I can’t find a good farm manager; are you the one?

By: JOSEPH MACHARIA

There is a farm manager vacancy at Mkulima Mixed Farm. Those who have been following me will know that it hasn’t been a smooth ride with Muchiri, my farm boy. He made me get into farming as a full time job to cut losses.

My recent trip to Europe has confirmed that Muchiri’s performance as the acting manager was below par, though he looks satisfied with his work.

With the farm expanding, I cannot do everything on my own and yet again perform my role as the chairman of Mashambani Cooperative Society. That is why I badly needed a manager.

I would have promoted Muchiri but despite being a hardworking and diligent employee, Mkulima Mixed Farm has out-grown him. Muchiri doesn’t understand modern management systems and processes that would be needed at the farm.

Like many farm workers, he got the job through a referral after I informed a friend that I needed Kijana wa shamba.

His role was to ensure cows were fed, milked and the produce delivered to the dairy cooperative. In addition, he was to cultivate the field. Through experience, Muchiri has perfected his art and skills in agriculture though he doesn’t have the science behind it.

He does not understand the nutritional requirements of a cow at different stages of lactation. He does not know what the post and pre-emergence herbicides are.

The job announcement was simple: “Mkulima Mixed Farm is recruiting a farm manager. If you are qualified, please drop your CV at the farm before November 10.”

I asked Muchiri to post the advertisement at Mashambani Shopping Centre just to test his reaction. He seemed to have no problem.

By: the third day, I had received over 50 applications. I arranged for interviews, which I held last Tuesday. I had plans to invite my friends so that we could make a broad interview panel.

However, I shelved the idea after thinking hard. My city friend Adenya would be more interested with the academic qualifications. He would insist on the top performer.

Wandia, the beautiful one, would consider the more religious person who doesn’t drink or smoke. She could also invoke the gender issue and prefer a female farm manager.

Nzuki, the bee man, could be more interested with the marital status and whether someone can be able to handle bees for pollination and harvest honey while my cunning friend Ndege would be more interested in the certificate of good conduct.

I felt this panel could forever argue over the suitable candidate. So I decided to do it myself.

The first job seeker sauntered into the room dressed in tight-fitting clothes that showed his biceps. “What are your qualifications?” I asked him. “Academic qualifications? What for? Does digging require any papers?” he answered in confidence.

“Yes, a farm manager needs to have academic qualifications,” I explained to him.

“But if the so-called educated people take our farm jobs, what will we do Bwana Mkulima?” he asked looking concerned.

“Your farm has been performing well despite Muchiri being a primary school dropout. Do you want to make the changes because you have gone abroad?” the agitated job seeker posed as he walked out.

The second interviewee said he was a qualified mechanic and plumber. “But you know anyone can be a farm manager. I used to manage my parents’ coffee farm,” he continued talking about himself without even giving me time for more questions.

The third one was curt. “We used to have cows that were almost similar to yours, I believe with my skills, I can manage your farm,” he said. The fourth was a trained mechanic who was also rearing chickens as a part time job.

“Why did you apply for this position?” I asked him. “I searched for a mechanic job but could not get one so I thought farming would be good for me,” he answered with confidence.

Then there was another who wanted to resign from his current employer. “My current boss doesn’t trust me at all,” he said.

“He has set some CCTV cameras all over the dairy unit. Before feeding the animals, I have to weigh the feeds facing the camera and after milking, I have to do the same,” he narrated.

“He can’t event trust me with Sh150 to buy nails to repair the livestock shed,” he continued. “I have to go to the hardware and then call him so that he can send the money to the hardware owner,” he said as his eyes wetted with tears

Another informed me that he wanted to join my farm because he is tired with his current employer.

“Mkulima, the reason I am quitting is anyone from that homestead can give me orders. The parents, his brothers, sisters, wife and children,” he said.

“There is no day I can go without either one or all of them making noise about my under performance. My boss always brings the Saturday newspaper to show me how other cows are producing over 30 litres of milk per day while his are producing less than 10 litres despite him having enough napier grass and banana stems,” he added.

Majority of the prospective employees complained of poor wages despite being allocated so many activities including, taking the dogs for a walk.

I learnt that the applicants did not think highly of a farm manager. I also noted that most of the farmers have high expectations from their farm workers while they do not provide the necessary resources and conducive environment for the farm assistant to deliver.

At the end of the day, I realised there was no one qualified for the job. I am thinking of re-advertising the position and this time enlist my city friend Adenya, the beautiful Wandia, the cunning Ndege and may be a manager at a neighbouring farm to help in identifying someone who will take Mkulima Mixed Farm to the next level. Are you the one?

SOURCE: DAILY NATION