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Become A Farmer

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Working As A Farmer

  • $37,682

    Average Salary

What Does A Farmer Do

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers operate establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products. 

Duties

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers typically do the following:

  • Supervise all steps of the crop production and ranging process, including planting, fertilizing, harvesting, and herding
  • Determine how to raise crops or livestock by evaluating factors such as market conditions, disease, soil conditions, and the availability of federal programs
  • Select and purchase supplies, such as seed, fertilizers, and farm machinery
  • Ensure that farm machinery is maintained and repaired
  • Adapt their duties to the seasons, weather conditions, or a crop’s growing cycle
  • Maintain farm facilities, such as water pipes, hoses, fences, and animal shelters
  • Serve as the sales agent for livestock, crops, and dairy products
  • Record financial, tax, production, and employee information

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers produce enough crops and livestock to meet the needs of the United States and still have more left over for export.

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers monitor the constantly changing prices for their products. They use different strategies to protect themselves from unpredictable changes in the markets. For example, farmers carefully plan the combination of crops that they grow, so if the price of one crop drops, they will have enough income from another crop to make up for the loss. Farmers and ranchers also track disease and weather conditions closely, because disease and bad weather may have a negative impact on crop yields or animal health. When farmers and ranchers plan ahead, they may be able to store their crops or keep their livestock to take advantage of higher prices later in the year.

Most farm output goes to food-processing companies. However, some farmers now choose to sell their goods directly to consumers through farmer’s markets or use cooperatives to reduce their financial risk and to gain a larger share of the final price of their goods. In community-supported agriculture (CSA), cooperatives sell shares of a harvest to consumers before the planting season in order to ensure a market for the farm’s produce.

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers also negotiate with banks and other credit lenders to get financing, because they must buy seed, livestock, and equipment before they have products to sell.

Farmers and ranchers own and operate mainly family-owned farms. They also may lease land from a landowner and operate it as a working farm.

The size of the farm or range determines which tasks farmers and ranchers handle. Those who operate small farms or ranges usually do all tasks, including harvesting and inspecting the land, growing crops, and raising animals. In addition, they keep records, service machinery, and maintain buildings.

By contrast, farmers and ranchers who operate large farms have employees—including agricultural workers—who help with physical work. Some employees of large farms are in nonfarm occupations, working as truck drivers, sales representatives, bookkeepers, or information technology specialists.

Farmers and ranchers track technological improvements in animal breeding and seeds, choosing new products that might increase output. Many livestock and dairy farmers monitor and attend to the health of their herds, tasks that may include assisting in births.

Agricultural managers take care of the day-to-day operation of one or more farms, ranches, nurseries, timber tracts, greenhouses, and other agricultural establishments for corporations, farmers, and owners who do not live and work on their farm or ranch.     

Agricultural managers usually do not do production activities themselves. Instead, they hire and supervise farm and livestock workers to do most daily production tasks.

Managers may determine budgets. They may decide how to store and transport crops. They oversee the proper maintenance of equipment and property.

The following are examples of types of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers:

Crop farmers and managers—those who grow grain, fruits and vegetables, and other crops—are responsible for all steps of plant growth. After a harvest, they make sure that the crops are properly packaged and stored.

Livestock, dairy, and poultry farmers, ranchers, and managers feed and care for animals. They keep livestock in barns, pens, and other farm buildings. These workers also oversee the breeding and marketing of the animals in their care.

Horticultural specialty farmers and managers oversee the production of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and plants (including turf) used for landscaping. They also grow grapes, berries, and nuts used in making wine.

Aquaculture farmers and managers raise fish and shellfish in ponds, floating net pens, raceways, and recirculating systems. They stock, feed, protect, and maintain aquatic life used for food and for recreational fishing.

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How To Become A Farmer

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers usually have at least a high school diploma and typically gain skills through work experience.

Education

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers usually have at least a have a high school diploma. As farm and land management has grown more complex and costly, farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers have increasingly needed postsecondary education, such as an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in agriculture or a related field.

There are a number of government programs that help new farmers get education in farming. All state university systems have at least one land-grant college or university with a school of agriculture. Common programs of study include business (with a concentration in agriculture), plant breeding, farm management, agronomy, dairy science, and agricultural economics.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Prospective farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers typically work and gain experience under more experienced farmers. Some of them may grow up on a family farm and learn that way. The amount of experience that is needed varies with the complexity of the work and the size of the farm. Those with postsecondary education in agriculture may not need previous work experience. Universities and various forms of government assistance give prospective farmers alternatives to working on a farm or growing up on one.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers must monitor and assess the quality of their land or livestock. These tasks require precision and accuracy.

Critical-thinking skills. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers make tough decisions through sound reasoning and judgment. They determine how to improve their harvest and livestock, all the while reacting appropriately to external factors.

Interpersonal skills. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers supervise laborers and other workers, so effective communication is critical.

Mechanical skills. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers must be able to operate complex machinery and occasionally perform routine maintenance.

Physical strength. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers—particularly those who work on small farms—must be able to perform physically strenuous, repetitive tasks, such as lifting heavy objects and bending at the waist.

Training

Those without postsecondary education take a longer time to learn the more complex aspects of farming. A small number of farms offer apprenticeships to help young people learn the practical skills of farming and ranching. Government projects, such as the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, provide a way for people without any farm training to be paired with experienced farmers, learning through internships or apprentice programs.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

To show competency in farm management, agricultural managers may choose to become certified. The American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA) offers the Accredited Farm Manager accreditation to ASFMRA members who have 4 years of work experience and a bachelor’s degree. A complete list of requirements, including consultant course work and exams, is available from ASFMRA.

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Average Length of Employment
Cattle Farmer 10.3 years
Livestock Farmer 7.5 years
Dairy Farmer 6.5 years
Poultry Farmer 5.5 years
Farmer 5.0 years
Vegetable Farmer 4.6 years
Farm Worker 3.1 years
Oyster Farmer 2.1 years
Top Careers Before Farmer
Cashier 11.3%
Internship 8.1%
Volunteer 7.3%
Welder 4.5%
Mechanic 4.4%
Farm Hand 4.4%
Cook 4.4%
Carpenter 4.2%
Operator 4.0%
Driver 4.0%
Server 3.9%
Technician 3.7%
Manager 3.6%
Top Careers After Farmer
Cashier 10.9%
Technician 5.8%
Internship 5.7%
Farm Hand 5.5%
Volunteer 5.2%
Driver 4.9%
Manager 4.6%
Cook 4.2%
Welder 4.2%
Owner 4.0%
Operator 3.6%

Do you work as a Farmer?

Farmer Demographics

Gender

Male

71.4%

Female

27.3%

Unknown

1.3%
Ethnicity

White

68.7%

Hispanic or Latino

12.2%

Black or African American

9.4%

Asian

6.4%

Unknown

3.3%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

50.0%

French

13.1%

Chinese

4.8%

Russian

3.6%

Dakota

3.6%

Mandarin

3.6%

Hmong

3.6%

Italian

3.6%

Japanese

2.4%

Thai

2.4%

Swedish

1.2%

Swahili

1.2%

Indonesian

1.2%

Turkish

1.2%

German

1.2%

Ilocano

1.2%

Carrier

1.2%

Arabic

1.2%
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Farmer Education

Schools

Iowa State University

10.4%

University of Connecticut

9.6%

Kansas State University

7.0%

Illinois State University

6.1%

University of Vermont

5.2%

North Dakota State University -

5.2%

University of Phoenix

5.2%

Ohio State University

4.3%

University of Iowa

4.3%

Utah Valley University

4.3%

Amarillo College

4.3%

Georgia Southern University

4.3%

Kaplan University

4.3%

Oklahoma State University

4.3%

Western Washington University

3.5%

Purdue University

3.5%

University of Northern Iowa

3.5%

California State University - Fresno

3.5%

Texas A&M University

3.5%

University of Utah

3.5%
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Majors

Business

18.0%

Criminal Justice

6.7%

General Studies

6.3%

Environmental Science

5.9%

Biology

5.6%

Automotive Technology

4.8%

Agricultural Business

4.6%

Animal Science

4.5%

Plant Sciences

4.5%

Psychology

4.5%

Accounting

4.5%

Electrical Engineering Technology

4.1%

Precision Metal Working

4.1%

Education

3.9%

Agriculture

3.3%

General Education, Specific Areas

3.3%

Fine Arts

3.0%

English

3.0%

Electrical Engineering

2.8%

Medical Technician

2.8%
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Degrees

Other

36.6%

Bachelors

33.8%

Associate

13.1%

Masters

6.7%

Certificate

6.4%

Diploma

1.9%

Doctorate

1.1%

License

0.4%
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Farmer Videos

Day in the Life: Organic Farmer

Just the Job - Crop Farmer

Just the Job - Dairy Farmer

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Real Farmer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Farmer Test Inc. Crest, CA Nov 19, 2008 $104,350
Farmer Test Inc. DC Nov 19, 2008 $104,350
Farmer Kevin Opp Glen Ullin, ND Jul 06, 2015 $65,478
Farmer Kevin Opp Glen Ullin, ND Apr 25, 2016 $39,187
Farmer Foster Farm Montrose, CO May 13, 2008 $34,561
Farmer Alabama Farmers Cooperative Beeville, TX May 12, 2010 $34,424
Farmer Giorgio Spanu NY Oct 07, 2011 $32,933
Farmer Giorgio Spanu NY Apr 12, 2011 $32,933
Farmer Jalaram Produce, Inc. Homestead, FL Mar 25, 2009 $31,889
Urban Farmer Farmscape, LLC Los Angeles, CA Jan 02, 2016 $31,305
Organic Farmer Heartland Farm Pawnee Rock, KS Aug 07, 2016 $27,000
Farmer Protech Test Brian 1 Washington, DC Nov 07, 2008 $26,088
Farmers and Rachers C & C Cattle Co. Brownfield, TX Mar 07, 2008 $25,917
Farmer Do-Re-Me-Farms Inc. Hampton, NY Jul 02, 2015 $25,459
Farmer Do-Re-Me-Farms Inc. Hampton, NY May 28, 2015 $25,459
Turkey Farmer P and J Turkeys, Inc. Greenbush, MN Mar 25, 2016 $25,086
Pigeon Farmer Berry Y&V Fabricators LLC Rosharon, TX Oct 10, 2016 $24,001
Sheep Farmer Phillip and Lisa Webster Windham, ME Dec 20, 2014 $23,416
Farmer Daniel Bailey Sutton, ND Apr 25, 2011 $23,249
Tobacco Farmer Jepson Family Farm Partnership Orlinda, TN Jun 22, 2016 $22,644
Tobacco Farmer Jepson Family Farm Partnership Orlinda, TN Apr 20, 2015 $21,454
Tobacco Farmer Jepson Family Farm Partnership Orlinda, TN Jun 22, 2015 $21,454
Crawfish Farmer St. Martin Seafood, Inc. Breaux Bridge, LA Jan 02, 2016 $21,246
Crawfish Farmer Cajun Dump Truck, L.L.C. New Iberia, LA Jan 01, 2016 $21,246
Crawfish Farmer Kent Soileau Farms Bunkie, LA Jan 15, 2016 $21,246
Crawfish Farmer Michael Dwain Buller Port Barre, LA Jan 15, 2016 $21,246
Crawfish Farmer Chris Mounier Farms Church Point, LA Jan 01, 2016 $21,246
Crawfish Farmer Carlton J Rose Jr Iota, LA Dec 02, 2016 $21,246

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Top Skills for A Farmer

  1. Farm Equipment
  2. Tractor-Drawn Machinery
  3. Water Livestock
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Farm Equipment Operator*Maintained Irrigation operating systems*Worked all functions/equipment towards planting/harvesting of crops
  • Operate tractors, tractor-drawn machinery, and self-propelled machinery to plow, harrow.
  • Feed and water livestock and monitor food and water supplies.
  • Operated and maintained heavy equipment Manual labor
  • Direct crop production operations, such as planning, tilling, planting, fertilizing, cultivating, spraying, or harvesting.

What is it like to work as a Farmer

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Farmer

July 20, 2019 on Zippia

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Top 10 Best States for Farmers

  1. Rhode Island
  2. New York
  3. District of Columbia
  4. New Jersey
  5. South Dakota
  6. Delaware
  7. Connecticut
  8. Minnesota
  9. Colorado
  10. Alabama
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