recognizing an ina
bility to compensate that worker
for skills developed, etc., that farm
may never see another informed
good worker again, because even
tually the reputation will get out
that there is a poor employer run
ning things.
Getting rid of the worst workers
is also a necessity, but how the
employer handles the dismissal of
that worker is also very important
Erven suggested taking the tact
that it’s obvious the job isn’t suited
for him, and to try to leave the for
mer worker with opinion that he
left a place that was good for the
right person.
Erven said the goal would be for
the former worker to tell his
friends, “It wasn’t for me. but
you’d probably do pretty well.”
As far as the safety aspect, that
also can be minimized through
education, adopting a safety atti
tude, and through regular mainte
nance of equipment and maintain
ing safety features.
The undefined job is really the
failure of the employer to properly
analyze himself, his farm and
weaknessess and strengths.
Erven said, “I know. You hired
the man to do the milking and any
thing else you want him to do,
when you want him to do, and at
anytime. That’s why he gets use of
the house.”
The participants’ laughter at
Erven’s sarcasm, however didn’t
last as he addressed the low pre
stige associated with some farm
work, and went back to address the
lack of farm job definitions.
For low prestige, there are many
things which can be done to
improve that. Mostly, however, is
the attitude of the employer. If he
does not consider it to be a presti
gious job, the worker won’t either.
Moreover, community interac
tion goes a long way to establish-
ing prestige.
He said that a survey done
among the American people of
what they thought was the most
prestigious job in U.S. society
showed the most common answer
was supreme court justice.
PSU Dairy Club Contest
Co.) Nearly 200 young people
participated in Penn State’s Spring
Dairy Cattle Judging Contest last
weekend, including 120 in the4-H
division, 51 in FFA, and 25 in col
legiate intramural competition.
The winning senior 4-H team
from Susquehanna County con
sisted of Josh Harvatine, David
Harvatine, Steven Pavelski, and
Andrea Gamer. Susquehanna was
also high team for reasons. Plac
ing second overall was a team
from Blair County including Joe
Still, Rebecca Kelly, J.D. Kelly,
and Kristi Morrow. Lycoming,
Lawrence, and Wayne Counties
placed third through fifth,
The high individual in senior
4-H competition was Donald Har
wood of Franklin County, fol
lowed by Josh Harvatine, Susque
hanna; David Fava, Washington;
Maggie Whiting, Lawrence: and
Zack Bryant, Wayne. In oral rea
son competition, David Fava
ranked first, followed by Matthew
Day of Cumberland County and
Jessica Dean of Lawrence County.
The Armstrong County team
brought back the highest honors in
the junior 4-H division in dairy.
Team members included Leland
Claypool, Roy Claypool, Travis
Walker, and Todd Walker. Wayne
County’s Jessica Chyle, Jarrod
Burleigh, Alan Woodmansee, and
Shelly Woodmansee placed sec
ond. Lawrence, Lycoming, and
Susquehanna Counties were third
through fifth.
Jessica Whiting of Lawrence
County was high junior 4-H indi
vidual. Matt Pease. Susquehanna,
placed second, and Roy Claypool
Erven then discussed all the
negatives associated with being a
supreme court justice.
“For every single job. you can
make an impressive list (for disad
vantages),” he said.
Once all the job descriptions are
done “Be specific. Milking is
not a job description; it’s the name
of some work.” the best way to
precede is to try to create as large a
pool of applicants for the job as is
Erven said that he presents this
formula: get the largest number of
applicants (Don’t make the appli
cations too specific or irrelevant.
He said he likes one-page applica
tions which give the basics —-
name, education and experi
ence.); select from the applicants
those who should be interviewed;
do the interviews and make a
White he offered some insight
into each aspect of the hiring for
mula, he did say that the best way
to build up a good pool of applic
ants is to advertise. He said the best
way to do that is to use want ad sec
tions of newspapers.
Using word of mouth advertis
ing for a job, or relying on close
references, limits the number of
applicants and puts the farm
employer at a loss of control in get
ting the best workers he can.
He also suggested training
someone with desire but little
experience, as opposed to some
one with lots of experience, but
also attitude.
Although there was much more
offered during the seminar, Erven
said that it was key that the parti
cipants changed their operations
slowly. He suggested five years.
of Armstrong and Jessica Chyle of
Wayne County tied for third.
Leland Claypool placed fifth. For
reasons, Adam Dean and Jessica
Whiting of Lawrence County tied
for first, followed by Jeremy
Stackhouse of Lycoming.
Tulpehocken walked away with
the senior FFA contest. Team
members Andy Bicksler, Jennifer
Grimes, and Melissa Bicksler
placed first, third, and fifth indivi
dually. Tulpehocken also was
high team for reasons, with Andy
Bicksler high reason individual.
Placing second overall was a team
from West Perry, followed by
Central Cove. Meranda Dum was
second high individual overall and
for reasons. Katie Biddle of Slate
College was fourth high overall.
In junior FFA competition, the
winning team was from Centre
County. Members were Kenny
Brown, Brandy Semestrote, Ryan
Connelly, and Trish Watson.
Teams from Oxford and Sugar
Valley placed second and third.
The top five individuals were
Brandy Semestrote; Doug Har
bach, Sugar Valley; Ryan Connel
ly; Mike Benfer, Central Cove:
and Jill Booth of Oxford. In rea
sons, Jess Lawrence of Lawrence
County, followed by Brandy
In collegiate intramural com
petition, high overall individual
was Thad Sturgeon, followed by
Todd Biddle, Andy Foster, Kathy
Pavelski, and Dwight Sloltzfus. In
oral reasons, Biddle placed first.
Stoltzfus, Sturgeon, and Andrew
Morley followed in second
through fifth.
The contest was sponsored by
the Penn State Dairy Science