When you need a helping hand

In a bid to help solve the shortage of short-term labour, a young couple have developed a website to make the link. By Rebecca Greaves. Photos by John Cowpland.

In Business8 Minutes
Nothing casual about website developers Jason and Emma Hynes who are helping farmers find casual farm staff.

In a bid to help solve the shortage of short-term labour, a young couple have developed a website to make the link. By Rebecca Greaves. Photos by John Cowpland.

Young farmers Emma and Jason Hynes developed a website to link casual workers with farmers after noticing many struggled to find casual labour at busy times of the year.

The website, Casual Farmers NZ, has been set up to connect casual farm workers with employers around the country.

Emma says the website is a way to help connect casual workers with farmers who need an extra set of hands.

“When Jase started managing we really noticed there are a lot of farms that employ one person to run the farm but at busy times they’re screaming for casuals.”

The website went fully live in January, after a three month trial period, and is free for workers to subscribe to.

For employers there are two pricing options: $150 per year for an annual subscription, allowing you to list unlimited jobs or $50/job listing for smaller operations or lifestylers. The job is advertised for 30 days.

The couple have two young children, Corban, nearly two, and Ava, five months, and rent a house in Patoka, near Emma’s job managing the feed pad at Rissington Station, which works well with her young family.

Heifers are up at the feed pad until they reach their target weights, this ranges from 30-90 days depending on their start weights, and the bulls stay up on the feed pad until September. In September they are sold at the bull sale as yearlings.

Emma looks after the animals and their diet. They were weaned in February and come to the feed pad until September.

“I manage their weight gain and feed volumes as well as a bit of data analysis and forecasting. I love it.”

Jason had been farming 12 years and worked as a stock manager at Rissington too, but has recently started working for AsureQuality as a TB tester. AsureQuality has an office base in town.

“We’re living in Patoka so I can still do my role, and Jase can do his role from wherever.

Neither Emma, 28, nor Jason, 32, grew up on a farm, but both had grandparents who were farming.

Emma grew up in Tauranga and her grandparents had a farm at Omakere in Hawke’s Bay.

“Every school holidays I’d go down and I fell in love with it, I was poppa’s little shadow. I got a horse as well.

“Having that opportunity, and only sometimes, made me appreciate it when I was there and make the most of it.”

Jason grew up in Marton and his grandparents also had a farm. He started out driving diggers before deciding he’d like to go farming.

“We had farming in our families, but didn’t grow up on farms. I just loved animals as a kid and grew to love farming.”

Emma gained a Bachelor of Science, majoring in agriculture. Her first job out of uni was as a farm tech at Lochinvar Station doing data analysis for the farm, anything from liveweight gains to pasture covers and crop yields. She also helped out with general farm work at busy times, like weaning and docking.

It was at Lochinvar she met Jason, who was shepherding there. After a year and-a-half, the farm was sold and the couple moved to Hawke’s Bay. Jason had a job as a training manager on a farm in Elsthorpe. Emma worked for Brownrigg Agriculture as a shepherd and crop monitoring.

She then moved to Rural Directions in a farm advisory, data collection and environmental role. She wrote farm environment plans. When Jason moved to Rissington, the opportunity arose for Emma to run the feed pad too, and she did a season of working in town for Rural Directions as well as running the feed pad.

“That was super busy. When I got pregnant I decided I liked the feed pad job more than working in town so we both worked at Rissington together for two and-a-half years, and I juggled that with mum life.”

These days, Emma gets up early to feed out before Jason starts work and in the afternoons they have people who help with the kids. Jason picks them up, or they go with Emma to work occasionally. All up she does three to four hours a day between two feeds, and five hours a week of data analysis from home.

“I wouldn’t want to work fulltime, but this gives me a bit of brain stimulation. The Absolom family are amazing with the kids and accommodating about it, as long as I get the work done.”

Long term, Emma says the couple definitely want to stay in the agriculture industry and they’d love to have an opportunity for something like an equity partnership one day. With no family farms to go home to and the prospect of buying a farm appearing unfeasible, they would like to get some skin in the game, somehow.

She says at the moment, what they’re doing works well.

“Maybe five to 10 years down the track when the kids are older we’d love to get into something.”

Emma says they have 93 casual workers registered with Casual Farmers NZ from all around the country. They aim to capture those people who might not be full-time farming, mums or farmers with a spare weekend who want to earn some money. They hope to maximise the skilled workers available, from students over summer to people travelling domestically who want to work along the way.

Farmers have been a little slower on the uptake, with 30 employers registered so far. Emma’s main method for promoting the site has been social media, so she’s keen to find other ways to reach farmers.

“We know from our own experience that many farmers don’t take a break and I think it’s important for people to get away from the farm.”

Visit casualfarmers.co.nz