Tools for Training and Keeping Good Employees Increasingly Important in Agribusiness

A few months ago, Matt Reese of Ohio’s Country Journal reached out to Harvest Land asking if we have any tools for training and keeping good employees, as this topic has been increasingly important in agribusiness. We decided to share the details and success of our ACE program with Matt and Ohio’s Country Journal. This week, we share with you the full article Matt wrote:

_________________________________________________________________

Tools for training and keeping good employees increasingly important in agribusiness

By Matt Reese

It is not an uncommon story. A young employee starts at the lowest levels of a company, works in every facet of the business and one day ends up running it.

“Our CEO is in his early 40s. He hired on at a local ag center as an applicator, which is a technical job driving big machines. He was willing to do anything. He would tie feed sacks at the mill, sweep shop floors, check out customers at the counter — that man now is our CEO,” said Lindsay Sankey, communications manager for Harvest Land Cooperative with locations in western Ohio and Indiana. “He has worked in every department of our business. He is a prime example that if you are willing to learn and take on responsibility, there is so much opportunity in a farmer owned cooperative. We have several examples of this. He started on the lowest rung and now he is leading the cooperative.”

Unfortunately, for a number of different reasons, this type of ground up experience and long-term company loyalty seems to be less common in the modern pool of employees. Harvest Land Cooperative recognizes the value of this type of experience for young potential leaders and has taken extensive steps to recreate it as a way to groom tomorrow’s leaders.

“About 5 years ago we started talking about succession in the cooperative system. Harvest Land has about 300 full time employees and about a third of them will retire in the next decade. We recognized the need to fill our bench, you might say, with people who are qualified to be a valuable leader in our business. As we prepare for future demand of an evolving agricultural climate, we also must provide our emerging front runners with a broad perspective of what our cooperative does,” Sankey said. “That gave us the idea for our Accelerated Career Excellence (ACE) Program. We invite people to apply for this program, right out of college or trade school, maybe someone who is interested in working for Harvest Land, but they might not know exactly where they could fit. This is a great program because it allows them to see all facets of our business in 12 months and determine what areas suit them and how they suit our system the best.”

The paid position through the ACE Program sets the stage for future leaders by teaching them about Harvest Land from the ground up.

“They go on a tour of our co-op. They work in the agronomy department, they work in the energy department that includes fuels, home heat and propane, they have to dive deep into our seed business, and then they go through training on the importance of organization and prioritization skills. They go through a whole session on personality testing and how to understand and work with multiple types of people. They also are required to dive deep into the financial understanding of the cooperative system and specifically Harvest Land’s balance sheet. We give assigned reading to them and we bring in a professor from Purdue on communication skills and how to work with customers, growers and the community. As they go through this they are showing up every day at a local location or our headquarters,” Sankey said. “We started this in 2016 and we have had really good success. We had a young man come out of the casket industry, and he applied for a job at Harvest Land. He had grown up on a small farm in Indiana but had not been a part of that farm in a decade. He is about to take over our grain marketing department in September. He has excelled so much. He showed up. He was willing to learn. He really shined in grain marketing and when our grain marketing manager retires, this young man will take over the department. Every one of our candidates has accepted full time positions. They are doing cool things for the co-op and are proving their leadership abilities. We recognize we are building strength on our bench at Harvest Land.”

 

_DSC0307
Kyle Baumer is one of many success stories through Harvest Land’s ACE Program.

ACE offers a chance for young leaders to discover where they may fit, but it also provides a chance for management to learn about the upcoming talent.

 

“The managers supervise, evaluate and enrich the experience for these individuals so they get a boots on the ground look at Harvest Land. Our managers are always looking for good help and their feedback is extremely valuable and candid. We know when things are going well or when an ACE candidate is not so interested in that area,” Sankey said. “ACE is managed by our HR department and it is a large part of what they do. From the very beginning when they interview someone, this is in the back of their mind. Because this is a 12-month program and it is cyclical, they are constantly having to manage how long someone has been in the department, where they are now, and who they have worked with. It is a lot of work. We have three HR individuals on our team and they do a great job of facilitating the ACE Program.

_DSC0304

“When you recognize the needs of running a business, you know you are going to have to put in some work to attract young talent. Every ounce of effort put into this will pay us back if we can create a good culture and hire these employees that will stick with Harvest Land.”

Good, long-term employees are shaped by their work experiences, but they also respond to a workplace culture including positive core values. Emphasizing and instilling those values with employees is the reason behind the IREP program at A&L Great Lakes Laboratoriesbased in Ft. Wayne, Ind.

“A couple years ago we had a bit of an identity crisis. We needed to distinguish ourselves in the marketplace. So for about 9 months, we worked on identifying what we really stood for as a company,” said Jamie Bultemeier, agronomist and corporate sales director for A&L Great Lakes Laboratories. “We identified our core values are doing the right things with integrity when no one is looking. We want to do things right the first time every time. We want to be easy to work with. When the customers are looking for solutions, we want to solve those problems. And, we want to be partners with our customers. If their business grows, our business grows and we can build loyalty with our customers that way. A group of employees came up with IREP: Integrity, Right, Easy, Partnership as a way to remember them. That has stuck and become a foundation for what we do.”

IREP is focused inward.

OABA2
If employees decide to embrace the principles of IREP at A&L Great Lakes Laboratories they get to add their name to the wall.

 

“Our outward appearance and marketing is based on these four core values too, but this is about getting employees to adopt the same internal branding that we are pushing outward. And when someone calls the office, no matter who they talk to, we want these core values to exude from the conversations. We want a consistent message of what A&L Great Lakes stands for. IREP has been a way to bring this into an easy to understand concept that people can buy into,” he said. “When you can articulate your core values, it opens doors for sales and hiring new talent. It really clarifies our value messages to people. When we make big decisions, does it stand on our core values? If it doesn’t, we don’t do it. It has made the decision making process easier too.”

From the beginning, new employees are introduced to the IREP concept. It is featured on a plaque in the office lobby, but more importantly it is emphasized on a wall in the back of the office for employees to sign if they agree with those principles.

“We are hoping we can build an emotional tie to the company. We rely heavily on seasonal employees and when we can get an employee to return it really helps. When they come back we do not have to retrain them and they understand how things work. We hope to bring those part timers back year after year,” Bultemeier said. “We have always had a small group of seasonals who return, but trying to get them to return has gotten more difficult. Now we are getting to the point where those people are developing a personal tie to the company and become something more than just a seasonal employee. That makes them more likely to come back each year.”

Because it was developed from the inside out, IREP has been very effective.

“IREP has been around for about a year and a half. When we started going through this branding process, the company morale took a little bit of a dive. It created some open conversations that maybe weren’t the most fun to be a part of. We have really since then seen a real change in morale as we have brought some of these things out and company morale has really gone up dramatically. Employees are taking ownership in this. We are also now trying to catch people following the IREP values and highlighting it. We encourage it and celebrate it when it occurs,” Bultemeier said. “It doesn’t matter the size of your business or what it is, that unified belief or value set is important. It is tough if those values are only in your marketing. If it doesn’t resonate through the employees of the company, it is lost. Now we hear from our customers using the words directly out of IREP. That is huge when we see that manifesting itself in our customer base. That is not something you can fake or get in advertising. This is deeper than a marketing program. This started out as a management need. It was a very methodical business oriented decision to do it. When the employees took ownership of this, it took on a life of its own.”

 

This is the third of a series of five stories in cooperation with the Ohio AgriBusiness Association highlighting human resource management solutions in Ohio agribusinesses.

_______________________________________________________________________

We apprecaite Matt reaching out to Harvest Land. You can read the full article printed in the recent edition, or online here.

ACE Logo-01

 

hl_logo_vert_4c copy

The Farmer

Today, October 12, is National Farmers Day. While we prefer to celebrate agriculture and the farmers who feed us daily (actually, three times a day – sometimes more if we need a snack), a single fall day in the middle of harvest is alright for celebrating them, too.

America’s farmers are the backbone of our economy and essential to global food security.

Today we share with you The Farmer, by Amelia Barr (1831-1919).

 

 

The Farmer

The king may rule o’er land and sea,

The lord may live right royally,

The soldier ride in pomp and pride,

The sailor roam o’er ocean wide;

But this or that, whate’er befall,

The farmer he must feed them all.

The writer thinks, the poet sings,

The craftsmen fashion wondrous things,

The doctor heals, the lawyer pleads,

The miner follows the precious leads;

But this or that, whate’er befall,

The farmer he must feed them all.

The merchant he may buy and sell,

The teacher do his duty well;

But men may toil through busy days,

Or men may stroll through pleasant ways;

From king to beggar, whate’er befall,

The farmer he must feed them all.

The farmer’s trade is one of worth;

He’s partner with the sky and earth,

He’s partner with the sun and rain,

And no man loses for his gain;

And men may rise, or men may fall,

But the farmer he must feed them all.

God bless the man who sows the wheat,

Who finds us milk and fruit and meat;

May his purse be heavy, his heart be light,

His cattle and corn and all go right;

God bless the seeds his hands let fall,

For the farmer he must feed us all.

 

 

Thank you, Farmers

 

HL_logo_Vert_4C

Photo Friday: Fueling Freedom

Four of our Harvest Land energy locations participated in a successful 2016 Fueling Freedom event on June 24, and that success was thanks to each of you who stopped by and filled your tanks.

Our Elwood, Connersville, Greenfield and Greenville, OH fuel stations were part of CountryMark’s event, which, for every gallon of fuel pumped between noon and 5:00 PM CountryMark and Harvest Land donated 50 cents to the local National Guard.

FF numbers 2016

100% of the proceeds from Fueling Freedom went on to support local National Guard Family Readiness Groups.

Family Readiness Groups fund activities for troops and their families. Many of the Family Readiness Groups use their funds to host summer picnics, hold Christmas dinners, send packages to deployed soldiers, and offer after-school programs for children of American soldiers.

Today we simply wanted to share with you photos from our locations and thank all of the hard working people who made the event a success. Until next year!

Angle1

DSC_0006

DSC_0011

DSC_0019

DSC_0032

DSC_0036

DSC_0066

DSC_0068

DSC_0076

DSC_0093

DSC_0101

Photo Jun 24, 2 23 28 PM

Photo Jun 24, 2 24 35 PM

Photo Jun 24, 12 36 53 PM

Photo Jun 24, 4 00 40 PM

Photo Jun 24, 4 00 44 PM

DSC_0080

Photo Jun 24, 4 00 46 PM

Photo Jun 24, 4 00 51 PM

DSC_0085

Three Words of Advice to the Class of 2016

The oversized gowns are hung in closets never to be worn again and the caps have been tossed.

Last weekend we finally awarded our last 2016 Harvest Land Co-op Scholarship. This spring twenty outstanding high school graduates were granted $1,000 scholarships on behalf of our farmer-owned cooperative.

These very deserving students are pursuing post-high school agricultural degrees. They are, in fact, the future of agriculture. And a bright future, it is: Agriculture teachers, economists, animal chiropractors, nutritionists, veterinarians, broadcasters….the list of dream jobs coming out of this bunch is very promising. We also recognize employees’ children who graduated this spring and are pursuing post-high school education. From Indianapolis east to Dayton and Ft. Wayne south to Cincinnati, students from all over Harvest Land’s trade market are chosen annually.

And the winners are…

scholarships 2016

We wish the very best to each of these students as they leave behind the halls of the high schools where they’ve spent so many days and charge ahead into the next chapter. We just know they’ll shine.

Before these twenty up-and-comers leave their townships and move on into the world, we thought now might be a good time to give them just three quick bits of advice, on the occasion of their high school graduation.

We aren’t guaranteeing this advice will ensure Dean’s List status (sorry, parents), but we are certain it won’t hurt you.

advice 2016

Be Punctual

Signing up for 4-H before the deadline.

Getting the corn planted in a short window of time.

Spraying before the rain comes but when the wind is just right.

Submitting your FFA SAE project on time.

Making hay while the sun shines, literally.

Cutting beans when moisture is right.

Selling when the market is high.

Fall Combine_Crop

Up to this point, your life in agriculture has been incredibly time dependent. You’ve seen first hand the importance of carrying out certain tasks in a timely manor and being quite intentional on timing.

Now – more than ever – it is important that you stay on time.

Class starts every day at a very specific time. It won’t wait on you.

Your professor starts teaching every day at a very specific time. They won’t wait on you.

Work starts every day at a very specific time. It won’t wait on you.

Be punctual.

Remember, in higher education and in agriculture, your being on time is quite important and affects so much around you. Don’t waste anyone’s time, especially your own. Be punctual.

clock

Introduce Yourself

Maybe you came from a tiny town, maybe you came from the suburbs. Maybe you hail from a class of 52, maybe you’re one of 328 graduates in your class. No matter where you’re coming from, you are about to enter a whole new world with thousands in the exact same boat as you: a freshman in college.

A new world.

A new place.

A new schedule.

A new set of classmates, friends and people that will feel more like family in a year.

Don’t forget to introduce yourself. To everyone.

Introduce yourself to every professor you have; they will sure be happy to put a face with a name and they won’t forget you.

Introduce yourself to the person standing behind you in line for the washing machine. You’re both probably missing your mother at that exact same time.

Introduce yourself to those strangers you happen to sit next to in class. They’ll become your study partners, source of explanations when you just don’t get it and the ones you’ll say “Merry Christmas!” to before driving home for a long Christmas break.

It matters not how big the class or campus is: No one knows the story within you. Make sure you tell it. Introduce yourself.

handshake

Call Your Parents

This is important. I’m serious.

You may be going off to school three time zones away or staying at home and attending a community college. You may see your parents once at Christmas or every evening when you get home. Whatever your circumstance, don’t forget to communicate with your parents.

Call them.

Text them.

Send them a birthday card.

Tell them good morning.

Because while your life is taking off in a million different, exciting directions, and every day is a new adventure to you, they’re probably at home worried, wondering if you remembered to pack your umbrella.

One day you’ll understand.

Call your parents.

father son field

Congratulations to each of our scholarship recipients,
but also to the entire Class of 2016.
We wish you the absolute best as you
continue to work towards each one of your goals.

Mark Your Calendar: Fueling Freedom

We invite you to run your gas tanks as low as you possbily can then cruise/roll into one of the following CountryMark stations on Friday, June 24 from 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM for our Fueling Freedom event.

Digital Ad 300x250..jpg

Our Elwood, Connersville, Greenfield and Greenville, OH fuel stations are all particiapting locations for CountryMark’s 2016 Fueling Freedom event, which, for every gallon of fuel pumped during the event, CountryMark and Harvest Land will donate 50 cents to the local National Guard.

100% of the proceeds from Fueling Freedom will go to support local National Guard Family Readiness Groups.

100_3046.jpg

Family Readiness Groups fund activities for troops and their families. Many of the Family Readiness Groups use their funds to host summer picnics, hold Christmas dinners, send packages to deployed soldiers, and offer after-school programs for children of American soldiers. This is the eighth year the CountryMark system has hosted Fueling Freedom events. In 2015, CountryMark’s Fueling Freedom program, which includes many farmer-owned cooperatives, raised more than $54,000 for local National Guard Family Readiness Groups.

100_3066.jpg

We encourage everyone to come out for Fueling Freedom, purchase CountryMark TOP TIER gasoline and premium diesel fuel, and register to win a $150 fuel card. One fuel card will be given away at each CountryMark fueling station participating in Fueling Freedom.

100_3054.jpg

Harvest Land’s Fueling Freedom goal is to
sell $2,500 gallons per station and donate
$1,250 to our local National Guard Family Readiness Program.

We invite you to come fill your tanks on June 24th from 12:00 – 5:00 for Fueling Freedom and support those who sacrifice so much for us.

Share this information with family & friends!

Digital Ad 1122x418 Facebook.jpg

Know Your Why

It is often asked in an introductory conversation. Maybe you’re on a flight, maybe you’re at a workshop, maybe you’re even signing your middle child up for kindergarten. I bet if you began visiting with someone and asked them what they did for a living, they’d have no trouble telling you.

Architect

Communications Specialist

Farmer

Daycare operator

Nurse

Loan Officer

The list could go on endlessly with the variety of careers on the market, and with each additional position, the person in that role could easily explain to you what they do. Even if they played a lot of different roles in the day (anyone out there a chauffeur, accountant, chef, therapist and farm hand – all in one day?). It’s their daily routine; if they’re lucky, it’s their passion, too.

What if you asked that same person how they did their job? Well, unless their work is highly classified, there is a great chance that they can explain that to you, too. They probably know the ins and outs of their position so well, they can explain their work in a 30-second synopsis. This likely won’t happen often on Between the Rows, but an Albert Einstein quote comes to mind when thinking about someone explaining how they do their daily work (for the record, moving forward we’re more likely to quote George Strait on any given Thursday than we are Einstein):

if-you-cant-explain-it-simply-you-dont-understand-it

But what if we went deeper?

What if you asked the question why?

Why do you do what you do?

That question may extend your conversation a bit, and I bet it would take the respondent a moment or two to think of their answer. Why do you do what you do?

For Harvest Land, that big question is easy to answer. We have no reservation in response, no worry in reaction. We know our purpose; we know our why.

 

Our Why_Purdpose Statement.png

We have a moral obligation to couple the resources available to us and the spirit of generations of honest work so that we’re able to put food on the table for people we’ll never have the pleasure of meeting.

That is why we don’t hesitate to work the long, spring hours or the endless harvest days.

That is why we take safety seriously, in every situation.

That is why we navigate the changing agricultural climate, volatile markets and political landscape right along with you.

That is why our Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays sometimes run together.

That is why – to this day – we value the way our Granddads worked: planting trees, knowing that they’d never have the opportunity to enjoy the shade.

That is Harvest Land.

That is our why.

What is yours?

The Cooperative Spirit: A Brief History

We’re so glad you stopped by to visit.

Do you have a quick minute for a story?

Or maybe, a history?

Years ago – we’re talking long before weather maps were kept on cell phones in pockets – folks relied on working together to defend their land, hunt, produce and gather food and create shelters and clothing. It was their cooperative spirit, one that encouraged working together to achieve a common goal, that allowed the people to create more, support larger groups and elevate success as culture evolved. It was through information sharing that early societies were able to triumph through the most arduous times.

At Harvest Land Co-op, we’ve never forgotten that cooperative spirit. In fact, it’s the very fabric of our business.

Our cooperative is unique from many businesses in that nearly 5,000 farmers who have made their homes in Indiana and Ohio own us. Together they collaborate for our success by utilizing Harvest Land’s services, sourced products and expert employees. Continued investment in our farmer-owned cooperative ensures the longevity of such a system that welcomes and serves so many.

This blog was created as a resource for our members and also those with whom we share communities. We want to use this space to answer questions about what our cooperative does, explain why we’re so passionate about land and resource conservation and share our steadfast belief in creating a responsible food system (speaking of food systems: don’t forget to pick up milk after work).

Join us on this expedition and come back weekly as we dig deeper to the roots of Harvest Land Co-op and the many fibers that make our cooperative spirit sturdy, nearly 100 years after our inception.

strong roots