Seed World

Fewer Family Farms Equal Fewer Ag Workers

As farms get bigger and fewer people grow up on them, it’s making for a smaller employee pool for seasonal agriculture jobs.

When it comes to hiring seasonal agriculture jobs, it’s easier to hire someone who grew up on a farm and therefore has an agricultural background. However, farm kids are becoming a rare species.

“The young men and women coming off of family farms are fewer and farther between. So, as we grow and expand and take on different pieces in our business, we start to see how we can bring in individuals that don’t have a farming background,” Adam Ogle, general manager of Total Seed Production, says in the June 30 episode of Seed Speaks.

Total Seed Production is a wholesale and contract corn and soybean seed production company based near Tipton, Ind. They employee 70 people with as many as 60 seasonal workers hired during the busy summer/fall seed production season. Total Seed Production tries to hire local, but struggles to attract employees against other industries in the area.

“For the last three or four years, it has seemingly been harder and harder to find labor, especially seasonal labor, as we approach harvest which is usually our busiest time of year. The pandemic obviously did not help with that,” Ogle explains.

With the pandemic uncertainty as this growing season approached, Ogle said they tried to prepare in advance by bringing in more H-2A workers (temporary foreign agriculture workers) than usual this year.

Foreign workers aren’t the only way Total Seed Production has branched out in their worker search. They have also started to hire more people who didn’t grow up on farms or have an agricultural background.

“We start to see how we can bring in individuals that don’t have a farming background and teach them something about our operation or teach them how to be seedsmen and seedswomen,” Ogle says. “That has opened up more opportunities for us, pulling from surrounding states and pulling from different industries here around where we’re located.”

A lot of the training employees receive is hands-on. Ogle says they make sure all seasonal employees have someone close by who can monitor them and answer any questions they may have.

There’s also the option for future permanent employment at Total Seed Production. Seasonal employees who stand out can be hired permanently, Ogle says.

“Whereas we’re having those interviews and bringing people in, that’s one thing that we point out is that there is a very good opportunity here if you come in as a seasonal worker,” he explains.