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There are times when we need to be away from the farm. Perhaps it’s for a well-needed vacation, but other times there are weddings, funerals, business trips and college visits that require us to leave town. Don’t worry! Let’s talk about everything you need to know about how to hire a farm sitter!
Finding a farm-sitter that you can depend upon to take good care of your property and animals isn’t easy, I’ve been through a few of them.
I’ve got some advice and tips about how to hire a farm sitter, based on my experience.
Don’t wait until the last minute!
Plan months in advance if possible. Good farm-sitters are busy, and need plenty of notice to be able to make time in their schedules.
So, where do you find a good farm-sitter?
Get Personal Referrals
Leads through personal referrals are very important. Never consider someone that you do not know and/or can’t link someone to them who you know very well (like from an ad on Craigslist, etc.). But definitely, ask your friends and people you trust!
It may seem obvious, but other homesteaders and stable owners in the area would be my first choice. Folks who regularly work with their own animals make the best sitters, and while they may not be able to keep the exact schedule you do because they have their own chores to do, they are always my first choice.
I prefer adults over teenagers as farm-sitters, and I have experience with both. Once exception would be older kids who are being supervised by their parents. For example, I have a good friend with three sons, who’s husband farms hundred of acres of land. One time when I needed to be out of town, I hired her boys, who of course are very knowledgeable about animals having grown up on a farm. My friend drove them over and oversaw everything. This was a great way for the boys to earn some money, but they did not have all the responsibility. You always want an adult involved.
Check with Farm Organizations
Other places to find good qualified farm-sitters would be your local 4H club or Future Farmers of America. There are many parents and older kids who live in your area and might be interested in taking care of your place. I would speak with the club leader and ask for some referrals, putting the emphasis on dependability, honesty and responsibility.
Your county’s extension office could prove to be another place for farm-sitter prospects. Again, call and let them know what you’re looking for, and for names and phone numbers.
Once you find a potential farm-sitter, interview them by phone first. You’re going to want to know about their level of experience with the types of animals you have. Depending upon what you need them to do, you’ll have to decide what kind of previous experience you require. Ask open-ended questions and allow them to tell you a bit about themselves. Listen carefully for any red flags.
You will also want to ask if they have ever done any farm-sitting in the past, and ask for names to follow-up with those people. You want to know how they did on previous jobs! Don’t be afraid to ask this question, believe me. If they’ve done good work in the past, they aren’t going to mind you checking! It’s not worth coming home to an absolute mess.
After you’ve established a level of trust, then you may want to schedule a time, long before your trip, for them to come out and take a look at what you want them to do.
Put Everything in Writing
I suggest putting your “chore list” in writing, step by step, and make sure you both have a copy. Be as specific as you can be, and go through your list as you walk around the farm with your prospect. Show them clearly what you want done, don’t be vague. Remember, they need something to refer to if they aren’t able to speak with you, better too much detail than too little.
You’re going to want to leave phone numbers for your vet, neighbors (in case of emergency) and a close friend of yours, if needed.
Make sure they have assess to extra feed, grain and other supplies, if needed.
Discuss Pay Up Front and Pay Well
Let them know what the job pays as you’re discussing the job, put that in writing as well. The way I like to handle it, especially with younger people, is to give them a range of pay, say for example $100-150. If everything looks the way I described that I wanted it to be when I return, then I will gladly pay them the highest part of the range, and if not, I’ll deduct. This gives them incentive to work hard to please you and do a good job.
Go through your list with your farm-sitter once more the day before you leave, to make sure everything is clear and allow for any questions that they may have.
Make sure that you leave them with a way to contact you, if possible. I prefer to receive a text each night, letting me know that everything is fine, I just sleep better that way.
When you return, do a walk-thru along with your list and make sure your expectations have been met. Don’t be afraid to let your sitter know how you felt about the job, especially if they did a good job for you!
If you’re pleased with them, remember to refer them to others! Good people are hard to find!