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How Square Roots Invests In the Future Leaders of Agriculture

One of the core components of our mission at Square Roots is to empower the next generation of leaders in agriculture. We want everyone who works at the company to feel supported and connected to do their best work and have access to accelerated career growth opportunities. That’s easier to say than to do, so we wanted to share more about the ways we try to make it happen.

It starts with a clear vision and everyone being on the same page. We try to communicate clearly and consistently the mission at Square Roots, our core values, ways we can succeed, near term goals, and who is responsible for what (following a well-tested framework for successful business operations explained in Patrick Lencioni’s book The Advantage). The idea is that everyone can fully understand their own specific roles, those of their teams, and how that all bubbles up to help everyone at the company hit our overarching objectives together. 

Meanwhile, the team here at Square Roots, especially on our farm campuses, tends to be younger than typical for our industry. The average age of a farmer is close to 25 years old at Square Roots, decades younger than the average of nearly 58 for all U.S. farm producers. So we also also have to think a lot about investing in the early stages of careers for our younger team members. 

Our farm team members are the heart of our company, and we strive to set them up for success from day one, with robust virtual training using our Learning Management System, in combination with on-the-job training. The core of this training centers on what it takes to become a highly skilled indoor farmer, but we also want to make sure employees are familiar with the tools and best practices they will be expected to adopt both on the farm and as part of our technology-enabled, fast-moving startup. Examples include training on how we communicate via Slack (the daily lifeblood of our farm teams!), how to use Google Drive and Google Calendar, and how to contribute to the meeting agenda for their one-on-one meetings with their manager, using Lattice. All of this stuff might sound obvious, but it's critical to the success of our team members—especially for folks who may have not used these platforms in their daily work life before—and it’s essential for an efficient and collaborative work environment.

As employees grow in their roles, we offer additional professional development and learning opportunities, through an in-house Leadership Development program. This furthers essential skills like time management, giving feedback, addressing conflict, and effective communication strategies. Meanwhile, managers across the company follow a specific Manager Development Training program, designed to help them become excellent and empathic team leaders.

Beyond formal training paths, all employees have access to an annual learning stipend, to use on a class, book, or other training material of their choosing, and all employees have free access to courses across a range of topics on LinkedIn Learning as well. 

So what’s the impact? Well, we’re proud that many employees who started with us as Apprentice Growers have now moved into management roles on our farm teams, as well as other teams around the organization, such as Plant R&D, People Operations, Sales, Deployment, and Project Management.

Just to highlight a few examples: Gianna Costa began her career at Square Roots in 2019 as an Apprentice Grower, was then promoted to Assistant Farm Manager, before stepping up in 2021 to become our Food Safety and Quality Assurance Manager, a critical role she explores in this podcast discussion; Savie Sonsynath started with us as an Apprentice Grower, was later promoted to Senior Associate Grower and is now traveling the country opening new farms as a crucial member of our deployment team. She was recently the focus of this wonderful feature in Michigan Farm News; And Josh Van Kleeck started with us as an Apprentice Grower in September 2019, and when our business model shifted during the pandemic, took on additional sales and logistics responsibilities. He is now our Operations Manager in Grand Rapids, running the day-to-day of campus operations and logistics. 

Of course, our team is constantly evolving, and so are their needs. In 2022, Square Roots has already opened new farms in Kenosha WI and Springfield OH, with more to come! And while that’s all very exciting, scaling at speed also comes with inevitable growing pains - especially as we strive to continually meet the development needs of our team, across an ever-increasing variety of roles and geographies. We’re always thinking about new and better ways to listen and respond to input and feedback at this scale. But if this sounds like a place you would want to work, check out our careers page. And if you want to talk to us to learn more about some of the ideas covered in this post, please reach out.

Brannon Skillern 
Chief People Officer