Farming Families – There’s No I in Team

If you played sports in the ’90s, you heard that saying a lot.  And just as it applies to sports teams, it applies to the farming team as well.  Self-less living is always a good idea.  Now how to we put it into practice on the farm?  Here are some ‘I’ words to use in team building:

INCENTIVES – There may not be an ‘I’ in team, but there are three in incentivize.  Whoever makes up your farm team, use incentives to motivate their participation and performance.  Everyone does better when they know their hard work and attention to detail will pay off.  Do you hire harvest help?  Offer a 10% bonus if the crop is in on time with no accidents.  Offer your children or teen help a percentage of your farmers market booth profits.  I guarantee they’ll sell more!  Do you have customers?  Offer them a free product when they spend a certain dollar amount.  Allow your returning customers to order product before new customers.  Do you have children and a yucky job like hoeing potatoes?  Offer a trip to the community pool when the job is done and done well.  I know for a fact that tactic worked thirty years ago.  Incentives make people work harder, plain and simple.

INFORMATION – Provide your team members with all the information that they need.  That should seem obvious.  But also provide them information on your decision making process.  Why did you make certain decisions?  When your teammates can understand your reasoning, they will support your decisions.  And they are learning to make those decisions for themselves.  Why did you change the crop rotation?  Why did you put the water system there?  Why are we selling eggs for four dollars?  These are all questions your teammates have, even if they don’t voice them.  Remember, slaves simply do what they’re told, but teammates are part of the process.  It’s easy to feel like a slave if you don’t have enough information.

INDEPENDENCE – When your teammates have information, now they can experience independence.  There are many ways to do this:  allowing a teammate to choose the crop rotation for a piece of land, the calving date for these cows, the paddock size for this pasture, allow them to market some grain, let them create a new bread recipe for your farmers market stand, let them sell their own products through your farm.  The possibilities are endless.  Talk to your teammates.  How would they best experience independence in your operation?

A common complaint I here when talking to farmers, whether they grow cows, carrots or corn, is the lack of labor.  Every farm can have loyal, long-term team mates when they offer the three ‘I’s of the farm team.

Day 7 Homework:  How do you currently build teamwork in your farm team?  How can you incorporate the three I’s of teamwork into your operation?


  1. Great work on this series Annie! There is still a management (leadership) style prevalent where they say “I pay you to do a job!” ignoring the fact that without the “I’s” that you mention that may keep an employee until they find a better opportunity but will certainly never have a team member who dedicates their whole to the well-being and success of the organization, farm, family, etc. My experience suggests that some feel more powerful if they withhold information from their workers, fail to share the successes through incentives, and ultimately try to hold the employee/team member captive through limited independence. This mentality has helped me to change employment on 2 occasions.

    • Thank you for your perspective Anthony! It is critical piece of “human resources” that many employers can utilize to increase profits and employee retention. Especially in the ND employment climate, where labor is hard to find, employers and farmers need to build employee loyalty as much as their business base. And who are your best recruiters for future positions? Your current employees.

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