Providing Solutions for Independent Pork Producers

Maurer Farms attribute increased performance to FarmTeam.

FarmTeam member Jony Rueda Hernandez and owner of Maurer Farms, Rick Maurer.

In rural southwestern Minnesota, Preston Maurer works alongside his dad, Rick, on their family farm near Morgan. “We raise corn, soybeans, wheat, and hogs – finishing approximately 22,000 head each year, plus we do tiling on the side,” said Preston. With his diversified family farm in mind, Preston obtained his degree from South Dakota State University and returned home to work full-time at Maurer Farms. The Maurer’s soon found themselves stretched thin as the demands of the field in the Spring and Fall left them with little time for their hogs. “We had been looking to fill a role specifically on the livestock end, so when we discovered FarmTeam, a service through PIPESTONE, right away we were interested,” said Rick. “We have been working with FarmTeam now for about two years, and it has been a real positive experience so far.”

In the summer of 2022, FarmTeam staff selected Jonathon “Jony” Rueda Hernandez to join Rick and Preston at Maurer Farms as a full-time FarmTeam member. Jony is from Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, and speaks little English. Prior to his arrival in the U.S., he attended the University of Chiapas, studying Veterinary Medicine & Animal Husbandry. After accepting the position with PIPESTONE and moving to Minnesota, Jony was enrolled in the FarmTeam training program for 6 weeks. During that time, FarmTeam trainers put him through a rigorous Pig IQ training program, provided support as he acclimated to his new environment, and assisted him with his U.S. documentation and banking details. FarmTeam Coordinator, Giovanna Penuelas oversees the training program and notes the importance of the time spent with new team members, “Training is not just about acquiring job skills, we also try to make the transition to living in a new country a positive experience.”

Although Jony didn’t know a lot about the swine industry when he arrived, like other FarmTeam members, he came with an agricultural-related education and a desire to learn. After completing the training program and placement at his permanent farm with the Maurer’s, Jony assumed the daily responsibilities of the barns. “Having a FarmTeam member allows us to dedicate a lot of time and care to the health of our pigs, and that has paid off big for us,” states Preston. Jony agrees, “I accepted the position as FarmTeam because it really is an area of great interest. You have many responsibilities on the farm, and you are like your own farm boss. I really learn a lot in this area.”

Of course, inviting an individual from another country and culture to live and work in your operation day after day does present challenges. But, both Rick and Preston agree they pale in comparison to the benefits. “It is a big learning curve for them when they come here, as well as, for us, to get used to them, them to get used to us, and the job. But it has met our expectations. It’s just a good fit,” stated Rick. “The language barrier is definitely a challenge, both ways – it is for Jony and it is for us. We’ve learned the biggest key is patience. We use translation apps on our phones to help bridge the gap. Having someone here from a completely different environment, and seeing them change and grow as Jony has, is really fun.”

Together, Jony Rueda Hernandez and Preston Maurer have overcome the language barrier with the help of Google Translate and patience. When not in the barns, Jony is able to learn new skills working on a diversified operation.

Together, the team at Maurer Farms is off and running, the Maurer family has encouraged Jony to take a college English course and folded him into their active community. FarmTeam doesn’t just deliver a team member to a farm, but rather walks alongside family farmers helping them identify needs, then begins the process of selecting, developing, and backfilling the right team member for the operation to solve their labor shortage challenge. “For us, willingness to learn and the ability to learn are key factors in the success of an employee. With each FarmTeam member we’ve had, we always see a desire to learn, a desire to be better, and a desire to be incorporated into our farm…and that is very, very important,” said Preston. “We are on this journey with Rick and Preston from start to finish, their success is our success,” stated Dan Hanson, Director of FarmTeam with PIPESTONE. Rick agreed, “Once you find that fit, it can be amazing and a long-term work and friend relationship.”

Rick and Preston feel they are unique in what they have to offer Jony. “We are a very diversified farm; so we’ve made his job diversified. The hogs are his top priority, but then he is able to work with us in our shop, help with tiling, harvest, and other things; we try to expose him to as much as we can.”
Preston added, “FarmTeam has opened the door for us to tackle tasks that were not easy in the past because we were always short-handed. It really helps us specialize and be a lot more efficient as a farm altogether.”

But Rick admits that taking the plunge isn’t as easy as it sounds. “I think it is human nature as a farmer to try and do everything yourself, to always be thinking that you can’t afford more expense or can’t hire another person. It’s a big step, and it’s a difficult step, but we feel it can really add a lot to your operation. We’ve seen it firsthand, and now wouldn’t want to do it any other way.” He adds that another draw is allowing FarmTeam to manage the payroll and benefits for Jony. As a FarmTeam member, Jony is employed by PIPESTONE, with the same benefits package as the rest of their employees. Family farmers can trust their FarmTeam member is taken care of – from health insurance to their U.S. VISA. “PIPESTONE and FarmTeam make it pretty easy, we don’t worry about the HR stuff because we know that it’s handled. Instead, we can focus on Jony, helping him to become a part of our operation more quickly.” At the end of the day, the guys at Maurer Farms are advocates of the FarmTeam program, including Jony. “I am really satisfied because every day I learn and try to improve myself. It really is a very good experience and I would really recommend friends or family to FarmTeam or to work at PIPESTONE.”

“For us, to know that our hogs are being WELL cared for when we have to focus on other aspects of the farm is just huge. Since bringing on a FarmTeam member, we’ve seen improvements in performance in our livestock,” concluded Rick.

FarmTeam staff provide support at every turn to both independent pork producers and new employees relocating to the midwest. (l-r) Preston Maurer, Jony Rueda Hernandez, Rick Maurer, and Dan Hanson, Director of FarmTeam at PIPESTONE.

If your farm is experiencing the same challenges as the Maurer family, or if you are looking at growing your operation, FarmTeam may be the right fit for you. FarmTeam utilizes the human resource expertise of PIPESTONE to provide independent pork producers access to qualified farm employees for grow/finish teams. All new FarmTeam employees start in a team-based environment where PIPESTONE staff provide grow/finish pig care training based on current swine-industry standards. FarmTeam is a service offering from Pipestone Business.