Published Dec 20, 2018

Hiring a Farm Employee? Join Labor4Learning

By Steve Carlson

Help train the next generation

Practical Farmers of Iowa is seeking experienced farmers who plan to hire an employee in 2019 to participate in our Labor4Learning program. The program is intended to be beneficial for both parties: aspiring farmers get a paid, on-farm job and additional training on how to run a farm business, and the experienced farmer gains an eager-to-learn employee.

Berry Patch Farm Labor4Learning

Dean and Judy Henry with their Labor4Learning trainee, Teresa Pelzer.

Dean and Judy Henry of the Berry Patch Farm in Nevada participated in the program during the summer of 2018. “We believe it is important that aspiring farmers have a hands-on experience, in addition to study and formal schooling,” Dean says. “This affords a realistic, three-dimensional experience to help plan for their future in horticulture.”

Trainer farms in the Labor4Learning program are expected to hire an employee as they normally would, and follow all wage reporting and legal responsibilities as a farm employer. Trainers set their job responsibilities and pay rate on their own. Both Practical Farmers of Iowa and the trainer advertise the job opening, and if an employee is hired for the program, all 3 parties develop a list of learning outcomes on issues a typical employee may not otherwise gain experience with. Training can often take place in the field and on the go, but sometimes requires time to set aside and talk about business management. Practical Farmers pays the trainer farms up to $1,000 per year for the additional time spent training their employee, which is expected to be about 1 to 2 hours each week.

Mike Salama, of Salama Greenhouse and Floral in Boone has participated as a trainer in the program for many years. “Labor for Learning works really well for us, due to the fact that the applicants have a deep interests in what they are doing,” Mike says. “They are not just looking for a job, they want to know why certain tasks are done a certain way and take more pride and care in their work.”

Farmers of all enterprises and from all corners of the state are encouraged to participate.

Want to get involved?

Each year the Labor4Learning trainer farms are approved by a committee of Practical Farmers of Iowa members.  Farmers interested in becoming a trainer farm can fill out an application for the committee to review. The committee looks for the trainer farms to demonstrate:

  • They have sufficient experience managing a farm on their own.
  • They have past experience managing employees, or as a mentor, trainer, or teacher.
  • They have participated in PFI’s programming, and are committed to the Practical Farmers’ mission of knowledge sharing.
  • The quality of their job opening, including reasonable pay rate, hours and duties assigned.

Labor4Learning trainer farms must be current members of Practical Farmers of Iowa, and they must farm in the state of Iowa. For questions about the program, or to receive an application, contact Steve Carlson: