Supporting On-Farm Labour During the Dry Times

Co-designing Job Security and Development in Farming Communities During Drought

“We want to hear from you! Holbrook Landcare Network and Charles Sturt University are conducting research to understand the factors affecting farm labour in the Greater Hume Region. If you’re a farm business owner/manager or a farm employee who has worked in the region in the past five years, we’d love to hear your insights.”

In mid-2023 it became apparent that like many regions Holbrook and its local producers have been facing the challenge of attracting and retaining young, skilled workers on-farm.

To tackle this issue Holbrook Landcare Network, with the support of the Southern NSW Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub have been able to initiate the Supporting On-Farm Labour During the Dry Times Project. This project is characterised by it’s a co-design process seeking the collaboration of farmers, farm staff and industry experts to identify the root causes of employment and retention challenges, and explore potential solutions. This process aims to facilitate knowledge exchange between farm business owners, peers and professionals to aid in addressing identified challenges.

The Supporting On-Farm Labour During the Dry Times Project consists of three main components:

  1. Literature Review into Workforce Retention,
  2. Co-Design ThinkTanks, and
  3. One-on-One Interviews.
Literature Review into Workforce Retention

Holbrook Landcare Network is excited to working with Professor Ruth Nettle, University of Melbourne to undergo a rapid appraisal of current literature relating to agricultural workforce retention. In developing this literature review within this project HLN will be able to highlight a summary of gaps and opportunities demonstrated across literature in relation workforce retention topics. This will provide a valuable evidence base to support future proposed projects relating to on-farm labour.

Co-Design ThinkTanks

In the second stage of the project process, Holbrook Landcare Network will be hosting three key Co-Design ThinkTank Sessions. The three sessions broken up into the Producer Session, Professional Session and Workforce Session.

Producer Session

This session will bring together local producers to lend their experience in managing farm labour and share their innovative ideas to collaboratively design solutions to support on-farm labour attraction, retention and development in the region. We look forward to inviting a diverse range of local producers into these conversations.

If you’re a local producer who is interested in participating in the On-Farm Labour ThinkTank, Click Here to register for the upcoming event 15th March, 8:30am-11:30am at the Holbrook Library. 

Professional Session

This session will bring together regional professionals and leaders in agricultural skills development and training including those who have conducted scholarship programs, training programs, gap-years, and exchanges and manage human resources from community, vocational and tertiary backgrounds.

Workforce Session

This session will bring together the central audience surrounding attracting and retaining farm-labour  – the employees and the workforce we want to attract. This session will aim to capture the ideas from the perspective of the potential and existing workforce our industry has. It will be conducted online with participants from across Southern NSW from all industry backgrounds.

Benefits of Participating
  • Help shape the future of farm labour practices in your community.
  • Contribute to a better understanding of farm labour challenges and opportunities.
  • Receive a copy of the final research report when it’s ready.

Research Project Component: Exploring the Dynamics of Farm Labour Attraction, Retention and Development in the Greater Hume Region, NSW

The third and final component of the Supporting On-Farm Labour During the Dry Times Project is a series on one-on-one interviews which will be captured under a Research based Sub-Project Exploring the Dynamics of Farm Labour Attraction, Retention and Development in the Greater Hume Region.

This research project is being conducted by Holbrook Landcare Network Staff, Dr. Alison Southwell (Executive Officer), Jess Armstrong (Community Engagement Officer) and Dr. Jen Bond (Senior Lecturer Human Geography, Charles Sturt University).


What are we aiming to do?

The purpose of these interviews is to identify the key determinants that are influencing farm business’s and their abilities to attract, retain and foster professional development in their employees and the factors driving farm-based employment uptake and decline.

This is a research project is an opportunity for HLN to contribute to Australian based research relating to farm based workforce issues. We believe the input from our local farm businesses and employees will provide invaluable insights hence developing the evidence base that our organisation and larger organisations utilise to prioritise and develop scalable solutions.

Who Should Participate?

We are looking to conduct interviews with farm business employers and employees from with the Greater Hume Council Region. If you have been involved in the recruitment process as an employer or employee in a livestock, crop or mixed farming enterprise in the last 5-years we’d love to have you involved.

For more information read the Participant Information Sheet.

To express your interest in participating in this Project, complete the Expressions of Interest from below and return to [email protected].

What you’ll be asked to do?

Participating in an interview is a voluntary process. The interview process will take approximately 1.5 hours.

During the interview, if you are participating as an employer, we will ask you questions relating to your experience on-farm attracting, retaining and developing staff capacity in your farm business operation. If you are participating as an employee, we will ask you questions related to your experience finding and applying for a farm-based role and your experience overall as an employee in an on-farm based role.

After the interview, the insights you have provided will be de-identified, meaning any identifying information such as your name and business name will be removed and not included in any public documentation. The only personal information that will be included in any final reports arising from this project will be age, gender, employment type, and farm enterprise category. We aim to ensure that the anonymity of all participants is maintained so that your participation in this project will pose no risk to your employment or reputation as an employer.

For more information read the Participant Information Sheet.

How Will Your Interview Be Used?

Your insights will be captured in a final report written by the research highlighting the trends and factors influencing farm business’ capacities to attract, retain and foster professional development. A report and supporting documentation produced through this project will be made publicly available via this project page.

For more information read the Participant Information Sheet.

How Can I Participate?

Document Downloads:

Participant Information Sheet


Expression of Interest Form


Owner/Manager/Employee Consent Form


Meet the Research Team:

Jessie Armstrong, Community Engagement Officer, Holbrook Landcare Network

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 0498 683 152

Dr Alison Southwell, CEO, Holbrook Landcare Network

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 0428 531 098