John Pagel, Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy – Building Success Through Your Employees

Posted on July 2, 2014 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
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Article written by Macy Sarbacker
Learning to manage your own farm business can be tricky. The last thing you want to be frustrated with is your employees.  John Pagel of Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy LLC knows firsthand the struggle of dealing with employees, as he employs 120 on his own operation. Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy LLC of Kewaunee, Wisconsin currently milks 5,000 cows on 8,500 acres, making it the largest family-owned dairy operation in Wisconsin. Over the years, the Pagel family has learned how to smoothly manage a large operation with many employees.

The top five reasons, according to Pagel, that people leave their jobs are:

  • No relationship with boss/manager
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of vision
  • Compensation
  • Lack of meaningful work or opportunity

The Pagel family looks for the following traits when hiring new hires: attitude, willingness to accept a challenge, likeliness to “own the position,” accepting of responsibility, and accountability.

When employees are hired to Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy LLC, they all go through the CAR Program, which emphasizes Communication, Accountability and Respect. This program represents the core values of the operation, enhances team building and specifically discusses with employees how they are representing the farm – both on and off of the operation.

Another way that the Pagel family stays organized with its employees is by holding manager meetings every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning. During these manager meetings, Pagel meets with all eight managers who have positions ranging from dairy herd manager to maintenance manager to shop manager. These meetings are a time for Pagel to discuss what’s going on at the farm with all managers present. These managers can then take information back to their teams for discussion or updates.

Pagel said he believes agricultural workers are usually underpaid. The Pagel family works hard to show its appreciation for employees as they go above and beyond.  Employees are offered a variety of benefits, including health care, personal accident planning, life insurance and self-improvement classes. The Pagel family believes that self-improvement/educational classes are important for understanding personalities, learning new computer skills, and bettering employees for skills both on and off of the operation.

In summary, Pagel suggested the following tips when working with employees:

  • Be their boss and pay them well.
  • Be their coach – demand performance.
  • Be their friend – give them the tools to succeed.
  • Follow through with training and skills learned.
  • Make work enjoyable for employees.

Click to access Calf Summit 2014 proceedings

Category: Employee management
Starting Strong - Calf Care