Soybean growers looking for labor through an app

(Photo: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association)

Finding farm labor through an app

October 14, 2022 | Jeff Hutton

Mike Hofer struggled to find committed and experienced farmworkers on his Clinton County farm. “I had been looking for over a year to find a part-time driver,” he says.

Traditional newspaper ads, headhunters and even generic web-based sites might yield some results, but too often, those efforts have proven unsuccessful.

But a new internet app, designed with the agricultural industry in mind, changed Hofer’s luck.

Welcome to FarmPost

Hofer was introduced to the FarmPost app just a few years ago by Michael Schaeffer, CEO of FarmPost Inc., based in DeWitt in eastern Iowa.

Schaeffer, who helped to create the app, connected Hofer to it, and once it was installed, successfully assisted Hofer in finding that part-time driver within two weeks.

“I had three good applicants who responded; the guy I picked is still with me,” Hofer says. “With those other avenues, you’re not always hitting your target audience. The app appealed to me and it worked.”

Schaeffer, who previously managed a large swine operation in eastern Iowa, says a constant struggle over the years has been finding good employees, especially those with a farming background.

“The one thing we would run into is that we knew that help was out there, but we had no way to contact them,” directly,” he says.

“I just started talking to our customer base, asking what we could do to find employees.”

Through hundreds of conversations, the development of the app surfaced.

“In the beginning, I had no guidance; I was just winging it,” Schaeffer admits. “I’m not someone who sits still very easily.”

So, he researched companies who could help him develop the app since he had no technology background and began crafting a site where both employers and employees could connect.

After interviewing third-party app developers, Schaeffer says he found a company to help him with the app and they have been on board ever since the creation of the app in 2018 and its broader release in 2019.

Initially, the FarmPost app was designed to focus on eastern Iowa and Schaeffer’s customer base.

“But in the first couple of months, we had several thousand downloads across the United States,” he says. “It just took off from word of mouth.”

FarmPost’s reach has been much greater than just the Midwest.

“We’ve filled jobs for ranchers in Texas, cowboys in Wyoming, specialty crops in Florida, cannabis crops in Oklahoma … We’ve been successful across the country.”

Schaeffer says the app was a hit right away because the farm labor shortage, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, has accelerated the needs of those in the ag industry.

“The industry is taking a huge hit; COVID changed a lot of things,” he says. “We’re still trying to fill jobs, and for many, it’s been more difficult to find quality applicants.”

And while FarmPost is making a dent in the job market effort, the app is proving to be relevant in other ways.

“Our users want more. There are lots of gaps in the ag industry,” Schaeffer says. For example, he notes that custom farming is happening everywhere, yet it’s an untapped market. The app, he says, now lists ads for custom farming and farm equipment sales.

“We want this to be a full-on ag marketplace because there is a need,” Schaeffer says.

What’s next?

As to the future of the app, which can be downloaded onto a desktop computer, laptop or cell phone (through Google Play Store or the Apple App Store), Schaeffer believes the core mission will always be to connect employers with employees.

But the expansion as an ag marketplace, be it custom planting, custom harvesting or farm equipment sales, is just the beginning.

“We will always focus on finding farm help, but once we fill those jobs, are there other ways we can throughout the year?” Schaeffer says.

The work is paying off – FarmPost was named the 2022 Ag Tech Breakthrough Award winner for Overall Harvest Solution of the Year.

For Schaeffer, helping farmers succeed is the only award he’s interested in achieving.

I have a passion for agriculture,” he says. “Knowing how we’re helping and changing the industry has been rewarding.”

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