This post was written by Don Zasada, of Caretaker Farm, who is one of the presenters for NOFA-VT's Human Resources & Labor Management for Farmers
It’s that walking on eggshells feeling. You know what I mean. The crew is silent or sharp. Something or someone is off and the morale of every individual in the crew, including your own, is compromised. The harvest jobs are not being communicated properly, the whole morning is incredibly inefficient, and you are concerned about who will represent your farm in a positive way this afternoon at a farmers’ market or in your CSA distribution area. How can you get out of the funk and how did you get into it in the first place?
Conflict on a farm gets a bad rap. It’s a normal occurrence in any marriage and an everyday reality in parenting. Why wouldn’t it be an expected outcome of working together every day with various personalities though physical, mental, and emotional strain? From my experience, how we define conflict, prepare for conflict, and move through conflict on our farm directly undermines or enhances my sustainability as a farmer.
When I began farming I viewed the farmer as an orchestra conductor - deftly moving through a complicated work as hundreds of individual pieces fell into magical unison. Twenty years later, the reality is much different and not as romantic, though equally challenging. In order to simply get on the stage we need a plan for managing expectations and a method for communicating uncomfortable topics in a safe environment. Once we can support everyone in an efficient (this is a farm after all and not a class room or counseling service), yet real manner to be giving the best of whom they are to the work of the day, then the rest usually falls into place. It’s that time that the music gets easier.
Join us March 5 or 6 for the SESSION III: Conflict on the Team: Effective Leadership & Communication with Farm Employees