OEFFA's Next Farm Team: Stories From The Field

Welcome to OEFFA's Begin Farming Program blog! Check back often for more beginning farmer profiles, stories from our farmers and about farmland access opportunities, and information about upcoming programs and events.

OEFFA's Begin Farming Program provides aspiring and early career farmers the support they need to understand what it takes to get into farming and grow their businesses, with the goal of increasing the number of successful sustainable and organic farmers in Ohio.

If you are interested in participating in these programs, or if you'd like to contribute to this blog, please contact Kelly Henderson, Begin Farming Program Coordinator.

The Truth About Hiring and Teamwork

by Kristine Ranger

Photo: Begin Farming apprentices visiting Sweet Grass Dairy

Are you struggling with the current “job seekers” market?

Thinking more strategically about your human assets, especially in terms of how they perform on a team, can be a competitive advantage. Not having a deliberate approach to recruiting, hiring, and onboarding for improved team performance can be costly to your farm or business, but understanding the human resource (HR) system and narrowing your hiring criteria can lead to better hires and higher profitability.

The key is to design practices and processes that will positively impact team results, turnover, and profitability.

Remember, it’s not just the money

Salary is a satisfier, not a motivator. Work performance will improve when people receive constant feedback on progress towards goals and when you celebrate achievement.

Managing HR must be somebody’s job

Employees don’t leave jobs, they leave people—specifically their boss or supervisor. Approximately 75 percent of employees say their boss is the worst or most stressful part of their job, especially if the manager doesn’t have time in the day to think about strategic people management. Considering that the charter of HR is to “optimize the ability of a business to perform and complete,” you may want to utilize an HR coach or someone who can help you have meaningful conversations, listen, and ask the right questions around human assets.   

Increase engagement

Increasing engagement means eliminating the root causes of job misery:  anonymity, immeasurement, and irrelevance.  To accomplish that, ensure that the following conditions are present in your workplace:

  • Everyone knows and understands everyone else on the team.
  • Everyone understands their contribution to the farm and the overall success of the business.
  • Everyone has an opportunity to measure or monitor their progress.

Photo: Ed Snavely talking grain production with Begin Farming apprentices

Be clear about your culture

Businesses hire the wrong people because they are unclear about the kinds of people needed to fit their culture.  If you can’t communicate your culture, you also may not be able to identify a good fit for a job. If an employee isn’t a good fit with your culture, he or she quickly becomes disengaged and eventually leaves, often taking a good employee with them.

Find and keep ideal team players

Patrick Lencioni, author of The Ideal Team Player, has defined three individual virtues that are needed to overcome dysfunctional teams. If teamwork is critical to your success, your highest priority should be on identifying and hiring those who can demonstrate the three attributes of effective teamwork: humble, hungry, and smart.


Ideal team players are humble. They lack excessive ego or concerns about status and they are quick to point out the contributions of others. They share credit, emphasize team over self, and define success collectively rather than individually. Asking an applicant to identify a time when they showed humility can be a strong indicator of teamwork.


Ideal team players are hungry. They are always looking for more things to do, more to learn, and more responsibility to take on. Hungry people almost never need to be pushed to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They are constantly thinking about the next step and the next opportunity. Identify this trait by asking an applicant for a time or situation that required them to go above and beyond expectations or work requirements.    


Ideal team players are smart. They have common sense about people. Smart people tend to know what is happening in a group situation and how to deal with others in the most effective way. They have good judgment and intuition around the impact of their words and actions.  Asking your applicant to analyze a scenario where the desired outcome requires them to accurately read people, display empathy, and carefully consider the outcome of their words or actions could help you identify this desirable trait.  


Photo: Three Creeks Produce

In summary, high performing team members trust each other. They avoid wasting time talking about the wrong issues and revisiting the same topics repeatedly because of lack of buy-in. They also make better quality decisions and accomplish more in less time and with less distraction and frustration. And they hold each other accountable to decisions. Desirable employees rarely leave when they feel like an insider and part of a cohesive team.

Hiring the wrong employees is toxic to teams and bad for business.  The key is finding the right ones to hire and weeding out the others through your HR practices.

Kristine Ranger is an agri-food systems consultant, lifelong educator, and advocate for agriculture.  She has degrees in Animal Husbandry and Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension from Michigan State University and a Masters in Adult Education from South Dakota State University. She has delivered lessons in classrooms, board rooms, arenas, and barns for more than 27 years. She coaches herdsmen in human resources management and teambuilding, and consults with farm owners to increase their leadership and organizational effectiveness.  She is an Authorized Partner for Wiley Workplace Solutions and an Accredited Facilitator for Everything DiSC and The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. For more information on HR systems, building cohesive teams, or finding ideal team players, contact Kristine at (517) 974-5697 or kristine@knowledgenavigators.com.



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