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Becoming the Employer of Choice

Most farmers could talk for days about soil pH, tractor implements, and seed varieties. When it comes to producing vegetables and stewarding the land, their technical expertise is dialed in. But when the conversation turns to supporting a crew of humans, farmers often feel like they could use some support. This was the feedback we heard loud and clear back in 2019, when we first wrote a grant to fund our work on the Becoming the Employer of Choice program - or BTEC for short.

BTEC is a training program focused on helping farm producers become more skilled and confident in their role as farm employers. Fortunately, an employee management training blueprint already existed! The University of Wisconsin-Extension created the original BTEC program in order to serve the state’s dairy farmers. Through close partnership with 8 farm owners - and a lot of working meetings! - FairShare and Extension staff began to modify the program, ultimately creating a 9-session version of BTEC that meets the unique needs of diversified vegetable growers.

What do we think is special about the BTEC program? For starters, each session is co-delivered by a farmer trainer and a FairShare staff member. This keeps peer-to-peer learning and discussion front and center - something we know farmers value. And while grounded in research, BTEC content is very practical, which helps farmers put what they learn into practice. And hey - we’ve got some data to back that up! Farmers participating in last year’s training put an average of 4.6 new employee management practices into place - from formal employee check-ins and policies around time off and benefits, to professional development stipends and so much more!


Our second annual delivery is now underway, and so far, we’ve talked with farmers about emotional intelligence, different leadership styles, and what goes into supporting a motivated workforce. With seven sessions remaining, there’s a lot of great discussion ahead. And each time we gather, farmers from nearly 15 states (and Canada!) are bringing their experiences, their perspectives, and their questions for one another.


When we began this work, our goal was to provide the tools that would in turn help farm owners become more comfortable in their role as employers. And while that’s still our goal, our efforts around creating a positive and rewarding work experience for both farm owners and farm employees have led us down a few more paths. Tune in to future blog posts to learn more about some of the additional work we’re doing in this space!

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