Here you'll find links to articles, fact sheets and other resources related to being a farm employer.

Please note: These resources are provided for educational and informational purposes only and are not legal counseling. No attorney-client relationship is created, nor is there any offer to provide legal services by the distribution of these publications. Always consult an attorney before relying on the information in these resources.

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Published by the CDC, guide is designed to people select or purchase the best available ergonomically designed non-powered hand tool. The information and the hand tool checklist are based on peer reviewed articles and expert input. The checklist has been evaluated for reliability in identifying the presence or absence of basic ergonomic design features. Using the right tools can help farmers and farm employees reduce risks of injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or muscle strain. Download ... Read more

The collaborative effort of BFRN (Maine), Northeast SARE, and University of Maine Cooperative Extension have put together a tip sheet to make it easier to listen and communicate with the crew and farm staff. Active listening challenges you to focus all your attention on the person who is speaking in order to reach a new level of understanding. Using these approaches may feel awkward at first, so keep this list handy remind yourself how to integrate these new methods. Give yourself... Read more

Arthritis and Gardening This guide provides information about arthritis and how it can impact activities and tasks associated with gardening. While the guide is oriented to gardeners, the information is relevant to many farming situations as well. The guide is a joint publication of AgrAbility and the Arthritis Foundation.

This 2021 report aims to help farmers understand how they can create and strengthen conditions that draw workers to their farm and encourage them to stay over the long term. Written by Sarah Janes Ugoretz, it is based on electronic surveys and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 15 farm owners and 13 employees working on certified organic vegetable farms primarily located in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota. While the farmers were primarily from the Upper Midwest, it is relevant to addressing common challenges among small and medium-sized vegetable... Read more

Whether you've recently become a parent, are about to become one or may in the future, its important to include postpartum period in your farm planning. In this Growing for Market article (Sept. 2022), farmer Katie Kulla shares her personal postpartum stories & experiences along with those of other postpartum farming mothers in this week's article. Read the article.

On the Growing For Market podcast and article explore the nuances of postpartum life on the farm and finding a balance between building your family and your business. In the podcast, hear Katie Kulla from Oakhill Organics in Oregon talk about how farmers who have just had a baby can smooth the transition into parenthood while keeping the... Read more

Grain Silos

Classifying Your Workers, by Erin Hannum and Rachel Armstrong of Farm Commons. What’s the difference between an employee and an intern or volunteer under the law? What is an independent contractor? This publication helps farmers learn what kind of workers they have, and the legal implications of each. State-specific guides are available for Vermont and ... Read more

The Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship has put together a short guide to help mentors "get off to a good start and setting a tone of clear and open communication" which will in turn make "the Apprenticeship relationship rewarding for you both". Making sure you and your team use all the tools at your disposal including non verbal communication and active listening can make a huge difference. 

A key role of management is setting the emotional tone for the workplace - something that's critical during times of uncertainty and anxiety. This blog post from UVM Extension's Mary Peabody provides four healthy communication practices that can establish trust and openness in the workplace, and to address anxiety, fear and uncertainty among employees. Read the post.

A personnel policy manual insures that all employees are aware of the policies and expectations of your business. A manual enhances your professionalism, creates consistency in communications, and protects you from appearing arbitrary in your treatment of employees. Drafting this manual will provide you and your management team the opportunity to think through your policies in advance and create a pleasant, productive work environment. To help you get started, here are links to some policy manual templates: The... Read more

In developing your workforce plan, you want to make sure that you have adequate cash on hand to cover your payroll expenses. A cash flow projection (or cash flow budget) is an estimate of the amount of money you expect to flow in and out of your business. It includes all your projected income and expenses. Monthly cash flow projections can help identify when you can expect to experience cash shortfalls in your production year. If you anticipate a temporary cash shortage, you might explore opening a line of credit or a short-term operating loan to help bridge the gap. Planning ahead is a... Read more

This half-hour presentation provided an update on a Northeast SARE-funded project examining solutions for recruiting, training, compensating, and retaining qualified farm workers. Farmers continually rank labor issues, including availability and wages, as the greatest challenge to improved profitability and quality of life. This project began by researching four business models for alleviating recruitment and management burdens: 1) producer-owned collaborative that shares workers, 2) worker-owned collaborative that leases workers, 3) nonprofit-owned temporary farm... Read more

If you market your farm products directly to the consumer then you know that a great product is just one factor in your success. Relationships are key to sustaining your sales and every business faces challenging customer service situations at some point. Use these videos to start the conversation with your employees. In one video we address basic phone etiquette. In a second video we introduce the problem of explaining rules to a customer that just doesn’t get it. In the third video we show how to interact with an unhappy customer in a way that does not escalate the situation. These... Read more

A video from the Farm Manager Video Series This short video addresses how to identify and deal with workplace problems. University of New Hampshire's Pat McCabe provides practical advice on how to diagnose the problem and its causes, and then how to work with employees to resolve it.  

As farm businesses grow and your management team faces decisions with significant impact - for example, what type and how many employees to hire - it is important that you have a clear sense of the undergirding values you and your management team identify to guide the growth of your business. The Developing a Values-Based Vision for Your Farm workbook helps producers examine their skills, interests, beliefs, expectations, obstacles and strengths to set a holistic vision for... Read more

In this short blog post, UVM Extension's Mary Peabody outlines an easy steps every farmer can take to make sure first responders can quickly get to your farm and help anyone who has been injured or has a medical emergency. Read the blog post.

The resources below offer a variety of communication and management tips and techniques and tools to help create a positive and productive farm work environment. Training Your Employees: Training your crews to do their jobs effectively from the start is a key way to avoid problems later. This short video shares a variety of practical strategies for effectively training farm employees so that they contribute to the success of the farm.     ... Read more

Maintaining physical distance is an important step in limiting the spread of COVID-19. But how does physical distancing work on a farm when new employees need training, coaching and oversight? This short blog post offers some strategies to help get crews off to the right start and keep them productive through the season. Read the post.

A video from the Farm Manager Video Series This video shares a process farmers can use to end employment legally and professionally.   

It is common to hear farmers talk about how quickly a pricey piece of equipment will “pay for itself” over time. The Equipment Cost Recovery Calculator helps turn these claims into careful estimations of the time it will take to recover the cost of purchasing new equipment through increased labor efficiency (labor cost savings). In financial analysis terms, it is a “Partial budgeting” tool.  This spreadsheet tool helps you compare the cost of performing a task of your choosing in the way you are doing it now with a new way based on buying a piece of equipment to... Read more

This 260-page publication provides a broad range of practical and easy-to-implement solutions for improving safety, health and working conditions in agriculture. It was produced by the International Labour Office in collaboration with the International Ergonomics Association Download the Ergonomic Checkpoints in Agriculture publication.

This image shows guidelines for lifting

This guide from the CDC provides tip sheets that show how to make or modify tools to the reduce the risk of back aches and other pain in the shoulders, arms and hands that common to people who engage in farm work and that can reduce productivity. In addition to explaining the practices it recommends, the publication provides both diagrams and photographs that illustrate ergonomic guidelines and practices that can keep people doing work are safe and comfortable, as well as productive. Download the... Read more

This article in The Conversation, discusses how household expenses like access to health care and child care affects farm development. The authors are:  Shoshanah Inwood, Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology, The Ohio State University; Andrea Rissing, President's Postdoctoral Scholar in the School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University; and Florence Becot, Associate Research Scientist in Rural Sociology, Adjunct Faculty - National Farm Medicine Center, The Ohio State University.

Produced by University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and University of Vermont Extension, the Farm Labor Video Series is six short (about 5 minutes) video lessons on key aspects of managing employees on farms. Topics include:  Reference checks; Training your employees; Preventing and responding to harassment; Providing feedback to employees; Dealing with problems; and, Ending employment

This 36-page booklet explains what machinery management is, why it is important, and the basics of selecting, maintaining, operating and replacing farm equipment and machinery.

In this August 2022 Growing for Market Magazine article, farmer Katie Kulla talks about preparation farmers can make before the baby comes for a smooth addition of a new member of the family farm and keep the farm running at the same time.

(Part 2 of 2 Episodes) This Growing for Market Podcast X Neversink Farm Podcast episode  features Katie Kulla from Oakhill Organics in Oregon talking about how farmers who have just had a baby can smooth the transition into parenthood while keeping the farm running.  In part 1, Farming and Pregnancy: Balancing the physical and emotional demands, Katie focuses on preparations before the baby comes. Together, the episodes offer elaborations on... Read more

Fast feedback loop graphic

This exercise can help build more productive and stronger farm work teams. It can help improve how employees work together and their level of compassion for each other. Finally, it can help you become a better and more dynamic supervisor.  Instructions & Training Guide Introduce the idea of the feedback loop by sharing why feedback is critical for healthy team dynamics. Show the “Fast Feedback Loop” video resource below Employees team up and practice using the feedback loop. Be available for questions or guidance for teams that need assistance. Cover “points to... Read more

This 3-minute video shares a quick activity that can help build more productive and stronger farm work teams. The exercise can help improve how employees work together, their level of compassion for each other, and how you can be a better supervisor.  

Negotiation skills are part of every farm business managers essential toolkit. But women and beginning farmers frequently feel unprepared and unskilled in this form of communication. Use the slide sets and webinar recordings to explores what negotiation really is (and what it is not), and to learn how to prepare for, and execute, a successful negotiation. Then, use the worksheet to prepare for a successful negotiation. The Art of Negotiation Presentation ... Read more

In this podcast episode, Growing for Market talks with mother/daughter team Dru Rivers and Hannah Muller of Full Belly Farm in California about growing 15 acres of certified organic flowers. Dru is one of the founders of this landmark organic farm that has been growing since 1984, and she and Hannah manage the flowers, all of which are grown in the field. The episode includes strategies for keeping farm crew year-round, favorite flower crops and new varieties, the importance of playing hard when you’re working hard, educating wholesalers and customers on the importance of organic... Read more

This Growing for Market podcast explores efficient systems and organization for packing sheds and more with some of the industry's top problem-solvers. The episode focuses on ways to optimize the pack shed, takes a deep dive into the sanitizing process (including dry cleaning) and is loaded with advice and resources for a safe crew and working environment. Featured guests are: Billy Mitchell of the USDA's Southwest region Transition to Organic Partnership Program and Chris Callahan and Andy... Read more

This 2018 farmer-focused guide provides practical information on a range of equipment sharing models, and then walks readers through the steps of designing your designing your own equipment sharing program. The guide was authored by New York farmer Faith Gilbert, with funding from a Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program Farmer Grant. It includes sample budgets, ownership and use agreements; checklists to help with financial planning; examples of operation and maintenance checklists; and other helpful tools and... Read more

Front cover of the guide

This guide, developed by Farm Commons, covers the basics of farm law and provides additional resources and action steps to assist educators and service providers working to build long-term legal resilience for their clients and agricultural community. Pages 7-9 cover employment law.  Download a pdf of Guiding Farmers to Legal Resilience

On October 12, 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor published the final rule, “Temporary Agricultural Employment of H-2A Nonimmigrants in the United States”, effective on November 14, 2022. This final rule amends the Department’s regulations governing the H-2A program. According to DOL, the provisions are designed to improve program protections for workers and enhance enforcement against fraud and abuse, while modernizing the H-2A application and temporary labor certification process. This Department of Labor website provides guidance, fact sheets, and other resources related to the rule. Go... Read more

This 45-minute recording takes you on a quick tour of the online Farm Labor Dashboard’s four interactive tools and its growing resource library of labor management tools, information and resources for small- and mid-sized produce and diversified farms. The session highlights ways the resources can help producers identify concerns for their particular operation, explore options, build knowledge and skills, and begin to implement scale-appropriate HR practices on their farms. Presenters: Mary Peabody, University of Vermont Extension Beth Holtzman, University of Vermont Extension John... Read more

Created by Rouge Farm Corp, this Mentor Self-Assessment allows for managers, farm owners, and staff to evaluate communication and leadership skills necessary for a healthy farm team. This tool is intended to help managers to reflect on the impact of their communication style and how it impacts the farm team.

Interviews are one of the most important steps in the hiring process. They provides an opportunity to get to know applicants before you make a commitment and invest in a new employee. When it comes time to interview you need to be careful not to let any unconscious bias or distractions enter into your decision-making. It is important to treat every applicant the same during the interview process. This means asking the same questions in approximately the same order, keeping the environment as similar as possible, and using the same set of criteria to assess each person... Read more

Reporting on two sets of interviews with 90 farmers and 19 farm workers in six states, this 2021 online seminar session shared highlights from stories about hiring and working on small and mid-sized farms in six states -- North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Topics include criteria successful farmers use when looking for workers, practices that can improve worker retention and challenges and obstacles the research identified in attracting and retaining the right employees. Recorded March 9, 2021. Presenter: Jason Parker, School of Environment... Read more

This March 2021 series presented highlights from recent research and extension projects focusing on labor management and decision-making on small and mid-sized produce and livestock farms. Links to recordings, slide decks and related information and resources from each of the three one-hour sessions are below. Labor Management Decision-Making, Practices & Challenges This session covered insights and findings from two... Read more

This educational guide covers a broad range of legal topics relevant to agricultural producers in New Hampshire. Updated in 2020, it includes the following topics:  labor and employment law; legal organizational and business structures; taxation and the farm business; interstate commerce (sales and transit regulations); weights and measures; food labeling; homestead operations; organic certification; farmers markets; milk and milk product regulations; animal health; meat and poultry safety; carcass composting; land use and... Read more

If you are new to the legal aspects being a farm employer, you will want to gain an understanding the following topics at a minimum: workers compensation, minimum wage, paperwork needed at the start of employment, employee versus independent contractor, laws regarding volunteers and interns, and overtime rules for agricultural labor and non-agricultural labor. You can find information for your state by calling your state’s Department of Labor.  You can also go to the following web sites: ... Read more

Having a system in place to orient new employees does several important things for your business. First, it ensures each employee hears the important information and completes all the necessary forms. This saves you from problems down the road when an important form is missing or some important policy does not get communicated. Second, having a system in place saves you from having to reinvent the wheel each time a new employee comes onboard—a checklist will save you time and give your business a professional, organized feel. Finally, in the event that you are unable to do the orientation... Read more

Following are resources you can use to prevent sexual harassment on your farm, and to respond to it if need be. Farm Manager Video Series: Preventing Sexual Harassment Learn about methods to prevent sexual harassment on your farm, and to how to identify and handle it if it occurs. University of New Hampshire's Pat McCabe discusses how farmers can protect your business by promoting a work environment free of sexually inappropriate behavior, making sure your workers know what types of behavior is expected of them, providing resources and support to all of your... Read more

From the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, this checklist can help you identify and share information about farm chores and their importance to farm operations. The checklist is oriented to livestock farms, but can easily be adapted other kinds of operations. Use it help inform regular employees -- and relief help in the case of an emergency.... Read more

The Training Guides were developed by the North Central Region FSMA Center and cover pre-harvest, harvest, and post-harvest food safety topics. The 14 modules can be delivered in separate short (5-10 minute) training sessions or grouped together in one longer session. 

A video from the Farm Manager Video Series This video provides strategies for providing effective feedback to farm employees that motivates employees amd helps them improve performance.  

Tracking Labor on a Diversified Vegetable Farm The biggest expense on just about any diversified produce farm is labor. It is also the hardest to track. This 17-minute video presentation provides practical approaches to tracking labor that will help you understand the labor component of the cost of production for different crops.  Presenter: John Hendrickson,  University of Wisconsin's Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Scroll down to find links to the additional resources John shares at the end of the session. Additional Resources... Read more

Recruiting employees is very much like marketing your products. If you want to attract the interest of reliable, hard workers, you should be prepared to present your farm in a professional manner. It means being consistent in your job titles and descriptions, using a standard application form that collects the same information from all applicants and making sure that your farm name and contact information are clearly displayed. You also want to make sure that you set aside time for reviewing applications and conducting interviews so marking these events on your calendar will help you... Read more

A video from the Farm Manager Video Series This video shares tips for how to use reference checks to learn more about a prospective job applicant. You'll learn about the kinds of information that can be gained through a reference check, its limitations, and how to incorporate it in your overall assessment of and decision-making about an applicant.

Author: Sarah Janes Ugoretz Doctoral candidate, University of Wisconsin-Madison, The Nelson Institute This June 2021 report is based on data collected through electronic surveys and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 15 farm owners and 13 employees working on certified organic vegetable farms primarily located in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota. The focus of the study was to better understand what employees look for and value in a work place with the goal of helping farmers strengthen the conditions that draw workers to their farms and encourage them... Read more

This article in The Conversation, discusses how household expenses like access to health care and child care affects farm development.   The authors are:  Shoshanah Inwood, Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology, The Ohio State University; Andrea Rissing, President's Postdoctoral Scholar in the School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University; and Florence Becot, Associate Research Scientist in Rural Sociology, Adjunct Faculty - National Farm Medicine Center, The Ohio State University.... Read more

Like other working parents, farmers with children face competing demands on their time, but arranging for childcare for farm families can be challenging because of non-traditional work hours, rural locations and cost. This journal article identifies and analyzes social, economic and cognitive pathways through which childcare impacts farm decisions, operations, labor, and success. The authors draw on interviews and focus group data with farmers in the Northeast US to describe how farmer-parents access and negotiate child care, and suggest that childcare arrangements are an... Read more

Once applications begin rolling in you will need a system for selecting those applicants that you’d like to interview. Your job descriptions should lead you to a list of qualifications which will help you screen applicants. If you do not have a large pool and decide to interview all applicants you will still need to identify your criteria and determine how you want to prioritize who you will select for interviews. Keep in mind that these tools are designed to help you treat all applicants fairly and to help you be efficient with your time.

This three-part video series demonstrates how to use partial budgeting as a decision tool for tractor and equipment investments. The videos provide examples of how farmers can use the partial budget process to forecast the financial impacts -- on both the cost and on the income side -- of specific machine purchases. Examples consider how changing mechanization can have implications for labor needs and costs. Also included are links to all resources used in the videos.... Read more

Developed by the National Farm Medicine Center, The Safer Farms initiative developed a series of hazard analysis tools and forms to help you identify and address risks. The tools and forms are free, but you will have to set up an account and log in to access them.

Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs are documents that outline how to complete a task. These protocols are a simple way to ensure that routine farm processes happen the same way each time. A well-written SOP can help you save time, train workers, and deliver a more consistent product. This University of Maine Cooperative Extension webpage explains what kinds of tasks SOPs should be created for, describes the characteristics of quality SOPS and provides a template for drafting SOPs. Go to the... Read more

Join the farmers at Rock Steady Farm in this recorded January 2022 presentation on their workplace culture, farm policies, care focused approach, and on how to build an inclusive workplace on your farm, especially for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ workers. Hosted by the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project.  


Tax and Paperwork Checklist for Hiring an Ag Employee, by Erin Hannum and Rachel Armstrong of Farm Commons. The checklist guides farmers through the initial steps of hiring an employee. It illustrates selected, immediate paperwork responsibilities of the farmer at the time of hiring. You'll learn about the ongoing record keeping, withholding, payment and other legal responsibilities of having employees, and you can get help. State specific guides are available for ... Read more

Form 1099 is used to report various forms of income other than wages, salaries, and tips to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to the recipient of the payment. Agricultural producers may both receive Form 1099 information returns and be required to issue them. The Rural Tax Education website provides an overview of the kinds of information 1099 forms report. Visit the Form 1099 Information Returns page.

The Chittenden County (Vermont) Opioid Alliance (CCOA) developed the  43-page Employer Toolkit to provide employers with tools necessary to employing people in recovery from substance use disorders. Please note, the guide is specific to Vermont and was not developed with a farm audience in mind. However, you may find tips and ideas that can related to agricultural employment situations and beyond Vermont's borders. It address issues related to hiring and managing employees.... Read more

A video from the Farm Manager Video Series   Training your crews to do their jobs effectively from the start is a key way to avoid problems later. This short video shares a variety of practical strategies for effectively training farm employees so that they contribute to the success of the farm.     

 The UMASH Safety Check is designed to help farmers identify and fix potential hazards before they cause harm to people working on your farms. It includes checklists, tips, and resources to help remedy problems. It is a product of the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center.

This illustration shows what it looks like when a person can easily reach control pedals from the tractor seat and what it looks like when the distance is too great.

This publication can help you evaluate whether buying used farm machinery makes sense for your operation. In addition to providing information on how to assess the quality and serviceability of the components of a machine and how to assess the full cost of owning and operating used machinery, the guide discusses key safety considerations related to operating used equipment. The publication includes many helpful, detailed illustrations -- a sample of which is provided below. Download the Used Farm... Read more

This booklet is aimed at small farm operators and explains how to assess the quality and safety of used farm machinery. It explains how to conduct an inspection of used machinery, and what it can tell you about the prior maintenance, repairs, and overall quality and condition of the machine. Throughout, the guide provides illustrations -- showing clues to a machine that has been well-maintained and those for improper repairs and sloppy maintenance.  The booklet also explains how to calculate and compare average annual for tractors. The booklet was... Read more

View this recording to learn about strategies for identifying, evaluating and using wearable technology that can make you and your employees healthier and safer while working in agriculture. The session also included ideas for how you might integrate these devices in to your management framework with a goal of increasing wellness and decreasing injuries and illnesses. Some examples of wearable technology in farming include using heat and humidity monitors to prevent heat illness, and heart rate monitors to help fit tasks to the individuals and prevent over-exertion.... Read more

This half-hour presentation shared experiences and insights from farmers, extension personnel and community organizations in North Carolina related to transitions from conventional business models to innovative strategies to respond to the market vulnerabilities. Topics included labor management, machinery transitions, resource adjustments, and market issues. Recorded March 11, 2021. Presenter: Kathleen Liang, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Note: The session was the second of two presentations in this recording. This presentation starts at minute... Read more

Woodland Farm Vision Download a PDF version of the document Note: Statements in italics are related to labor management. We value preserving our farm for future generations. We value growing healthy, quality food in a sustainable, earth-friendly manner. Our farm is adaptive and changes to address transformations in markets, local economies, and other externalities. Our management decisions are informed by data and solid record keeping. We manage our labor to maintain... Read more

Learning to be an effective manager often requires a mental shift in how we see ourselves. Chances are good that you got into farming because you liked the work of farming. Once you have employees, your job will require more time spent managing the work of others. You may well find yourself helping others to be successful at the tasks that you once enjoyed doing while your own time will be spent hiring, training, recordkeeping and managing. Learning to enjoy wearing the manager’s hat may take some practice but it can be done.  Special consideration should be given to situations... Read more

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