Peer-to-Peer Labor Management Training for Diversified Organic Vegetable Producers

Project Overview

GNC20-303
Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2020: $14,873.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipients: University of Wisconsin-Madison; University of Wisconsin-Madison
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Michael Bell
Dept. of Community and Environmental Sociology, U. of Wisconsin-Madison

Commodities

No commodities identified

Practices

No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

     This project, entitled Peer-to-Peer Labor Management Training Program for Diversified Organic Vegetable Producers, will address farmers’ complex labor management needs. As hired labor has become an integral part of the organic vegetable industry, diversified organic vegetable producers increasingly draw connections between their ability to attract and retain qualified employees and the long-term sustainability of their farms. However, many feel they lack the labor management and human resources skills necessary to become excellent employers and have expressed their interest in and need for this training.

     This project will increase diversified organic vegetable producers’ understanding and use of labor management principles, practices, and tools. As more prepared and confident employee managers, farmers will be better positioned to not only attract and retain skilled workers, but also strengthen their financial viability and improve their quality of life. Farm employees also stand to benefit as farmers establish systems and policies that promote and maintain a professionalized labor experience and a healthy workplace culture.

     In order to achieve these outcomes, the project team will collaborate with a five-member Farmer Core Team (FCT) to develop a peer-to-peer labor management training program. This Becoming the Employer of Choice (BTEC) framework will provide foundational knowledge, highlight pre-existing labor management resources, and incorporate farm-level tools and practices that FCT members will first vet on their own farms. A series of remote and in-person meetings with facilitate this work, with project partners and FCT members co-delivering the first BTEC training in early 2022. The establishment of a lasting community of practice will reinforce these efforts, providing longer-term support to farmers interested in strengthening their labor management practices.  

     Evaluation efforts will include surveys and individual check-ins with FCT members in order to measure how their knowledge, awareness, attitudes, and practices change over the course of this project. Pre- and post-surveys will capture similar changes among farmers who participate in the BTEC training. I will also survey conference presentation attendees in order to gauge if and how they might interact with this project’s outputs.

     Farmers have identified labor management training as something they are not only interested in, but something they view as a necessity. This project will work with farmers and other stakeholders to create a peer-to-peer education and training program that reflects and meets these needs, as well as a lasting community of practice to support farmers over the longer term.

Project objectives from proposal:

     Learning outcomes: Diversified organic vegetable producers who serve on the Farmer Core Team (FCT) or attend the Becoming the Employer of Choice (BTEC) training session will increase their awareness and understanding of labor management principles, best practices, and related tools. In turn, this foundational knowledge will assist them in strengthening their labor management skills and bolstering the sense of confidence and preparedness they bring to their roles as employee managers. Meanwhile, I expect my own awareness to deepen, especially in relation to understanding farmers’ complex labor management needs and the value of addressing this through a peer-to-peer approach.  

     Action outcomes: Farmers who serve on the FCT and who participate in the BTEC program will increase their application of labor management practices and tools on their farms. Producers will be empowered to take an intentional and strategic—and perhaps creative—approach to this work. I anticipate that these farmers will apply between 1 to 5 new practices or tools on their farms. Producers will also participate in the broader community of practice this project aims to establish, which will reinforce both learning and action outcomes. By implementing new skills and practices and with support from the community of practice, farmers will be in a better position to achieve longer-term outcomes, like a more stable and qualified workforce, stronger financial viability, and a higher quality of life. Meanwhile, farm employees will benefit through the establishment of systems and policies that promote and maintain a professionalized labor experience and a healthy workplace culture.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.