According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, the average American farmer is 58 years old. Farmers over 55 control more than half of the country’s farmland, and one in two is likely to retire in the next decade. For three decades, there has been a decline in the number of new farmers joining the ranks, so it’s critical that we keep our current farms strong. So how can you find these workers? When it comes to hiring, a popular credential to look for is military experience.
We had a client recently hire a senior-level military captain to fill an operations role on a farm focusing on developing structure, process improvement and training of employees. My husband is a senior farm manager and has been for over the past decade. He’s a retired military sergeant who did not grow up in agriculture.
It should come as no surprise that a military veteran possesses the traits necessary to leading a team in the field and in the barn. Other traits that are common for military employees include:
Trust and Respect. Veterans have gained a unique perspective on the value of accountability. They can grasp their place within an organizational framework, becoming responsible for the outcome of their team’s work. They understand policies and procedures are in place for a purpose and they respect that.
Communication Skills. Military personnel understand style-flexing in the way they communicate. There is the possibility he/she speaks more than one language and has traveled internationally. In addition, this new employee may bring along a high level of technical literacy which can serve to streamline communication efforts across the farm. Trained in effective writing and professional communications, military personnel know that being successful means being able to communicate articulately and efficiently with other staffing levels.
Prefer to be outdoors. Veterans know what it means to do “an honest day’s work.” They’ve been through boot camp, continuous training, and in some cases, war. Military employees may have traveled across the US and other countries. They are trained to adapt to the elements, so rainy days in the field will not affect them as it does others.
Attention to detail. Veterans have the proven ability to learn new skills and concepts. In addition, they can enter your workforce with transferable skills, proven in real-world situations. This background can enhance your farm’s overall productivity.
Steadfast Loyalty. Job turnover is higher than ever, but military personnel have longevity in their history. Veterans stopped their life because they were loyal to their country. This extraordinary spirit is rare and carries on into their civilian careers. Veterans do not job hop; they want to find a home and grow with an honorable company. If you create a productive working environment for the employee, he/she will stay with the company.
Mechanical Skills. Because of their experiences in the service, veterans are usually strong mechanically and well-informed of the latest technology. Candidates with heavy-wheeled experience transition well to maintenance roles. They can bring the kind of farming outlook and technological savvy operations of any size need to succeed.
Now what do you do? There are many local veteran centers, service organizations, colleges, or military bases you can connect with to find the candidate. You can also hire a recruiting firm, such as AgHires, where we will help you succeed in matching your organization’s needs with the skills of quality candidates for you to hire.
A final perk for employers considering hiring veterans is the tax credits via the Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which provides two types of tax credits for employers. The Returning Heroes Tax Credit provides an incentive for companies to hire unemployed veterans. The Wounded Warrior Tax Credit provides a tax credit for hiring long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities.
Written by: Lori Culler, AgHires Founder/Owner
See more from the AG’s HR Coach here.
Lori Culler (Lennard), founder and owner of AgHires, grew up in and around the Agricultural Industry on her families 3rd generation potato, tomato and grain operation in Southeast Michigan and Northern Indiana.