Since Shaggy’s passing the guys have been shopping for farm help or farm workers to fill in the gaps. It is not so much that they are getting burned out from the “new normal” but of what is coming in the very near future. Even though there is plenty of snow, we all know that once it is gone for the season, field work will soon be looming on our horizon. That means that there will be one tractor with a person missing to drive it to plow and plant. Last year there was one tractor too with a person missing to drive it. Fortunately, we were able to find some volunteers or casual help to fill that seat. It was not easy though to find that casual help for just one tractor. This year with Shaggy gone that means there will be two tractors missing a person each to drive them.
We placed ads in local community shopper guides, talked to people who may know other people looking for work and posted ads online. The only response we got so far were from people eager to work but with very questionable backgrounds. Perhaps it is wrong to discriminate against people with criminal records when considering them for employment, but right now with all of the losses and challenges we have encountered since the fall of 2013 and a harsh winter due to a polar vortex, we just cannot risk any more than we have to. Farming is risky enough without knowingly adding risk.
That is how we all felt after an interview we had with a candidate recently. He was young and eager and not afraid of hard work. He wanted to work on a farm, but he had a buddy he wanted to drag into the deal who had some criminal records that made us afraid. As it is, we can only afford to hire one person right now. Were we to choose the young man without the record and provide him housing as a benefit, we could possibly encounter another problem. His buddy could come to visit and do some things in retaliation for not hiring him. Some of those things to retaliate could include activities that took place in that buddy’s past that got him into trouble in the first place.
I do know that some people do when given a second chance turn their lives around, but right now with what this farm has gone through in recent months it is too risky to give a second chance that could make matters worse. Perhaps we are not in a position to be so picky, but we are dealing with a lot of lives here. Not just our lives, but the animals that we are dependent on for our livelihood.
Then on the other side of the coin, we find people who want to work and promise you the sun and more if you would hire them. Months after the so-called honeymoon period, you find that those people are not who they said they are. It’s almost like being catfished. You get to know them, and they appear to be the person you have been looking for. Then, after time has passed so that you trust them, all of a sudden you find you invested time and money into someone who really doesn’t have what it takes.
We learned a lot about that situation recently too. We found a candidate who had “experience” working at distinguished farms and businesses working in various roles that would have been applicable to our business. He appeared to be “the one” until we began talking to employers we knew that the candidate listed. We found out that the reason why this person had so much “experience” and worked at so many places was because he would work out great at the start but then slacked off. We discovered too that the amount of time he was employed at certain places was not accurate either. It turns out the months listed after each job entry were more like days.
Having said all of this, we are back to where we started. We knew at the start dependable farm labor is hard to find. And, we are not the only ones to have this kind of experience. We hear this from other farmers too. Like us, they don’t have applicants lining up wanting the work offered either. It is hard work with long hours, and a lot of people don’t want that. Even people who are unemployed. We found that out when we offered a job to someone we knew who could use the work.
Meanwhile, we will be grateful for the dependable farm labor we do have and just pray and hope someone dependable turns up sooner or later while we continue our search.