Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

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Hiring strategically

April 26, 2016  By Cathy Bartolic

Where do you go when you need to hire some additional staff? Who do you call when you need an extra pair of hands?

Many on-farm marketers tend to hire students. In the past few years, there have been lots of students looking for jobs in the summer so it is an easy fit with farm businesses that focus on a summer/fall product. There are great examples of summer students that have decided to come back or stay on with farm businesses once their education is complete. You can’t beat the energy and enthusiasm the right student can bring to your operation.

The downfall of having all or mainly student employees is that in September, when students go back to school, your market is suddenly without staff. This year, consider hiring strategically. Look at some other options that may work out better in the long term.


Retired boomers are looking for something to do. The front end of the boomer generation are now past 65 and the majority are retired from their regular 9 to 5 jobs. This group is generally in good health but some are lost without the regularity and schedules of their job lives. They may not want to work every day, Monday to Friday, but you could probably get them to commit to a few days each week and, hopefully, at least one weekend day. They aren’t necessarily looking for a lot of money so don’t be too worried that you can’t pay them what they have been used to earning. Butchart Gardens in Victoria, has retired lawyers, pilots and dentists working on its grounds. Generally, the business has more applicants than positions available.

Another group of people to consider are young moms. There may be some in your area who want to be around when their children need them. Daycare can still be an issue in rural Ontario so it is difficult to hold down a full-time job if there is no one to look after the kids after school. These women sometimes want something to do for a few hours a day but not necessarily a full-time job. You can bring them in for peak periods of business. They are often grateful to find a job close to their homes and their children’s school.

The artist community has a flexible work schedule. If your market is only open for a couple of months, you may want to consider approaching an artist. They are often looking for some additional income and perhaps, if they know in advance that you can hire them for two to three months consistently, they can put their artwork on hold for those few months each year. Having returning employees on an annual basis is always easier than starting from zero with each new employee.

If you have a great employee who is looking for additional hours, consider recommending them to another on-farm business that is open at a different time of year. There is a sweet corn operation that shares their staff with a Christmas tree business in the same neighbourhood. This is a win-win-win for staff and employers.

Post your job opportunities online. If you are not sure how to do that find someone to help you. You can also recruit from your customers. Customers already know about your business and want to see you succeed. It is a great beginning for a new hire.

Once you’ve had a chance to review these categories, consider what each groups’ preferences may be. Students are mostly available in the summer. Young moms may want to have the summer with their children but can help in September when their children and your student employees are back in school. Boomers may be available a few days a week for all the weeks you are open. A little bit of planning could go a long way to make sure your business is well staffed through the whole season.

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