A Good Workplace

For 29 years Kramer, my husband who passed away last June, worked as a hired man for a local farmer.  At times Kramer was a herdsman milking and caring for the dairy cows.  At times he was the field worker helping with crop input and harvest.  At times he was the mechanic.  At time he worked with beef production.  Whatever he did, he treated the farm, the fields and the livestock like his own.

He used to always say about the farm that he had it best.  His boss provided great equipment, ran a clean, safe operation and Kramer never had to worry about the bottom line.  He often said no farmer wants to worry about the bottom line…and Kramer being the hired man, didn’t really have to yet, he could enjoy the great working environment.

Kramer loved the farm.  To say he loved his job was an understatement.  All people should love their job the way he loved his.

For me…his job was always “the other woman”.  I was happy he loved his job but I’ll admit, he often worked so much and I was left alone with the kids and later by myself.  Early in his career, I will admit, at times, I was frustrated he spent so much time there.  Later I realized that it was just him.  It was the person he was.  When he did something, he did his best and he wanted to give his job his best.

When Kramer initially was diagnosed with cancer last January, we weren’t sure how work would go.  We weren’t sure how much Kramer would be able to work.  We weren’t sure what would happen with his health insurance….and Kramer and his boss never really talked about serious personal stuff all that often.  Me, I worried.  If Kramer couldn’t work, what would happen with our health insurance.

Kramer’s boss was a man (his daughter had just started working the farm) running a small farm.  There was no HR to go to.  There was not a company policy to refer to.  There was no contract they had signed.  That all left me uncertain.

Then in February after Kramer’s unsuccessful lung surgery I worried more.  Kramer didn’t.  He just always said, “My boss will take care of us.”  I wanted to be optimistic but I worried.  I would ask, “Did you talk to him?  How do you know?”  Kramer just always said, “I know he will”.

By April Kramer and I talked about it and decided to tell his boss not to pay him anymore.  Kramer was feeling terrible that he couldn’t work.  Kramer never believed in vacation or sick pay.  He was adamant that people should only get paid if they were working.  We were okay without his paycheck, but I still worried about health insurance.  Would his boss keep paying the health insurance?

Through it all Kramer said, “My boss will take care of it.”  Of course, I always wondered…I knew he was a nice guy but paying for our insurance with $1500 monthly premiums was a lot for a farmer who was getting no return in work.  We all know farming isn’t always profitable and carrying that financial burden wasn’t easy…I didn’t want our problem to be his burden.

Just after Memorial Day, we found out that Kramer only had a short time to live.  One of Kramer’s biggest requests was that he see his boss one more time….His boss came to the house.  Carver was there that day.  He was acting up so I left the living room where Kramer and his boss were talking.  I have no idea what was said.  I was gone only a few minutes.  In that time, men being men, wrapped up 29 years of life and working together in a few short minutes.  His boss left shortly after I came back to the living room.

After his boss left, Kramer handed me an envelope and told me it was severance pay from his boss.  He smiled and said, “I told you he’d take care of us.”

Who works for the kind of boss?  Who has such confidence in a boss to know that they will just be “taken care of” when there is no contract..when there is no HR…when there is no formal agreement?  Kramer did.

It’s weird but I often feel more of kindred spirit with his boss than with anyone else, even my kids.  We both know what it is like to miss the person that did the things and we didn’t even have to think about it.  The other day Karl was going to thatch the lawn.  I had to think back and remember how Kramer did it so I could tell Karl what to do.  I took so much for granted that Kramer just did and I’m sure at times, his boss feels the same way.  We both miss him.

I can’t say enough good things about his boss of their family.  They have gone on to continue to take care of me.  Kramer would just love to see that.

They kept paying my health insurance for a couple month after Kramer passed until I could get things settled.
His boss visited and brought a ham at Christmas.
They gave me the dry manure for my garden….
They check up on me regularly…
I still get beef from them.
…and the bosses daughter, now a big part of the family farm, brought me coffee the other day.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Kramer’s boss and his family.  Seriously, through it all, even though I didn’t know it and Kramer did, they had our back.  Everyone should have such an awesome employer.  So when it came time for his boss to hire someone at the farm to do some of the work that Kramer did, our daughter Kalissa’s husband, Craig, thought to apply for the job.  They wanted to know what I thought.  I said the hours would be long…really long.  But now, having seen how first hand how great Kramer’s boss was, I knew, they would take care of Craig and Kalissa’s family too.  So, not that they needed it, Craig had my blessing.

Craig has worked there now for 9 months.  Craig loves his job, even though the hours can get long…but already I think he knows, they will have his back too.

The Kramer family has been so blessed by the Achen family.  I can’t thank them enough for keeping an eye for us then and now.

13 thoughts on “A Good Workplace”

  1. Wow! What a great boss, friend and family. So happy that Craig has settled into a job there too. I’m following Achen Farms on Facebook and enjoy reading the post thee too.

    So since finding you years ago when you bought your house and following your blog–I am now following Kayla, Kalissa, and the farm. Kelli needs to get on the band wagon too. LOL

  2. Judith Fairchild

    Now the Achen family lives up to the title Christian In my book. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Awesome.
    I would work hard long hours when we have bosses like that. Glad to know of them even by blog. Thank you

  3. I’m glad to read about Achen Farm again. Whenever you write about it I’m so impressed. People talk about employee loyalty, but loyalty starts at the top of the organization. Treat your people right and you’ll have hard working, long term, loyal, happy employees. God bless Mr. Achen and his farm..

  4. It’s a wonderful thing Jo to have such faith in someone. Many employers wouldn’t be so kind and caring. I’m sorry for all your pain – it’s during these times you see what people are made of and the value they place on others. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  5. It’s wonderful to have a workplace that cares so much about its workers. Our son worked for Nucor for quite a few years and when he suddenly passed away at the end of Jan. they were great. The day after they were notified someone there started working on the life insurance paperwork. His wife didn’t have to worry about a thing. Shortly after the funeral they let her know that they would pay health insurance for her and the two kids for three years and they would take care of transferring his 401K to her name. She and the kids are still part of the Nucor family and the kids will each be eligible for for a college scholarship each year for four years of college. When they get that far. They’re just six now. It’s taken a lot of worry off her shoulders. Working for a good boss or company is a wonderful thing.

  6. I was raised on a farm in Western Iowa, and the care and concern you describe from a farmer to his neighbors, family, and farmhands is real. I remember being in a graduate business law class, and learning that (at the time) any contracts worth more than $500 were not enforceable if they are not in writing. I panicked, called my dad, and asked him if the 1000s of acres he rented from neighbors had written contracts. I remember he said no, so I told him what I learned, and he gave me the best lesson I ever had in my life. He told me, “If I went to those neighbors who I have done business for 40 years in this manner, and now said I needed those agreements in writing, that would be construed as the biggest loss of faith in their trust that could ever happen.” I remember learning that a farmer’s reputation is dependent on his word and how much he takes care of his obligations. I remember many years where a local farmer was ill or injured, where all the farmers would stop their progress on their own land so they could take their equipment to finish planting or harvesting that other farmer’s crops before going back to their own work. No charge for fuel, time, etc. You took care of each other. It is in their DNA. I am SOOOO grateful that these were the lessons I learned growing up by seeing these role models in my parents, uncles/aunts, grandparents, and local neighbors. I only wish everybody would live their lives with these morals and values in mind.

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  8. Susan the Farm Quilter

    Achen Farms is owned by people who are the salt of the earth, who do the right thing no matter what and they are what everyone should aspire to be like. I follow them on Facebook and love the pictures of Craig on the farm! They are good people, to the bone!!

  9. What a wonderful shout out to the Achen family, I enjoy there FB page and watching the farm and all its seasons. I can recall my dad who could do business with a handshake and your word.

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