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An Agricultural Entrepreneurship Story: AgCareers.com
By Bonnie Johnson, AgCareers.com

 

More than fifteen years ago, Eric Spell saw that the agricultural industry needed to raise the bar on recruitment practices to drive the talent pipeline. In the early 2000s, Monster.com, CareerBuilder, and other job boards started to pop up on the internet. “That is when the light bulb in my head started flashing and I went to work designing a website for online recruitment in agriculture,” shared Spell, President of AgCareers.com.

The beginning

Spell grew up on a farm in North Carolina and received a degree in business management from North Carolina State University with a concentration in labor/personnel. In college, he became fascinated with campus recruiters and thought, “What a cool job!”

Spell started with Murphy Farms (now Smithfield Foods) in their management trainee program. He worked in sow production for a year, then a multiplication role working with contract growers. “Things were happening so fast, I was getting a lot of exposure and building excitement with the swine industry,” said Spell.

He was presented with an opportunity to help in a high school and collegiate recruitment capacity, which included traveling to 25 land-grant institutions to help support growth. That is when Spell realized that they were giving new grads the technical skills they needed, but not providing them with leadership skills. Spell was sent to England for a 60-day intensive leadership training course. When returning to the U.S. he was asked, “How do we implement this?” He suggested recruiting an experienced person from the leadership training organization to come work with Murphy Farms. After this professional was hired, Spell worked with them from the top down to identify the culture they wanted and the leadership components they needed. Then they developed a series of training programs for employees and began implementing them throughout the organization.

Entrepreneurial spirit

By the end of 1996, Spell caught the entrepreneurial bug. He left Murphy Farms to start his own training and consulting business, Potential Solutions. At this point, he mainly focused on training but also did some recruitment consulting. This is when the boom of online job boards began and Spell developed his vision for an online recruitment tool to raise the bar in agriculture.

JobHog.net was launched in 2001. The name was developed at a time when businesses were being creative in naming internet companies, oftentimes with names that didn’t seem to fit with their business role (e.g. Amazon.com). Spell said, “The idea was that we were going to ‘hog’ all of the jobs in agriculture,” being a one-stop shop. However, some customers had the misconception that JobHog was only for swine jobs.

Becoming AgCareers.com

In 2002, Spell met the Farms.com group, who already had a section of their site called AgCareers.com. Their site was more Canadian and recruiter based, and they were working on morphing their print newsletter into more of an online presence. On the other hand, JobHog was more focused on employers in the U.S., and a collaboration seemed like a perfect fit. The companies officially merged at the end of 2003 and today’s AgCareers.com was born.

The online job board aspect of AgCareers.com has experienced tremendous growth since it began, with more than 85,000 jobs posted worldwide in 2015.

The future of recruitment

AgCareers.com and Spell continue to help educate and encourage ag employers to raise the bar in recruitment. “We need to do more to draw young people into agriculture,” said Spell. “Retirement is a concern; how do we help this new generation of workers be part of succession planning?” added Spell.

AgCareers.com has grown to become the leading ag-specific job board for recruitment advertising and provider of global talents solutions in agriculture and food. AgCareers.com continues to launch new products to stay on the forefront of online recruitment. Elevating the recruitment methods and perception of the agricultural industry overall is a continuous process. As Spell has said, “American agriculture not only feeds the world with food, we need to feed the world with talent!”

AgCareers.com can help with your training and consulting needs. From Leadership Enhancement to Recruiting Best Practices, we can customize training to fit your organization’s needs. Find out more about AgCareers.com Training and Consulting options, or contact agcareers@agcareers.com.