Massachusetts Employee Manual Template: A Tool for Improving Employee Management on Farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2018: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2020
Grant Recipient: Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, Inc. (CISA)
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Margaret Christie
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: labor/employment
  • Sustainable Communities: quality of life

    Proposal abstract:

    Labor ranks high on the list of challenges identified by farmers. On many farms, profit margins are low and labor is the single biggest variable expense. Managers struggle to retain skilled workers in jobs that are physically demanding, low-paying, and often seasonal. Workers can be disadvantaged by language, cultural barriers, or immigration status, and often do not feel comfortable openly expressing their needs. Farmers must overcome a range of language and communication barriers to create a positive workplace environment.

    Farm managers and workers alike can benefit from improved communication. Managers are better able to set clear expectations, effectively train employees, and benefit from employee input. Workers are more likely to feel that their needs are respected and to be invested in their work. An employee manual that is legally-sound and consistently followed can provide a solid foundation for good employee-employer communication, supporting consistent communication and clarifying managers’ and workers’ responsibilities to one another. With the right tools and support, the process of developing an employee manual can also help farmers increase their understanding of labor regulations and define and improve their employee management practices.

    This project will provide Massachusetts farmers and service providers with a state-specific, legally-sound, and farm-relevant employee manual template that will set standards for good employee management practices and can be tailored to the needs of individual farms. The template will be developed in partnership with employment lawyers and farmers to ensure its legal accuracy and usability.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our project’s objective is to provide Massachusetts farmers and service providers with a legally-sound and farm- relevant employee manual template that can be tailored to the needs of individual farms. The manual template will also set standards for employment management practices that support good working conditions and clear workplace communication.

    An employee manual can improve working conditions, enhance clarity about responsibilities, and address historic inequities. For example, having a manual in writing gives an employee something to point to if the farm is not meeting its obligations, and a template gives farms an idea of what is reasonable and what standard they should be meeting.

    Specifically, we will:

    Objective 1:  Draft an employee manual template with legal guidance and farm applicability.

    Objective 2: Test and revise the template by tailoring it to two farms. Revise the template, if needed, with input from test farms and our legal advisor.

    Objective 3: Disseminate the template widely to MA service providers including lawyers in the CLF Food Hub network.

    As a result of this project, farmers will be able to more efficiently and affordably adopt an employee manual for their own farm and will have added support in developing good employee management practices.

    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.