John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Human Resources Plan

A Human Resources Plan may seem unnecessary for a startup farm, but this is not always true. Even on a small farm tasks necessary for its operation are divided up, and each person involved brings different skills to the table. Planning ahead can help to avoid duplicate efforts and miscommunication.

  • Organizational Chart - A diagram of the personnel structure of the farm
  • Employee Plan - Number of employees, hiring procedures, qualifications, etc.
  • Compensation and Benefits - Method of pay, amount of pay, benefits and incentives
  • Labor and Training Goals - Training for owners and employees, levels of skill, training assistance and programs.
  • Owner/Manager’s Skills and Background - Experience and skills of the farm’s manager and track record. Specific training in the managing of a business.
  • Job Descriptions - Descriptions of job duties
  • Roles/Responsibilities/Authority of Management and Employees - Lines of authority and discharge of duties.
  • Employee Goals - Goals of the employees within the business

It is a good idea to begin by answering the following questions:

  • What must be done?
  • What can be done?
  • What should be done?

The answer to what must be done will include issues defined by the needs of livestock or crops, legal requirements, bookkeeping and accounting, marketing and more.

The answer to what can be done relates to options. There are times when it seems that the "have to's" are in the driver's seat, but it is important to keep options open in order to allow the business to live and to grow.

The answer to what should be done lies in the values of the business and its owners. Do not let your values be eroded by inadequate planning.

Organizational Chart

This is nothing more than a diagram of the personnel structure of the farm, and the areas of responsibility for each person. Even a small, family owned farm will have some type of structure that can be reflected in an organizational chart. You can often find it on the refrigerator door in the form of a list of chores. As the farm grows the organizational chart will become more important and more complex.

Employee Plan

Based on the above three questions, one will need to determine the necessary number of employees, and how they will be acquired. While much of managing a farm can be done by the owners, it is not uncommon to have to hire from outside to accomplish specific tasks such as accounting, shearing, or machine work (haying, tilling, etc.)

It is important to plan ahead for acquiring these employees (although they will often be hired as contractors). Determine ahead of time what qualifications are desired, what kinds of questions will be asked prior to hiring them, etc.

Compensation and Benefits

Even in the case of a child tasked with clearing manure out of the fields, compensation is an important consideration. Even more so, it is important to plan for employee expenses for other work. For example, shearing can be an expensive job to hire out. Planning ahead for this will help to avoid unpleasant surprises.

It is possible to get creative in the area of compensation. There is one well known breeder who gives away the choice of fleece to a handspinner that in return skirts and sorts all of her fleeces. Another compensates a local 4H group with a free male each year in return for pasture clean-up and other chores.

Labor and Training Goals

What do you need to learn to efficiently manage your farm? How and where will you learn these things? What expenses will you take on to accomplish this?

How will you train your employees? Even the teenager mucking stalls may need to know more that how to operate the idiot end of a shovel. Safety issues and awareness of basic animal husbandry are examples.

Owner/Manager's Skills and Background

Outline what experience and skills the farm's manager possesses. Include any specific training that they may have received in managing a business.

Job Descriptions

Even in a small operation it is necessary for each position to have a clear description of its duties. For example, there was a time when both my wife and I responded to inquiries. This sometimes resulted in contradictory messages being sent to prospective customers.

Divide up the duties, and be clear who is responsible for what.

Roles, Responsibilities and Authority of Management and Employees

Be clear about who is responsible for what and just how far their authority stretches. Can the farm hand in the field deal with inquires from the public, or should they refer the person to someone else?

If there is a lack of clarity about who does what, or who is responsible for certain types of decision making, there will be problems.

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