MU Extension has resources to help attract, hire and retain seasonal labor.


COLUMBIA, Mo. – As summer arrives in the Show-Me State, farm business operators often experience periods of fluctuating labor needs. Seasonal workers, including young people, can offer extra capacity during critical times.

“Summer is often a busy time for the farm business, and the labor market remains tight,” says Ryan Milhollin, University of Missouri Extension agricultural economist and a co-author of MU Extension’s “Missouri Farm Labor Guide,” which is available for free download at

“Farm business operators can use seasonal help to complete critical tasks and create a labor pipeline for future needs,” Milhollin says. He encourages operators to consider three best practices to successfully hire and retain seasonal labor:

1. Understand labor laws and regulations

Farm business operators should familiarize themselves with federal and state labor laws, including wage requirements and working hours. These laws create safe and equitable working environments that protect both the employer and employee, Milhollin says. For those hiring young people, child labor laws are particularly important. There are special work certificates, working hours and other restrictions for employees under the age of 16.

Operators hiring non-domestic workers need to understand the requirements of the H-2A Agricultural Guest Worker Program (often called the H-2A visa program). The U.S. Department of Labor specifies guidelines for eligible employers, work activities and certification processes. MU Extension’s “Farmers Guide to the H-2A Visa Program” is available for free download at

2. Strategically recruit and onboard employees

When seeking an appropriate talent pool for a farm business, Milhollin recommends exploring the local labor market with a clearly written job description in hand. By having a well-defined job description and creative ideas on recruiting talent, operators can maintain a flow of applicants for current and future positions.

Operators should implement an onboarding plan to acquaint workers with their new roles. “Starting off strong on day one with a plan to acclimate new employees to your operation can set the tone for their employment experience,” he says. “Employees who start their jobs on a positive note are more likely to start feeling a commitment to your farm business.”

3. Prioritize operational procedures

Farm business operators should step into their employees’ shoes when delegating tasks and implementing procedures. Milhollin advises employers to envision themselves in the working conditions and adjust accordingly. Safety, particularly for employed youths, needs to be a top concern and should dictate appropriate work tasks.

Recordkeeping procedures must also be part of a farm’s operational plan. Depending on the number and types of employees, the farm business must maintain records for hours worked, earnings, work-related injuries or illnesses, work certificates and other critical information.

Farm business operators can look to MU Extension for guidance and resources at, where bite-sized videos and downloadable templates can help enhance labor management skills.

“We have tools to help farm business operators through the whole employment journey, from hiring to termination,” says Milhollin. “The resources and best practices we’ve developed for labor management can be customized to individual operations’ needs.”

University of Missouri Extension offers producers a range of decision-making tools and workshops to support farm business management and agricultural landowner decisions. Learn more at, and find us on Facebook at