Gayleen Moellers Turned Knowledge into Practice with Heartbeat of the Farm

April 11, 2016

By Madeline Schultz

When the creamery that buys the milk from the Moellers dairy farm began requiring farmers to have Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Gayleen Moellers already had them in place. “I even had them posted on the wall in English and Spanish,” she recalls, “That was fun to say I already have this!” She adapted them from the example SOPs provided by a speaker in the Heartbeat of the Farm: Human Resource Management class she participated in.

An Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Agriculture team developed the new course and Jennifer Bentley, Northeast Iowa Extension Dairy Specialist, offered the first class in March 2015 at the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation and Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar, IA. Jenn enjoys providing resources to help make agricultural operations more successful. “It makes my job fun to be able to work with producers like Gayleen who are passionate about what they do and their industry,” says Jenn.

The Heartbeat of the Farm: Human Resource Management class was Gayleen’s third farm management course for women as she previously participated in the Annie’s Project and Women Marketing Grain courses offered by Extension. “I enjoy meeting and hearing from other farm women. The networking is wonderful,” Gayleen says.

Gayleen Moellers, dairy farm, human resourcesGayleen implemented job descriptions for the farm’s employees. Again, she adapted these from examples the course speakers provided for the jobs of cow milker and cow mover. “It’s amazing how similar the jobs are from dairy to dairy,” noted Gayleen. Her Spanish-speaking herdsman helped her translate the small changes she needed to make to fit the farm’s milking parlor system. Gayleen turned more of her new knowledge into practice as she and her husband, Kevin, began regular employee evaluations. They found the one-to-one communication and ideas exchange was enjoyed by the employees and benefited the farm overall. 

The Moellers family had a big decision to make in choosing the design of a new transition barn for cows during the calving phase. “I found the materials in the workbook on farm family decision making helpful,” says Gayleen.  Her family talked to Extension, toured other barns, and had a family meeting before deciding on a just-in-time design for the barn. “During the class, it was interesting to hear how other farm families interact,” she adds.

The human resource management course also covered insurance and safety. The Moellers changed their workers compensation insurance carrier. “The new carrier required a farm safety manual, so I made one using the farm safety manual template provided in the class,” shared Gayleen. She also secured a new umbrella liability policy for the farm after taking the course. “Insurance is really important. There is always so much to learn,” says Gayleen.  

The USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture reported 64% of all Iowa women farm operators had full or part-time off-farm jobs. Gayleen’s off-farm jobs gave her new perspectives about the farm business and allowed her to build her skills. Like many women, Gayleen contributed the skills she learned off the farm to her family’s business on a part-time basis. She has a business degree and worked in accounting for a college, a manufacturer and a hog farm before becoming full-time with her own family farm business. “My business background has been invaluable. I saw that other types of businesses can struggle financially and get through it,” she explains.

For more of Gayleen’s story about the Extension classes she participated in and how she helps manage her family farm, watch her video. “I hope other farm women enjoy Annie's Project as much as I have,” says Gayleen.

Heartbeat of the Farm: Human Resource Management courses in Iowa are made possible by the USDA North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center, Farm Credit Services of America and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.