New Agri-business Personnel Problems

Craig Chase, farm management field specialist

New agri-business personnel do not have the same agricultural background as previous employees with many of the new hires at least two generations removed from the farm. This situation makes it difficult for the agri-businesses to make farmers/customers feel comfortable that they are understood. To correct this communication/understanding gap, agri-businesses are looking for ways to increase their employees’ understanding of their products and the issues and decisions farmers/customers face in today’s changing agricultural environment. The first agri-business that came to Iowa State University Extension for help in finding a solution to this problem was John Deere Waterloo Works located in Waterloo, Iowa.

Extension's response to John Deere was the development of two eight-hour workshops: Issues and Trends in North American Agriculture (JD 101) and Global Agriculture, Product Diversity, and New Markets (JD 201). As the titles indicate, the first course focuses on North America only, whereas the second takes a global perspective.

Through April 2003, 73 JD101 workshops have been conducted at Waterloo with approximately 1,800 employees. Evaluations indicate over 95% found the training to be beneficial and “getting a better understanding of the farm customer” and “we need to produce an economic, reliable product” were common comments from employees. Waterloo Works wanted this program to be part of their new employee training, but wanted the workshop to be reduced to four hours in length. New demand for the workshop is occurring from established employees now that the time commitment was reduced. Six of the shorter sessions have been conducted with approximately 180 employees attending.

Because of the success of JD101 at the Waterloo Works sites, John Deere corporate took the workshop national. One session was conducted in Des Moines for JD Credit with additional workshops scheduled for Moline and Madison.

JD201 Global Agriculture was recently piloted to a group of managers in Waterloo and will be offered in Waterloo beginning June 1. This program was discussed with the corporate training and development group and will likely be released nationally later this year.

Other agri-businesses are beginning to hear about what extension is doing with John Deere to help their employees gain a better understanding of farmers/customers and the changing agricultural environment. Recent discussions with Farm Credit in Cedar Falls will result in at least one North American and one Global Agriculture workshop re-tooled and presented this year.


Page last updated: July 2, 2006
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