What a busy week at the farm. It got even busier when Farmer Paul threw out his back and was laid up for four days (and still counting). Thank you to all who emailed and sent get-well wishes to the immobile Farmer Paul, nothing could have raised his spirits better than your greetings.
What the week really pointed out were two things:
- The amazing crew that makes JenEhr happen. When Farmer Paul went down, the crew picked up the pieces. They worked extra hours, more thoroughly coordinated the work and made it easier for us to fill CSA shares, have full farmers’ market stands and make sure that wholesale orders were ready to go out the door on time. It was insightful to watch Farmer Paul go from a physically active, hands on farm manager to someone who had to manage through written communication, cell phone and finally 10 minutes every hour in the packshed.
- When a key member of the farm is unable to carry on as usual, it points out all the weaknesses in our systems. When not in pain, Paul saw how jobs that could have been delegated earlier in the season came to haunt him. How too many critical jobs are dependent on only one person can be a weakness for the whole farm.
The farm runs tight, and this fall labor has been tighter than usual, making Farmer Paul’s absence more of a loss than it might have been if we had enough staff. Finding staff to work the farm is extremely difficult. It is hard work that is seasonal in nature, requiring people who can work long hours in varying weather conditions. Hourly wage is not the issue - JenEhr is dedicated to paying a living wage along with food and meal benefits.
In a typical search for help, we’ll use several vehicles to advertize the jobs, from word of mouth to Craigslist. For a typical craigslist ad, we’ll receive 20 to 30 inquiries/applications within the first 48 hours. Sorting through, we find 50% are qualified for the job. When we contact those 50% to come out for an interview, 75% either don’t reply or decline the interview. Of the five who set up an appointment for an interview, one (1) might actually show up on the day and time scheduled, about half the time, no one will show up or we’ll receive a last minute text message that they won’t make it.
As we conclude this season (three more weeks including this share), we start to put the wheels in motion for next year. One thing added to the list is strengthening systems that allow for the loss of a key person (could be Paul or any of our crew members). And starting the search for additional qualified staff for year.
Farmer Paul reminds me that JenEhr is about change, it’s the only constant we face and if we’re lucky, our problems and obstacles continue to be higher level problems. In the meantime, I’m consoling myself with roasted Brussel sprouts and leek potato soup. J