Human Resources
Last month Statistics Canada released the results of the 2016 Census of Agriculture. Like many of you, I was eager to read up on the results and discover how our industry has changed in the five years since the last survey was conducted.

Some findings, such as the edging up of the average age of farm operators from 54 in 2011 to 55 in 2016, aren't all that surprising. After all, aging is a fact of life. Other findings, however, gave me pause. For example, Statistics Canada found that even though the average age of farmers has increased, only one in 12 operations have a formal succession plan outlining how the farm will be transferred to the next generation.

In other words, the vast majority of Canada's farm operators have not taken steps to safeguard the businesses they've worked long and hard to build.

Experts in the field agree there are many reasons farmers shy away from succession planning, including fear: fear of change, of creating conflict within the family, of losing one's identity as a farmer, and of confronting the fact that not even the healthiest among us live forever. Then there's the time required to craft a plan and implement it when there are still animals to feed, seeds to plant and suppliers and customers to work with, plus all the other tasks that contribute to a farm's long-term success. Perhaps one of the most significant barriers, though, is the daunting scope of work the term "succession planning" entails.

Though we can't do that work for you, the editorial teams behind Agrobiomass, Canadian Poultry, Fruit & Vegetable, Manure Manager, Potatoes in Canada and Top Crop Manager have partnered to help ease the way with our first annual Succession Planning Week.

From June 12 to 16, we'll be delivering a daily e-newsletter straight to your inbox, packed with information and resources to help you with succession planning in your operation. Each e-newsletter will offer practical advice and suggestions you can use, whether you're an experienced farm owner wondering if your succession plan needs some tweaking or an aspiring successor wondering how to start the succession conversation.

But that's not the only conversation we want to kick-start. Share your succession planning tips and success stories on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #AgSuccessionWeek. The best of the best will be published on our website (FamilyFarmSuccession.ca) and included in Friday's e-newsletter.

We hope Succession Planning Week offers valuable information to help you keep your operation growing, now and for generations to come.

Published in Business/Policy

August 10, 2016 - Successful businesses depend on good employees. And finding good employees can be a tough task for farmers looking to maintain or expand their businesses. That was the message that Bernie Erven, Ohio State University professor emeritus, shared during the Growing Michigan Agriculture Conference Jan. 24 at the Lansing Center.

“Employee relations is one key to the growth of Michigan agriculture,” says Dale Rozeboom, Michigan State University Extension specialist and one of the conference organizers. “We invited Dr. Erven because we know that farmers often struggle when trying to hire and keep the best possible talent.”

Erven kicked off the conference by challenging attendees to think of a business that was thriving while its people were failing. He wasn’t surprised when none of the 75 people in attendance could come up with an example.

“No one single thing is more important than the people you hire,” he says, adding that far too many farmers try to keep everything in the family, even when it’s not in their best interest. “In agriculture, the hardest thing many people have to do is decide which family members to invite into the business.”

He suggested that business leaders develop a job description before making assumptions about family members’ fit in the organization.

“Before you even think about whom to hire, do a job analysis. Outline the job qualifications and put together a job description,” he says. “Too often the rule is ‘Anybody who needs a job in this family gets hired.’ But businesses that succeed hire only if they have a need in the business and the person fits.”

Next, he says, it’s important to build a pool of applicants. That means taking a long, hard look at how you spread the word about open positions.

“Talk to existing employees and find out why they like working for you,” he said. “If you want to hire seniors, for example, find out what they want and focus on that in your communication.”

As a final step, Erven says that interviewing is key to hiring success, even when hiring family members.

“Who else gets a job without an interview?” he asked the crowd. “An interview with family members can uncover a lot of information, both good and bad.”

And with outside candidates, he said that being a good interviewer is critical.

“There is no worse place to lose outstanding applicants than in a poor interview,” he pointed out. “It’s up to you to come across as a person they want to work for.”

Erven was one of six professionals chosen by Michigan State University Extension to discuss important concepts necessary to keep Michigan agriculture on a growth curve. You can see his suggestions for being a great interviewer, as well as other presentations by experts from across the country, on the Michigan State University Extension website, www.msue.msu.edu. Click on “Agriculture” and look for “Growing Michigan Agriculture Proceedings” in the Resource channel in the lower right section of the site.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

Published in Companies

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