Strategies for Improved Workplace Relations and Farmworker Retention in New York State


2012 to 2014


The overarching goal of this project is to enhance farm labor stability by engaging workers and employers in a joint exploration of opportunities for advancement and retention. The objectives are: 1) to engage farm workers in analyzing their current labor situation and potential retention strategies through focus groups;
2) to facilitate discussions with farmers and farm managers about the challenges and opportunities for retaining workers;
3) to use the data collected in the focus groups with both farmers and workers to examine mutually beneficial approaches and training opportunities;
4) to develop a training guide to support Cooperation in Inter-cultural Workplaces; and
5) to conduct trainings with workers, farmers, and extension professionals to address labor instability.


In light of the widespread concern among farmers about the availability of a stable, efficient, productive, workforce that is willing and physically able to do the work, we are involved in a project that addresses on-farm tensions between workers and employers/managers on “Strategies for Improved Workplace Relations and Farmworker Retention in New York State”.

We were prompted to begin this work in response to farmworkers' expressed concerns that little can be done to improve communication in the workplace without risking dismissal. Farmers also called on the program to help them improve their communication with the Hispanic workforce. The dairy industry has opportunities for growth and new markets, but labor concerns continue to be a limiting factor.


To date, we have conducted 22 focus group discussions with Hispanic workers on dairy farms and 14 formal discussions with farm owners and managers.


These efforts have promoted better communication, worker satisfaction, and improvements in quality of life for farmworkers, farm owners, and managers. This effort provides tools and approaches designed to engage farm owners and managers in discussions with their employees to address workplace communication challenges and to develop farm-specific plans for ongoing communication. This project also helps both to explore opportunities for training and possibilities for worker advancement.

Submitted by: 

  • Dudley, Mary Jo

Researchers involved: 

  • Dudley, Mary J
  • Degni, Janice G
  • Compa, Lance
  • Cook, Maria
  • Martinez-Matsuda, Veronica
  • Cornell, Angela

Organizations involved: 

  • Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension

International focus: 

  • United States of America

United States focus: 

  • New York