Published Dec 18, 2014

Labor4Learning Program Continues to Connect Experienced Farmers with Eager Employees

By Steve Carlson

After two successful years under its belt, Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Labor4Learning program is gaining momentum and continues to connect established Iowa farms with enthusiastic employees from PFI’s beginning farmer network.

The Labor4Learning program is intended to be mutually beneficial for both parties: experienced farmers find good quality workers, help train the next generation of Iowa farmers, and earn up to $1,000 from PFI for participating; beginning farmers find employment on a reputable farm, gain additional training beyond their wage-earning activities, and get a few perks for attending PFI events.

Rick Hartman

Rick leads a tour of his farm during a field day focused on restoring farmland for native pollinators.

Rick Hartmann of Small Potatoes Farm in Dallas County, Iowa, describes the benefits from his experience hiring an employee through the program:

“The Labor4Learning Program essentially narrowed our employee candidate list from everyone down to a small group of people who understand the importance of local food systems and had a broader understanding of our work. It worked very well for us. We hired a new farmer who was eager to learn and also had context for the seemingly endless hard work a small vegetable farm requires.”

Click here to read about Tom and Mary Cory’s experience with hiring an employee through the program for their farm near Elkhart, Iowa. Labor4Learning allowed their growing livestock business a great opportunity to hire their first long-term employee. Mary told us, “Everything about working with Practical Farmers and Rory was definitely a positive experience.”

PFI is still recruiting experienced Iowa farmers to participate as trainers in the 2015 season. Applications will be accepted through the end of December. Farms from across the state and from all enterprises are encouraged to apply.

How the program works:

  1. Interested trainers download an application, fill it out and submit to by December 31
  2. A committee of PFI members review the applications and select qualified applicants to be 2015 trainer farms
  3. Trainer farms are listed at, including the employment information set by the trainer (ex: job title, employment dates, desired hours, wage, work activities, etc.)
  4. Beginning PFI farmers apply to the trainer farm of their choice
  5. Trainer farms make their own hiring decisions
  6. Trainee, trainer, and PFI agree on a set of desired ‘learning outcomes’
  7. Trainer and trainee begin employment, with an average of 1-2 hours a week of formal or informal training on ‘learning outcomes’
  8. PFI pays trainer $200 per month, up to $1,000 per year for training time

If you or someone you know is an experienced farmer planning to hire some help this year, consider hiring a beginning farmer through Labor4Learning. For those interested in participating in the program as a trainee, please look for the list of trainer farms to be posted to our website in January.

Deadline for trainer applications is December 31.

Get more information at For any questions about Labor4Learning, contact Steve Carlson at (515) 232-5661 or