Christopher Padfield  -  Post Formal Education - nurturing and growing talent?

I live on work on a 4th generation family farm on the Gloucestershire / Worcestershire border.  It is a mixed farm consisting of a Beef fattening joint venture and growing combinable crops.  We have been direct drilling all crops including maize for the last decade.  The farm is entered into an HLS scheme which is central to our focus on creating wildlife habitat around the enterprise. We also run some stubble to stubble contracting.

After working abroad in Ghana, Guinea Bissau and France, I worked for a local agricultural college mainly assessing NVQ qualifications.  I also achieved qualifications in Internal and External Verification and a PGCE (adult education).  I then set up a small training company where we offer training services, mainly LANTRA and City and Guilds qualifications, aimed at the land-based skills sector.

When not working, I love riding motorbikes and drinking whisky.  Not a great combination though a recent biking trip to Islay managed to get the best of both worlds.

I would like to thank all those supporting my Nuffield Scholarship, not least the Central Region Farmers Trust for their sponsorship, and my wife and parents for their support and backing.


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Staff are an investment not a cost

The Twin Cities - Growing Businesses and Growing People 3rd July

Posted by Christopher Padfield on August 2, 2015

Appears in Business, Crops, Dairy, Energy

The Twin Cities - Growing Businesses and Growing People  3rd July

I contacted Bob Milligan after being sent a copy of his monthly articles on developing farm staff (LearningEdge Monthly).  Not only did an invitation to visit follow, but an itinerary of planned visits and the offer to pick me up from the airport. This was incredibly generous not least because the 3rd July was a national holiday (the 4th being on a Saturday).  Bob's wife, Sharon Danes, also joined us for the farm tour.  Sharon is  Professor in the Department of Family Science at the University of Minnesota.  She has undertaken considerable research into family businesses ranging from mom and pop operations to large multinationals.  Defining such a business is not easy but ultimately it is where there is human, social and financial capital invested by the family.  She was adamant that farmers should not refer to themselves as family farms but as family businesses, not least for the mindset it engenders in the farmer, but also because non farmers see family farms as a bit 'old macdonald.' I was also introduced to the term 'coprenerial' which means couples who work together. Bob's early career was based at Cornell University and initially based on financial work in agriculture but for the last 30 years has focused on people. With a background in agricultural extension he developed courses on managing for success - writing visions, recognising problems and solving them. He also developed courses on conflict management.  After leaving Cornell he now works in Minneapolis with Dairy Strategies and we had an interesting conversation on managing change in a business.  Bob had arranged for us to visit two farms with which he is involved in coaching and developing staff, the first being Saratoga Partnerships run by Tim and Sue Richter and Jackson Dohlman. Tim had attended a TEPAP course run by Texas A&M University and came back inspired to make changes to the family farm and resulted in moving from rearing outdoor pigs to farming 9000 acres (mainly maize and soya) and fattening 30,000 pigs in Iowa, and farming 2500 acres of arable land in Missouri (400 miles away).  The business had a real focus on the culture of the farm being really goal driven, for example planting 9000 acres in 6 12 days. Jackson has take on the role of looking after the HR side of the business with the aim of being 'employer of choice' in the area.  When new staff were inducted 'on boarding' personality testing was undertaken.  When team meetings were held to plan the planting campaigns, emphasis was put not only on the what, and how, but also on the 'why'.  The business was motivated by what it could accomplish but also by having fun.

 saragota partnership

The second farm was the Gar-Lin dairy farms where we met Dana Allen-Tully who ran the farm, and her husband Jim who supported her and ran his own nutrition consultancy business in California.  The dairy milks 1700 cows, milking three times a day all year round.  Between 4-6 calves are born a day and, currently, the bull calves can be sold off the farm for $500 at a week old.  The farm covers 4500 acres of which approximately half is owned and half rented. They had developed a separate feed centre about a mile away from the dairy where all the  silage and feed stocks were kept. This allowed both the dairy and feed area to be developed unconstrained by neighbouring buildings. Again Bob has worked with the business to develop the team of around 45 full time staff.  Dana was clear that she had consistently high expectations of her staff and spent time recruiting and training good people.  Jim was encouraging farms to see labour as an investment not a cost, and didn't like businesses that treated employees as employees, motivation was not so much a function of money and coercion, rather it was to create an environment where self motivation comes through.

 Silage equipmentdariy







Points to ponder:

Are we aiming to be the employer of choice?

Do we communicate what the goals of the business are and celebrate smashing them?

Are staff treated as an investment?

If large farm businesses benefit from using outside expertise and coaching how much more would small farms gain?



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