One of the keys to success for any business is the ability to recruit and retain good employees. This is just as true in agriculture as in any other industry. At Wallenstein Feeds, we strive to not only be the “supplier of choice” to livestock farmers in Ontario, but more recently, the “employer of choice” in our industry and region. When I talk with college students and young people just starting careers, I am often asked about the things we look for in an ideal candidate. Because of the industry we are in, it makes sense that we have lots of employees who grew up or worked on a farm. What is surprising is that when I talk with my non-farm friends and neighbours who work in an urban corporate environment, they tell me that they also like to hire farm kids.
Rural communities have a reputation of hard work and a dedication, but one thing about people from farm backgrounds is they are often very humble about their experience. In fact, many college students from rural communities don’t put their experience on the family farm on their resume or application. They feel like it’s not a valuable or applicable skill set. In reality, and now more than ever, in the eyes of many corporate professionals, a farm background is the MOST valuable and sought after work experience.
The job is done when the job is done
When you’re on the farm you aren’t working on the clock. You work task by task and your timeline is strict. When you’re told to mow 15 acres, you mow 15 acres. That doesn’t mean you mow as much as you can until 5 pm. That doesn’t mean you mow a few in the morning, take a long lunch and run errands, and then see how much you can get done before it gets dark. It means you mow 15 acres. Lots of people watch the clock and when they’ve hit their 8 hours, or when the clock strikes 5 p.m. they’re half way out the door. Farm kids go home when the job is done, and not just done, but done correctly.
No job is too dirty
Ask a group of farm kids the dirtiest job they’ve ever done – you will unleash a spectacular cycle of one-up-manship of increasingly filthy and grimy tasks. Forking stalls, milking, fixing broken hydraulic hoses, assisting a calving…. You’re probably thinking of one right now. Most farm kids have resigned themselves to the fact that they have gone to school or out on a Friday night with the smell of the barn still on them, despite repeated showers. In business there are different kinds of messy jobs. There are the literal, hold your nose, unplug the public toilet jobs, but there are also tasks that may not be gross, but lots of people think are “beneath” them or “not my job”. A farm kid understands that every job needs to get done even if it stinks.
You get out what you put in
We live in a time where results are expected immediately and have a generation of people entering the workforce that feels more entitled than ever before. Farm kids know that you have to plant and tend a crop for a long time before you will see results. They understand that business, like farming follows a cycle. There is a time of the year to plant, a time of the year to grow and a time of the year to harvest. You can’t harvest your crop early because you want to get away for a holiday. The same is true in business – things need time to grow: relationships, investments, academics and career success. There’s a time for everything and patience is key.
The original problem solvers
When you get a tractor stuck, you don’t call AAA. When a goat escapes the pen, you don’t call your manager to catch it. Ultimate problem solving happens when you’ve got a job to finish and storm clouds are rolling in. The best problem solvers I’ve ever met have come from rural communities because when you’re living off your own land, you don’t sit around waiting for someone to give you a solution, you take action to get the job done by any means necessary. This means that you’re going to need a lot of tools in the shed, but more importantly you need to know how to use them for their intended (and unintended) purposes. Unique problems require unique solutions.
In a corporate setting, critical thinking skills, problem solving and patience are all keys to doing a job right and advancing. But there is nothing that can replace hard work, honesty and integrity. Every leader needs a team that is willing to put in the work, offer creative solutions and stay until the job is done right. When “corporate culture” has become an ambiguous buzzword, the values kids learned growing up on a farm look pretty good on a resume….