“Being a good boss makes perfect sense for our business and our team’s wellbeing. We milk 720 cows, employ four permanent staff, and are proud that our farm supports a good lifestyle for five families, including our own. Being a good boss means communicating well and holding on to valued staff.
The Risis say that in any business, the people you employ and work with are one of your biggest assets, so it’s important to value them because they can make or break your business. “We are very lucky to have this group of guys working for us.” Says Vicki.
Every morning the Risi farm team sits down to breakfast to plan the day. During the COVID-19 lockdown, breakfasts were on hold, and with them the accompanying banter – something everyone missed.
Safe and sound
Health and safety are priorities for the Risis. Accidents happen when people get overtired and they say they don’t want anyone getting worn out. They have enough staff to ensure the workload is evenly spread.
There’s a hazard board up in the shed, as well as step-by-step procedures on laminated sheets for reference, together with the health and safety farm rules. A farm map and procedures for farm visitors are also on the wall, and there’s a wash-down area for vehicles. All the farm machinery is regularly serviced by professionals.
"Our staff are our biggest asset, so we need to look after them."
The Risis have been on their Cambridge for 26 years. In the beginning they had 300 cows and one staff member who had every third weekend off, then every second weekend. As their herd increased and the team grew, they talked to everyone about changing the rosters to seven on/two off, seven on/two off and seven on/three off, so everyone gets a long weekend once a month. The team was a bit unsure at first, but Vicki says it’s worked out well. They build in a certain amount of flexibility to accommodate family commitments. “Our staff are our biggest asset, so we need to look after them.”
Three of the team live in farmhouses on the property. One has bought his own home in town and commutes to the farm. The farmhouses have recently been refurbished and have log burners with wood supplied. Staff also have their lawns mowed and everyone gets half a beast every year for the freezer.
“We pay a fair wage, and don’t try and flog it. I believe some people think they can make staff do the hours, as long as they don’t get down past the minimum wage, but that’s not how we operate. Your employees don’t own the farm, so you can’t expect them to have the same vested interest or to work the same hours as you do, but they should be treated fairly.
“It’s very much a team effort. We have a good work vibe on the farm and we’re really lucky with the people we have here.”