Farm Labor Resources:
Finding, training, and retaining agricultural labor is a challenge and is often the biggest investment a farm makes in its success. This resource page offers connections to resources to learn more about farm labor requirements and management strategies.
New Entry and collaborators in agriculture, academia, and extension recognize the challenges producers face in managing a farm operation and hiring and managing labor. We came together as a region to explore key questions such as: How can small farmers attract and retain good workers, minimize their administrative burdens,and create new opportunities while doing so? What if a company could help small farmers across an entire region of the country meet their staffing needs, while at the same time covering administrative tasks from payroll to handling workers' compensation claims? What if this company could also guarantee farm workers year-round stability, either by connecting them with off-season jobs or providing them access to unemployment insurance? Further, what if this company gave both farm workers and farm owners the opportunity to take on leadership roles, or even invest and earn dividends? What if it helped farm owners capture social values that made them more enticing to workers and consumers alike?
Our collaborators gathered feedback on these questions and potential solutions from both farm owners and farm workers through a series of focus groups held in NY, MA, VT, NH and CT as part of a 2019-2022 project supported by a USDA Northeast SARE Novel Approaches grant (LNE19-386R). A detailed report outlines the feasibility of collaborative solutions to labor challenges and proposes a path forward. As part of this project, we also learned that producers struggle to understand their legal obligations as employers and that nativating farm employment law can be confusing.
Collaborative Solutions to Farm Labor Challenges: What is Feasible?
As part of this SARE Novel Approaches project, Farm Commons also developed a series of Northeast fact sheets to clarify state employment laws.
State Employment Law Guides (Northeast):
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Other Farm Management Resources:
- Link to the SARE Novel Approaches Farm Labor Project Page (access to reports and study documents)
- Link to the SARE Novel Approaches and Farm Labor Workshop Recording held on 3/29/22 (link to the Jamboard notes)
- US Department of Labor - Agriculture Compliance Assistance Toolkit | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov)
- Farm Commons (national in scope) - resources to navigate information about workers and employees
- NY - Cornell Small Farms Program
- Farm Employee Training Resources and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) - these link to resource repositories complied by Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators and have been identified as most utilized.
- Farming Guides – New York (Covers much more than labor, but the labor sections have been compiled and reviewed by Farm Commons).
- MA - New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, CISA, and CLF Legal Food Hub resources
- New Entry's webpage on Farm Labor Resources
- Ag Apprenticeship Learning Network: videos on farm workforce management and culture
- CLF Legal Food Hub: farm employment resource library
- CISA Resource: Ag labor law for MA farms
- CT - UCONN Extension New Farmer Program
- Farm Labor Issues and Regulations Resource page
- VT - UVM Farm Labor Dashboard
- Are you ready to hire? Self Assessment - will help you identify your strengths as a farm employer and suggest resources that will help you address your weak links.
- Employee Cost Calculator - will help you calculate the total cost of wages, payroll and unemployment taxes, workers comp, and any additional employee benefits you might offer. You can also use it to compare different scenarios.
- Job Description Generator - will help you produce professional job descriptions that can help farm managers more effectively recruit and manage employees.
- Personnel Policy Generator - will guide you through the process of a manual for your farm, providing example language that you can adopt or easily modify to reflect your farm situation. A personnel policy manual is a key tool for establishing consistency, communicating expectations, and it can protect you from appearing arbitrary in your treatment of employees.
- Resources, Tools, Workshops
- UNH Cooperative Extension and UVM Extension New Farmer Project
- Farm Labor Video Series - a collection of six, short (5-min) videos on key aspects of managing employees on farms
- Hiring an employee in NH - a tax and paperwork checklist
Other Farm Labor Webinars:
Conservation Law Foundation Farming Employment Law Guidance:
Click here to for the Employment Law Guidance for Massachusetts Farmers booklet.
Agriculture Employment Law and your farm Webinar, March 2018
US Dept. of Labor Cultivating Compliance:
Click here to for the full pamphlet, or watch the video summary!