A lot of farmers choose to provide volunteer workers with room and board in exchange for help on the farm. We started accepting workers we met at the farmer’s market or those that came to the farm to inquire. Later, we would join various web sites that brought workers together with farmers. Since we have been doing it for many years, I would say that it has been a great success. Though there have been times when a worker, for whatever reason, wasn’t a good fit. In order to help out my fellow farmer’s, I thought it would be helpful to pass on my personal farm worker no-nos.
♦ Whoo Hoo Vacation!
Living in Hawaii, I always must make sure that whoever is coming on the farm is not coming to be on vacation. They often state on their application that they want to travel and go into explicit details about the joy of traveling–keep moving.
Signs that you may have been duped is they find the Hawaii Tour Book and start reading it on day one. Their Facebook wall doesn’t have one picture of your farm, only pictures of everywhere else they’ve been. They haven’t been with you for more than a week, and they have seen more tourist attractions than you have in your 12 years of being on the island. They can already pronounce humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Hawaii’s state fish. Say aloha and encourage them to enjoy the island.
♦ Argh Matey!
Avoid people with pirate tattoos or pirate flags: as if the obvious signs weren’t right in front of your face. These people aren’t necessarily big fans of The Pirates of the Caribbean and Johnny Depp, they actually will steal from you. Do send them packing first.
Another indication, is they say, “Look what I found!” As if I can hold everything I own in my hand at all times. No, it’s not yours, may you use it? Yes, you may use it, just don’t walk away with it.
A worker, when asked to perform a task, grabs his coffee cup on his way out. It’s physically impossible to drink coffee and move a cow. Or, they may say, “I will move the cow, after I enjoy my coffee.” Tell them about the cafés in town, they might even be looking for dish washers.
Another sign is when each day you have to tell or remind the worker to do a task. If they can’t muster the enthusiasm to work on your farm, you will be better off with the next candidate.
♦ On the Clock
When it would take you 10 minutes to complete a task alone, but it takes an hour to do it with your helper. Signs that they really just want to irritate you and not work are: they keep asking you the same question at each step. For instance, when picking 30 pounds of fruit, they ask if each and everyone of them is ready to pick. At some point, they should be able to get it.
Really crafty workers when caught slacking, will say, “Oh, there you are, I have a question.” People say that no question is a stupid question. I don’t agree with that. Give them the answer, by showing them the gate.
♦ What Everyone Says
Anyone that says, “What I lack in experience, I make up for in enthusiasm.” Just don’t go there.
♦ Section Eight
If they are crazy, you can’t help them because you are a farmer not a psychiatrist. Things to alert you to this, include: they’ve been gone two hours and they haven’t completed the task but instead tell you they have been meditating and eating elephant grass. When talking to you, their irises are completely surrounded by the whites of their eyes.
One guy told me that he was 26 years old but he looked 36. After I told him no, he kept trying to come back and would send me photographs of himself taken 10 years ago. You’ll need to send them packing in the gentlest of ways. It may involve calling their parents.
♦ They Say Anything You Want to Hear
They sometimes lie on their application. One instance involved a man saying his cooking skills were rated 9 out of 10. He proceeded to show his momentarily, mesmerized audience how to correctly peel an onion. He first cut off the rooted end, then the top, then he peeled the onion of its first layer. Need less to say, no one learned anything new.
One man said he had an herb garden. It turned out to be a few potted herbs that he bought at the grocery store which he placed on his kitchen window shelf.
I told a girl once, “You’re never going to be a good gardener if you don’t water your transplants.” She stated, “I don’t want to be a gardener.” I simply asked, “Then why are you here?” Better they go elsewhere.
♦ Even Their Friends Don’t Like Them
Worker’s who use their family members as references. Families are almost obligated to love you and give you a good reference, if it’s only to get rid of you. Their problem is now your problem.
♦ Jane, Get Me Off This Crazy Thing!
They miss their plane. Missing ones plane or giving you the wrong date to pick them up at the airport is a sure sign that they completely do not know how to follow instructions. After circling the airport in vein, we discovered one man told us his departure date from the east coast, not his arrival date.
Another time, a man sat in the airport with a buddy pass for two days thinking they would call his name if a seat became available. That same man, called us from the Honolulu airport saying he was $10 short cash to change his missed flight to the Big Island. He said he lost his debit card at the airport. That’s not all he lost.
If they can’t make it to your farm without serious transportation issues, they probably are better off staying where they are.
♦ Take Chances
Well, there are some good tips here. Most of all, life is an adventure and you’ll enjoy the ride if you take chances, especially with people. We have met some really incredible ones on the farm. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
*People pictured in these photos, actually stayed on my farm (some more than once). Love you guys!!!