(This is an article that appeared in our local newspaper (The Lodi Enterprise) about how we hire a lot of teenagers to help at the farm in the fall)
Posted: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 3:30 pm
What kind of business would want to hire more than twenty 14- to 16-year-olds all at once, with no job experience, and continue to do this EVERY year?
The Treinen Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch here in Lodi does just that. I have worked at Treinen’s for more than five years (and I am well over 16 years old!!!).
I have watched Angie and Al Treinen continually hire many teens, every year, who need their first job. The season at the corn maze is short, only five to seven weeks, and almost exclusively on the weekends.
Angie goes out of her way to interview and hire many teens for their first job. Not all teens interviewed are ready for the temperament and level of intensity to communicate with the public that is needed. (Angie admitted that she would have had a hard time working here when she was a teen — she was too shy).
Those teens that are hired, she teaches them to be responsible. She guides them gently outside their comfort zone to help them mature. It is an incredible and amazing thing to watch.
The training of the staff comes quickly since the season is over soon after it starts. The kids are taught to “call if they cannot come in,” “arrive on time and not hungry.”
They check in on a computer when they arrive and then go to Erin Hibma for their assignment. Erin is a master at always having “another job” assignment to hand out. Everyone is trained at every job on the farm, which means a lot of rotation in one day.
The jobs vary considerably in interest, energy and contact with the public. Jobs like maze explanation, ticket/food cashier, prize station, pumpkin slingshot, Jacob’s ladder, gem mining and maze patrol have plenty of contact with the public and you need to be smiling, enthusiastic and effervescent.
Other jobs, like parking lot attendant, clean-up, restocking, barnyard, exit gate and errands need less animation, but that enthusiasm has to be just below the surface.
But, there are other jobs that are just out-of-the-box like “kitten attendant” (to be sure the kittens are not overwhelmed by the visitors) or walking around with a tiny bunny (for the little kids and adults to just get a little nuzzle) or walking through the maze to check that the mailboxes are full of puzzle pieces.
One day of work at the Treinen’s will have the teen doing three to eight jobs on that list. It works well so no one is at a job they are not happy with for long.
One of those past “teens” I recently talked to is now a kindergarten teacher and back working at Treinen’s on the weekends. She said she was so grateful for her first job at the Treinen’s because it really helped bring her out of her comfort zone and not be afraid to talk to people. The encouragement by Angie and Erin really helped.
Many of those teens come back for a job the following year and are the “mentors” for the next batch of newbies that need their first job.
Angie just recently emailed to all her current employees. She said: “Last weekend was amazing… I can honestly say that the crew of new employees this year is particularly outstanding, and I was impressed over and over again by the eagerness to learn and the good work put in already.”
She continued: “Returning employees who helped out with training: I am so happy to have you here and to see you not only sharing your expertise but being patient and welcoming to new persons. Just seeing the level of performance this weekend has made me so happy and confident that this season is going to be really fun and successful.”
The Treinen Corn Maze has been in operation since 2001 (longer for the pumpkin patch). So, if you figure 15 years with 20 teens per year getting their first job, this single business has given more than 300 kids their start. For the Treinen Farm, whose business has the usual problems of advertising, stocking, weather awareness, safety in their endeavor to entertain the public, that is a remarkable business practice.