I try to keep up on a lot of the news related to the specialty crop and nursery industries. Every week, each Ag publication seems to have another article about labor. A recent article in Fruit Growers News entitled, “Growers get proactive for workers relations” is a must-read for any farm manager feeling the pains of finding, recruiting, and maintaining workers.

For any business, the employers’ relationships with staff can be complicated. In Ag, it’s complicated even further by job seasonality, wage rates, federal and state labor laws, food safety regulations and audits. However, anything an employer can do to improve the relationship with staff is going to create a company culture that makes the farm a better place to work. When labor supply is low, your farm needs to be more intentional about becoming the “employer of choice.”

On Wednesday, I received my daily email from the Capital Press, the weekly Ag newspaper for farmers in the Northwest. The headline caught my attention quickly, “Lawsuits challenge piece rate pay.” Piece rate pay has been an integral part of the Ag operation for years, and now the concept is under fire.

Dan Wheat, author of the article, states, “Piece rate refers to paying workers for how much fruit they pick instead of paying them by the hour. It’s been used for decades. Workers say they like it because they make more money. Growers like it because they say it’s the most economical pay method. They say the loss of it would increase their costs.”

Sounds like a win-win to me! So, what’s the problem? Everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, regardless of why a law is written, or how a law is written and interpreted, documentation is crucial for a grower when a problem arises.
Today, you might pay workers piece rate for harvest and pruning tasks. Next season, you might switch to only hourly to avoid risk of lawsuit. Then, the pendulum will steady itself back into the middle. Make sure to Implement a data collection system that captures more, rather than less, and utilize that information to drive worker efficiency and maintain detailed and thorough employee records.

As a company, we focus a lot on labor tracking. But in this article, i thought I would highlight the need for product tracking in another important part of the Ag industry--tissue culture propagation.

Propagating plants using tissue culture is a technique that has grown in popularity. There are many benefits of growing plants in a more controlled environment. However, tissue culture propagation presents its own challenges. Tracking hundreds and potentially thousands of jars through various stages is no easy feat.

We listened to our customers' feedback. We agreed that there was a missing piece. How can a farm track hours for employees that start or finish tasks outside of normal business hours? How can a farm electronically record accurate check-in and check-out times for those workers performing activities far from the main office or facility? Now there is MobileClock.

Download MobileClock on any Android device. Enable MobileClock for one or multiple employees at your operation. Use either cellular or Wi-Fi to sync personal time clock information in real-time when FairTrak just isn’t enough. An beta version was released to a handful of customers for testing last month. So far so good!

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