Build learning into farm’s culture

This can increase efficiency, quality and employee retention in your operation.

During busy seasons like harvest, we can find it tough to keep track of all of the people and activities in our operation. One thing that’s typically constant – even with the busier pace – is the culture or work environment on the farm.

A farm’s culture can seem abstract. It’s always there – like the air we breathe, and we might not always think about it. But building and maintaining a strong, positive culture can make a major difference for the farm in quality, efficiency and employee retention. It can also become something positive that your farm is known for, which may help when it comes to recruiting and hiring the right employees.

Building a certain kind of culture on your farm doesn’t ‘just happen.’ It takes some intentional thought and action from you, as the farm’s leader, to create the culture you want on your farm.

Identify it

Work with the other owners in your operation to generate a list of the values that you and your family, as the owners, hold. Think about what matters most. Consider values that encourage personal growth while helping the farm move closer to its goals. Examples might be teamwork, learning, personal accountability or the importance of family.

Decide which traits you want to build more intentionally into the farm’s culture. Then, brainstorm ways to model them yourself and create specific programs or activities to encourage the selected values. When you observe or hear about an employee demonstrating one of the values on the job, praise them, including specifics about what they did.

One of the most powerful aspects you can build into your farm’s culture is continual learning. Set up ways for your employees to continue learning more about their area of expertise, and about ag or other skills relevant to their position. They can develop their skills while becoming more motivated as they see their own progress.

Build it

Here are ways to build more of a culture of learning on your farm:

1. Invest where the greatest potential returns lie. Consider the types of decisions that have the biggest impact on your farm. What are the skills or the ways that you and your employees can improve your decision-making in those particular areas? Choose to focus learning efforts within those areas.

2. Learn from mistakes. What happens when something doesn’t go the way you expected? A culture of learning helps everyone choose to learn from their mistakes in a transparent way, rather than hiding them out of fear. This can save a lot of time and energy for the farm’s leaders, and generate better future results.

3. Bring in a coach. Invite experts on different areas to visit your operation every so often – for the sole purpose of teaching your team. The ‘coaches’ can be your suppliers and advisors. Rather than a sales pitch, the sessions should be about educating your employees further on some particular aspect of ag. The coaches should be able to readily teach and educate you and your employees. If not, you might not have the right person on your team.

Read the new issue of the Smart Series publication, bringing business ideas for today’s farm leader. This issue features the story of a farm family who is working on a legacy plan to keep the farm in the family while maintaining family harmony, items to consider as you select an estate planning attorney for your legacy plan, and how to work toward increasing your operation’s efficiency. Get your free online issue here.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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