A pair of apps, both developed in Iowa, are helping farmers find the help they need on the farm or ranch.
FarmHand helps connect farms with job seekers through an app and a recently launched website. So far, 700 jobs have been posted with the company, and the founder said that increases nearly every day.
“Positions can range from general farm labor, to trucking, custom field work, farm management, cowboy, operators – any kind of farm, ag or ranch related you can think of,” said Michael Schaeffer, founder of FarmHand App, who was also a precision ag specialist and a farm hand, and then manager of the farm.
With a huge decline in U.S. agriculture labor over the past 20 years, farm help has been challenging to find. In 2018, Schaeffer came up with the idea for the app.
“It’s going great. I’ve been able to help out a lot of people,” he said.
Currently, the FarmHand App has jobs posted in 20 states – from California to Florida and most every Plains state. The Farmhand App company is based in DeWitt, Iowa near Davenport.
It’s not like a big classified ad, Schaeffer said. He’s intent on putting a lot of himself into helping farmers who advertise try to find the best quality farm hands possible. He can see if someone has viewed the job, and he reaches out to the farmer, and makes them aware that they have an applicant, and to get them to pop back on.
“I know how busy the day gets, so a farmer may not see the notification of an applicant who looks promising,” he said.
Farmers post jobs for free, but they pay to view the applicants.
“If they don’t get applicants, they’re not out any money,” Schaeffer said.
Farmers to view an applicant’s work experience and availability, review applications and handle all ongoing communications through an in-app messaging system.
For job seekers, the FarmHand app issues an alert when a job is posted in your area or matching your skill sets.
Schaeffer participated in a year-long Iowa State University “Startup Factory” business program and was awarded a $25,000 Proof of Commercial Relevance loan from the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board.
“They want to see that you have a market fit for what you want to do,” he said. “I’ll use the funds for further marketing development to make sure when someone posts a job to be sure that job gets filled.”
The ISU ‘Start up Factory’ is faculty and student operated. Students learn in a class with a business peer group.
“They want to make sure prospective entrepreneurs have ‘all their ducks in a row’ about what they should be doing, including working with an attorney to be sure the business is safe with trademarks, which someone who hasn’t been an entrepreneur wouldn’t know about,” said Schaeffer, who said he benefitted from his education at an eastern Iowa trade school.
“Development for the app and website isn’t cheap, and to keep it progressive, we have to constantly update to meet the needs,” he said.
Three women involved in agriculture, both on the farm and in technology, are also looking forward to their farm-related app launching this spring after a year in development.
“We were just looking to help and do something different,” said Cindy Rockwell, who developed the Farmee app and website with her colleagues Molly Woodruff and Becky McCrea.
Rockwell reflected on the irony of both Iowa-based apps launching to help with farm-related needs, but said there are key differences. While FarmHand is directly linking people, Farmmee is more about the service side, she said.
With Farmmee there may be someone who wants to use their own equipment to help get planting or harvest work done for another farmer – kind of like custom farming work on demand.
Or maybe it’s an emergency situation.
Perhaps a farmer is running a planter and a storm is coming in so they need to move cattle or a combine breaks down. It can connect them with someone with the expertise to help finish a job. Rockwell compared it to a neighborly phone call.
The three women operating the Farmmee app, all live outside of Des Moines, Iowa. They previously ran AppLifts, a technology development company, and decided to build this app for farmers.
“We researched other farmers,” Rockwell said. “Some said, ‘I need people.’ Others said, ‘I have all this money wrapped up in my equipment and could share it and add revenue.’”
Rockwell grew up on a farm. She loved it and bought her own operation six years ago where her son-in-law does the farm work. As she adds more land, she plans to use her own app to find the the right resources to do it.
Molly Woodruff is the Farmmee CEO. Her husband farms and is helping test the new app.
Their third business partner, Becky McCrea, is the chief technology officer.
They plan to launch the app nationally before planting season begins in Iowa in mid-April. Farmmee will be available by subscription.
Reporter Amy Hadachek is a two-time Emmy Award winning meteorologist and a storm chaser who earned her NWA and AMS Broadcast Meteorology Seals of Approval. She and her husband live on a diversified farm in Kansas. Reach her at email@example.com.