Overcoming pandemic challenges with Growcom’s Fair Farms
Growcom’s Fair Farms is an industry-led, national training and certification initiative that is cultivating fair and responsible employment practices in Australian horticulture. The program provides support and training to farm employers and a pathway to independent third-party audit and certificationn. Additionally, the program has played an important role in helping growers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vegetables Australia reports.
Mulgowie Yowie is in the process of obtaining Fair Farms Certification, and the business recently spoke candidly about how it has been dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mulgowie Yowie farm owner and Growcom member, Shannon Moss, is – like many farmers – dealing with the harsh reality of COVID restrictions. Shannon said the hardest thing to deal with due to the pandemic – besides the economic problems – was staffing.
In addition to ensuring he had enough staff for harvest, Shannon said he knew he needed to ensure compliance with any requirements to do with payroll and workplace health and safety, particularly with COVID constantly threatening disruptions to the workplace.
“Staffing is my number one problem,” Shannon said.
“From a business point of view, as an owner I get nervous when there’s staffing issues. We don’t have a real population of workers to fall back on.”
Mulgowie Yowie Salads will usually have a good mix of overseas and local workers, but during the pandemic has had to rely heavily on local workers.
“I’ll get a few of the local boys when they finish school to work here. Even my son is here now working while on a gap year,” Shannon said.
“I’ll end up with enough staff and I work really hard at that.”
Lending a hand
While staffing has been hard, Shannon said he has been able to get through it by focusing on staff retention and engaging with Growcom’s Fair Farms program to ensure he was doing everything he possibly could to ensure his employees and business were safe.
“This year we did a lot of work on workplace, health and safety,” Shannon said.
“We have set procedures on training, the induction process and the VEVO checks (identity checks). We’ve already done that without Fair Farms, but Fair Farms gives us a better checklist.
“I think that’s where Fair Farms comes into it – it’s a checklist, what you need to do to get through an audit.
“Fair Farms is a local form of SEDEX.”
Fair Farms offers training through its online learning platforms, which has modules that cover everything from understanding labour hire risks to how to properly induct a new employee.
Shannon acknowledged it was incredibly important to look after his staff for business continuity and their own wellbeing. He credited his decision to register for certification with Growcom’s Fair Farms program as just good business sense.
“I know it’s important to have all these things to make sure the business is protected – for work cover and insurance – and I don’t want to work in a business where it isn’t a happy working environment too,” Shannon explained.
“At the end of the day, I’ve got to put my business hat on and I’m in the business of selling product. It’s all about dollars and sense.”
Mulgowie Yowie Salads has completed the first initial steps towards receiving Fair Farms Certification, which includes completing an online self-assessment to identify training needs, and plans to go through audit as soon as his farm manager is back from holiday later this year.
Find out more
To find out more about Growcom’s Fair Farms program and any special offers it may be offering, please click here.
Fair Farms is developed and delivered by Growcom with support from the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and AUSVEG.
Cover image: Shannon Moss on his farm, Mulgowie Yowie.