How to Become a Farmer

 

Career Guide

Working as a farmer is an excellent career choice for those who like to be outdoors and be their own boss. Self-employment, a strong sense of productivity, and making a living from working the land are some of the main attractions of this profession. 

 

Below, we've outlined what traits, education and experience you'll need to become a farmer. We've also included helpful supplementary information, such as a job description, an overview of the job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employer types and much more!

 

 

Education Needed to Become a Farmer

Having a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, environmental science, agricultural economics, management or related programs isn’t a necessity, but education in these areas can be a great advantage if you want to pursue a career in farming.

 

Success Tip: Coursework in areas such as botany can also provide you with knowledge related to proper growing conditions for crops and various causes of plant disease.

 

 

 

 

General Job Description

Farmers are grain and forage crop producers that plant, grow, maintain, harvest and sell grains such as wheat, barley, canola, rye, flax, peas, as well as vegetables and other specialty crops. Farmers may choose to specialize in various areas of agriculture such as horticulture, aquaculture, fruit and vegetable production, livestock and many other areas. 

 

 

Typical Job Duties

The size of the farm or range typically determines which tasks farmers are directly involved in. Farmers who operate small farms or ranges usually perform every task, whereas those who oversee and manage large farms typically delegate some of the duties to employees of the farm. 

 

Examples of duties for farmers

 

• Decide how best to store and transport crops

• Transport or oversee the transportation of harvested crops to market

• Market crops to consumers or distributors

• Recruit, supervise, train and support staff

• Oversee the cultivation, planting, fertilizing, spraying and harvesting of crops

• Purchase and maintain farm machinery and equipment

• Determine and manage budget for farming operations

• Maintain comprehensive financial and production records 

 

 

Gaining Relevant Work Experience

It’s very common for aspiring farmers to gain experience by working under those whom are more experienced, so this is certainly a recommended way to get an introduction to the work, while learning valuable lessons and gaining experience.

 

Also, be sure to look for training and assistance programs offered or facilitated by the government, as these can be great alternatives to the traditional method of learning how to farm by working for a family farm. These programs can help pair farmers that are just learning the business with experienced farmers in an apprenticeship type setting.

 

You can also find internship and work experience opportunities by visiting local farmers markets. This can introduce you to a wide variety of specialist farmers, who run farms of various sizes. This will allow you to express your interest in becoming a farmer and meet someone who can mentor you through the process.

 

Tip for success: Offering to help a farmer for free can be a great way to learn from them and offer something to them in return!

 

 

How to Start a Farm

Starting your own farm may or may not require a large initial capital investment, depending on the type of product you will be farming and the size of your farming operation. You can start a small farm relatively inexpensively by leasing a small amount of land.

 

How to Find Farmland for Sale or Lease

 

You should go about finding farmland 1 of 2 ways. You can do an internet search, on sites such as loopnet.com, which lists commercial, industrial and agricultural lands for sale or lease, or you can utilize a personal and professional network. Meeting rural appraisers, realtors, farm insurance representatives, farm managers, farmers, farm credit lenders and farm co-op managers is a great way to tap into the hidden land market; finding out properties are for sale or lease before they hit the market as officially for sale or lease.

 

Getting the Capital Together

 

Depending on the type of farming you will be doing, and the size of the farming operation, you may be required to come up with a significant amount of capital. This will be necessary for purchasing or leasing land, buying or fixing existing equipment and buildings, buying of livestock, feed for livestock, crop seeds, fencing and other goods.

 

Putting together a business plan is your best bet for securing the necessary capital. Banks and far credit organizations will be much more likely to lend you the necessary capital if you can demonstrate a strong possibility that you’ll make a return on your investment.

 

Tips for success:

 

• Don’t be afraid to ask an experienced farmer for advice!

• Know your market, know when to buy and sell what you are producing

• Don’t buy the newest and best machinery, buy equipment at auctions

 

 


 

Work Conditions for Farmers

The working conditions of a career in farming can vary greatly. Factors such as what types of agricultural products are farmed, which season it is, the size of the farm and many others can affect them.

 

Hours of work: Many farmers may not have time off during the planting, growing and harvesting seasons if they run a full time farm themselves, unless they hire an assistant to carry out their duties. Their duties can often carry take from the early morning to the late evenings during these times.

 

Hazards: Operating and repairing machinery and equipment can be quite hazardous on a farm, as can handling livestock and using various chemicals.

 

Seasonal Duties: While planting and harvesting season involves long hours and strenuous work, the rest of the year is not as calm as one might think. Preparations for the upcoming season must be made, which may include machine and facility repair, accounting duties and marketing duties, or even working a second job.

 

Work environment: Farmers can spend a considerable amount of time working the land using heavy equipment. They can also spend a great deal of time tending to animals and making equipment and facility repairs. As farming has become more sophisticated, farmers now utilize computer equipment in a home or office setting to manage and plan various aspects of their business.

 

 

Types of Farmers

Below are some examples of different varieties of farming specialties. What type will you be?

 

Crop farmers: Crop farmers are those that grow and harvest grain, fruit, vegetables and other similar crops.

 

Livestock farmers: Farmers that feed and care for animals for the purpose of producing meat, dairy and poultry products.

 

Horticultural specialty farmers: Farmers in this specialty oversee the production of flowers, vegetables, fruits and plants that are used for landscaping purposes. They also grow grapes, berries and nuts used for making wine.

 

Aquaculture farmers: Aquaculture farmers are responsible for feeding, protecting and raising fish and shellfish in ponds, floating nets, pens and recirculating systems.

 

 

Skills Necessary to Become a Farmer

Below is a list of skills and attributes aspiring farmers need in order to succeed in the business.

 

An awareness of business management basics: Successful farmers must be well versed in various areas of business management, such as budgeting, marketing, management and other areas.

 

Knowing the business of farming: Farmers must possess an understanding of the business of farming as a whole. They must be able to monitor economic trends, advances in farming technology and maintain a current awareness of relevant legislation.

 

Have a good attitude: Farming is one career where one cannot afford to be “checked out”. Farmers must enjoy doing what they do for a living, as it is not the type of job you can simply show up for and run out the clock.

 

Financial management skills: Farmers must be able to effectively manage cash flow. Ensuring that funding is available for improvements, growth and recession. They must also have a solid understanding of the financial cost associated with running a farming business.

 

Time management skills: This doesn’t simply refer to day-to-day time management, although that is certainly part of it. Farming is seasonal work, and farmers must be able to properly manage their duties from one season to the next in order to operate efficiently.

 

Record keeping: Farming is more than tilling and plowing, it also involves a fair amount of paperwork, record keeping and reporting. Farmers must ensure they maintain accurate records of their business activities.

 

 

Current Job Opportunities

Although job opportunities in this field are rarely posted online, from time to time they will be. Have a look below to see if there’s anything listed in your area:

 

 

Average Salary Level

It's difficult to determine how much farmers make, as it's very difficult to acquire accurate information regarding salary levels. This is largely due to the fact that farmers operate businesses and don’t usually earn traditional salaries. Farmers may also receive government subsidies in order to reduce their operating costs in a given season.

 

Salary - United States: According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of workers in the occupational group Farmers, Ranchers and other Agricultural Managers was $67,950 USD in May 2018. In addition, the lowest 10 percent in this occupational group earned less than $35,440 and the top 10 percent earned more than $136,940.

 

Salary - Canada: In Canada, the numbers are a little different. According to Statistics Canada, farming families had an average household income of $113,950 in 2009, $77,370 from ‘off-farm’ activities, and $22,683 in net operating income from the farm. This represents the fact that many farmers in Canada operate ‘part-time farms’, where the farm is not the main source of income.

 

Salary - Alberta: According to the Alberta Learning and Information Service, the average salary level of Albertans working in the Managers in Agriculture occupational group is $73,770 per year, while the salary of those working in the Farm Worker or Technician group is $39,313 per year.

 

Note: The earnings of farmers can vary greatly, depending on whether or not they farm full time, which products they farm, weather conditions and many other factors.

 

 

Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "farmer", as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.

 

Entrepreneur

Horticulturalist

Land Manager

Market Gardener

Nursery Operator

Range Manager

 

 

Resources

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a farmer.

 

Agricultural Marketing Resource Centre website: www.agmrc.org

Alberta Learning and Information Service website: alis.alberta.ca

Bureau of Labor Statistics website: www.bls.gov

Farm Service Agency website: www.fsa.usda.gov

National Institute of Food and Agriculture website: www.nifa.usda.gov

Statistics Canada website: www.statcan.gc.ca

 

 

Scholarships for Becoming a Farmer

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a farmer can be found on the following pages:

 

Botany Scholarships

Environmental Engineering Scholarships

Environmental Science Scholarships

 

Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!

 

 

Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for this line of work. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!

 

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