Farm Hands or Homestead Partners...

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by seedspreader, Feb 24, 2005.

  1. seedspreader

    seedspreader AFKA ZealYouthGuy

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    I would love to hear peoples stories, both good and bad, from the large and small, about there experience with hiring a farm hand or putting someone up in a trailer to help around their homestead.

    Just to give a little background to you on my interest, yesterday I saw a big tractor (Ford 9600) heading down my road. It was quite fortuitous since my tractor has been stuck in the mud for about a week and a half. So I flagged him down and he went out back and after an hour or so, my tractor was able to be driven out (Praise God!). As I talked to the guy, I found out he worked at a local farm and lived there. But not in a house, he lives in a trailer, in the barn. He has no water or toilet. He said he uses a five gallon bucket.

    So I just was wondering, if anyone here has had someone work for them and what kind of set up they had?
     
  2. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    I'm thinking that in my state that would be considered seriously illegal, regardless of how "willing" the hand was to put up with it.
     

  3. BCR

    BCR Well-Known Member

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    Did you read the article from the woman in COuntryside recently who let a best friend move in to help her out? Ended up costing her money and driving her crazy.

    It would have to be someone pretty special for me to tolerate their presence for any length of time. Why not simply strike a deal with the guy who helped you out the other day? Or hire/swap for part-time help? Why do you need them to live there?
     
  4. lonelyfarmgirl

    lonelyfarmgirl Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I almost did this. I got in contact with some people in Nebraska, through Countryside. They were a family with 4 or 5 kids, and did farmers market, and nursery trees for a living. I was gonna go stay in their modified garage upstairs, and work for them. They were gonna let me bring my daughter and dog, and the pay would be 250$ a week including room board and meals with them. The whole situation sounded to be real good, but I bailed for unrelated reasons. They told me Id use a wood stove for heat, but I had to drag and cut the wood out of their plot myself.
     
  5. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    We've actively considered offering our rental for below market in exchange for labor, but we've never met anyone who understood that "labor" means you really to have to reliably put work into the place. They seem to think "labor" means "if I feel like doing something for fun then I'll participate."

    So we charge full freight on the cottage and pay for any help we might need. That way we get someone skilled in the task that needs doing, instead of someone who really isn't skilled and is only more or less willing.
     
  6. marvella

    marvella Well-Known Member

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    i've tried it a couple of times, and my experience has been the same as MC's. little work got done, and lots of trouble like theft and drinking and bringing in gf's whose parents then came looking for them, stuff like that. it's easier to hire stuff done as needed.

    it might work if you could find the right combination of people. but my experience is that the person is looking for a place to live for free. if you found someone who actually knew how to work it might happen, but even that is getting harder to find. hardly anyone knows what it is to get out and work under the hot sun all day. everyone wants ac and internet access while they work indoors. LOL!!
     
  7. bearkiller

    bearkiller Well-Known Member

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    Zeal,

    Years ago when I was working on my water system, I had maybe half a mile of open trench and a seemingly endless pile of pipe. I hired labor to do the work on dam, water takeout, laying pipe, screening dirt to keep rocks away from the pipe and burying it all. Well, talk about problems.

    Some of the guys showed up, looked around, and could not hear human noise and promptly got in their car and left. Others would work a day or two and ask for a weeks pay. Some wanted their pay all up front. Some would work only when I was there to crack the whip. One even generously drove my backhoe into my house destroying the entry door and adjacent wall. He was driving it uninvited while I was off the farm briefly.

    Mostly, they were the "chronically" unemployed. One was a Nam vet who camped out in the bush with his family and I was the first (fool) to put him to work. All were lazy, wanted something for nothing, and had few work ethics, and some had few ethics at all.

    Later I advertised for help to build and caretake. One charmer when contronted with something that he could not make work would take it apart and then walk away from it. He scrounged for every drop of alcohol he could get. Then there were the welfare bums who wanted to bring their extended family.

    Best advice I can offer is screen 'em thoroughly and cull hard. You may find a good worker, but so far that has not been my experience.

    bearkiller
     
  8. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

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    For the most part, I would agree with the comments already posted. But, it *can* work, if you get the right people. We had friends whose nice new mobile home burned. It had been on rented land, and after the fire the landowners decided they wanted to do something else there. My friends were experienced with horses, and had a couple of their own, so they found a job caretaking at a horse farm in exchange for a place to park a travel trailer, which they lived in for several years. That one worked out fine. I was offered a caretaking position at a meat goat farm in Oklahoma about three years ago, with a mh to live in. That kind of job would be ideal for me, since I can't leave my daughter to work away from home, but at that point I had unfinished personal business in NH and had to return there. I guess I'm doing something of the sort for Grandma now, until she passes -- then I don't know where we'll go. But, she plans to live to be the oldest woman in the world :D so we are all set for a while! Anyway, vet your candidates carefully -- check references -- and give them some vested interest in the results of their labor. A percentage of profits, or something. Joel Salatins books have some good ideas on that sort of thing.

    Kathleen
     
  9. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

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    Bob,
    I've hired well over a couple hundred hired men in my life, and had all sorts of arrangements, everything from them living in our house to putting in a trailer house, septic and electricity for a full-time hired man. Even when I was a kid, I can remember hired men who lived with us.

    My wife said SHE WOULD NEVER go through that again (hired men living in the house, cooking and doing their wash for them, etc.). You'll meet some real doozies, guys that are lazy, slow workeers, dumber than a sack of hammers, break everything they touch and/or just plain crazy. Typically, the ones who lasted the least amount of time were the ones I hired to be full-time herdsmen and had living in the trailer house. I think the 3 of them lasted a total of about 4 months, so I was out about $6000 on setting up that trailer (This was in 1984). (I'm not counting HS kids I hired for haying or pitching manure who quit after one day because they couldn't handle the work.)

    I've had about 15-20 real good hired men, and most of them were guys who grew up on farms in the area. The two best hired men I ever had were my boys. The trouble is that the good ones typically have more ambition than to be a hired man, so they move on. About six of these guys are now farming on their own. I'll admit that I'm not the easiest guy to work for, but a couple guys who used to work for me and now live in other parts of the country stop by to see me whenever they come home.

    I need a hired man because I have too much work to do for me and my wife, and I'll be 75 next year. I've had the same hired man for the last 15 years, and he has a job in town from 7 AM to 3 PM, but he comes out every day except Sundays after work. I pay him $15 an hour, and he's worth every penny of it. He mostly does field work and takes care of the beef cows. There isn't a thing he can't do, and I'd trust him with anything. During haying and harvesting, or when we work cattle, I get another guy to come help as well. If you find a good hired man, pay him what you need to keep him, because they are awful hard to find.
     
  10. seedspreader

    seedspreader AFKA ZealYouthGuy

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    It may be illegal, but it's probably illegal to neglect children and have them live without electricity and running water (in some folks minds). I guess I was just wondering if anyone had done this.
     
  11. fordson major

    fordson major construction and Garden b Supporter

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    while i myself have never hired like this my boss would hire some guys like this>it was a big step up for them and most failed .one i liked was a guy who could barley drive a bycycle and the boss wanted him driving 240 horse tractor on the road! didn't happen ,i offered to leave instead! then there was the two dopers ,when they were on the s**t they were mellow when dry or drying down right dangerous!some of these types are living like that cause they can find nothing else.makes me appretiate all we have!!would like to find help sometimes but it has to be help not babysitting.
     
  12. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    Wow, Milkstool, I wish we lived closer! My husband can operate just about any piece of machinery ever made, and fix anything that happens to go wrong with it, too. Around here, the best he's ever done is $9 an hour, and he had to take his own taxes out of that. :(

    Around here, when the farmers buy up land with and old house or trailer on it, they usually rent the houses to their help. From what I understand, they'll offer a low hourly wage -- about $5 an hour -- but throw in use of the house for free as long as the person is working for them.

    Some friends of our are crop farmers who use migrant labor, Mexicans. They provide old house trailers for them to live in, complete with beds, a ratty old sofa, dinette set, stove and refrigerator. They shut off the water to the bathrooms and make their workers use an outhouse and communal bathhouse with showers, I guess the fixtures were always getting plugged up. They also ripped out all the old wiring and installed new inside conduit that runs along the walls. It isn't pretty, but I guess it's easier to fix that way. The government inspects the housing regularly and it has to be up to snuff, safety-wise. They don't charge their workers anything to live in these trailers but geez, who would want to?!
     
  13. TedH71

    TedH71 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I'm wanting to work on a ranch/farm but have no experience so that exactly doesn't help me. I'm preferring to live in Texas because I have folks in E. Texas mainly but would consider moving out of the state for the right job and prefer to pay for my own place but due to the fact that I currently am low income and paying for a high income place (Austin, TX) that's getting harder for me to save $$ to move out. PM me if you can help in this area of obtaining an entry level job. I do have experience in one area only...hunting wild hogs with my catahoula/lacy dogs..have been told they could be switched to help on cattle but haven't gotten around to doing that training.

    Ted Hart
     
  14. TedH71

    TedH71 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Forgot to add that I DO have construction experience building enviromentally friendly low income housing for Americorps but unforunately the company that I worked for was priced out of rental property and they had to close shop. That's the bad thing about living in Austin because all the rentals are sky high in price.

    Ted
     
  15. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    Ted, go around to some farms in the area where you want to work. Take a resume, try to emphasize any practical skills you might have. Even something as simple as having a steady employment history and/or a clean driving record can help demonstrate your character. Make sure you give some references who will vouch for you, not just "references upon request." If you look clean-cut and not afraid of hard work, I'll bet you'll find someone who'll hire you in a heartbeat. :)

    When I decided I wanted to ditch the corporate world and work on a farm, I landed a spot on the very first place I visited. The farmer wasn't too sure of me being a "city girl" and all, but he was willing to give me a try. He's taught me pretty much everything I know about dairy cows and has given me six raises in the year and a half I've worked there ... we get along fine. :)
     
  16. Jenn

    Jenn Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I think the hired man like my grandpa had (my grandma was HIS parents' hired girl) no longer really exists. All the good workers are already working or have their own farms.

    I hired two teenagers for short term and offered them $8/hr or so. Hard dirty work (or I'd do it myself!) and I warn them. Boys whose parents or their friends' parents have recommended and just for a short term trial. Both did good work but of course if I wanted longer term they'd be out of high school and gone in a short time. Also guy who sold us his house worked for me- retiree who can work hard when he chooses.

    Any of you with organic farms, look up WWOOF Willing/World Workers on Organic Farms. I joined to be a worker but never had a time I could do it. Used all over Europe- farmer provides supervision and a camper like living quarters, worker works half a weekday for food and bed and experience. Some farms here even have working weekends where anyone who wants can descend and pitch in for food and training and fellowship.
     
  17. Quint

    Quint Well-Known Member

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    I've tried to hire a few times to help get extra work done and have had mixed results. I paid good, between 8 and 15 dollars an hour. More than I have ever been paid for doing the kind of work I was needing done. It was grunt work. I wasn't asking them to split atoms in the basement. It was mostly just farm type chores. Cutting weeds and brush, splitting and stacking wood etc. I had one guy who was an OK worker. He smoked weed every break but at least he was a decent worker. The rest ranged between incompetent and hopeless. I hired one kid, a 13 year old I knew, to do some simple work which involved cutting weeds, picking up brush and a some light digging. Things I just didn't have time to do. You know how it is around the homestead. Well, the boy had one speed. Slow. He did 5 minutes work and then had to rest for 15. Unless you stood over him everything he did was half assed no matter how well you demonstrated how it was to be done. I was paying him 10 dollars an hour and feeding him. He worked the day but he probably didn't do 3 hours of work. Some wanted all of their pay up front. Others showed up late or not at all. I've had some folks call begging for work sometimes and if I have the spare money and chores that need doing I'll roll the dice and hire them. I've learned that until I find out if you are a decent worker or not I'm not spending anything above minimum wage for you if that. I've been burned too many times. Last fall a friend called me for a girl who really needed money/work. Big softy me, I said I had some chores that I did need help with and I would pay her 50 dollars to come work for the day. I had to pick her up and take her home but she wasn't afraid to work. She worked hard and I didn't have to watch her constantly to make sure the job got done. Even though we had agreed to 50 dollars I paid her 100 and I fed her lunch and took her to town for supper.

    I don't mind paying for good help but I really get tired of having to pay good money for people to stand around with tools in their hands pretending to work.
     
  18. sidepasser

    sidepasser Well-Known Member

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    I don't think it is legal here to have no running water or sewer with children involved.

    As far as hiring workers, I've only had one good one when I was running my boarding business and she was just superb. showed up every day, good with the horses, and only missed two days of work in about 2 years of working for me. I paid her monthly rent on an apartment and paid her 8.00 per hour (no taxes).

    After she left for a better job (I was sad, but encouraged her since she had been so wonderful with me), I went through several. I also had a 35 foot motor home here, water/elect/ac/heat/satellite. Not a single one who ever worked for me lasted more than a month. I heard, it's too cold (for goodness sakes this is GA?), it's too hot, I can't get up that early, blah, blah.

    If I could hire someone like the girl I had, then I would think of reopening, but chances are very slim I can find someone so reliable again.

    Now I just pay by the hour for whatever I can't do and if they don't work out, then I don't have to move them out!
    Most horse farms here do the apartment in exchange for partial pay and then add a small salary. Some will allow you to board your horse as well, but no dogs are allowed most of the time. If it is a husband/wife team, children may be allowed, but for the most part, horse farm owners don't want small kids living on the place due to the potential for accident if Mom or Dad is working (unless off site sitting arrangements can be made). Lots of jobs here for people who can work/live on the horse farms and pay is rather good - 7.00 to 15 an hour depending on whether you live off or on the farm. Hard work though and I think that is what scares most folks off.

    Sidepasser