The idea of working as a farmer has vast appeal. Working outdoors, caring for livestock and crops and providing essential resources. It can be a tough, but ultimately rewarding career path that can provide a fine livelihood. It is also a career that does not require you to have a college degree.
College can be both a launching pad and a blockade for many career paths, but it’s worth remembering that it is not essential. There are many fantastic careers out there – like that of a farmer – that do not require you to get a degree (and in doing so, amass enormous debts).
At the jobs core, farmers produce both healthy animals and crops so that they can make a living, but there is a lot more to it than that.
Over the course of the following article, we are going to take a more in-depth look at what it takes to be a farmer. We will answer questions such as what is the salary of a farmer and how do you become one professionally. We will also look at the skills that will see you excel in the role, some additional benefits of the job and some occupations that share a similar skill set that also do not require a degree. First though, we’ll take a closer look at what the career entails.
What Does a Farmer Do?
The job of a farmer can be very time-consuming and hard work, but it is a fulfilling career if you are passionate about agriculture, animals and nature. The work involved within the role can be very varied – one farmer may have a completely different job than another, such as one that specializes in livestock as opposed to one that specialized in crops, for example.
Even with this being the case, there are many tasks that overlap for many farmers. For this purpose of this article, we will focus on farmers that work with both livestock and crops. It is the role of the farmer to supervise at all stages of crop production, from planting to harvesting. They will have to be aware of what is happening in the world of agriculture in both their area and the surrounding regions so that they can determine the best what go about growing crops and raising livestock proficiently. To do this, they must evaluate factors such as the market conditions, disease, conditions of the soil and what federal programs are available.
Keeping track of supplies is very important – farmers need to ensure that they're in possession of sufficient amounts of supplies such as food for their stock, seed, farm machinery and required fertilizers. Out of these, they also to have ensure that the machinery (and other equipment) is well looked after as neglecting it can cause it to go to waste.
The work of a farmer differs depending on the time of the year. As the seasons change, they must adapt their tasks – there are things that can only be done in the warmer months, and vice versa (i.e. a crops growing cycle) so they must be aware of weather changes. Throughout the year there is need to keep the farms facilities – things like fences, shelters for livestock and water pipes – in good working order.
When the time arrives, many farmers will need to act as sellers for their crops, livestock and products (such as dairy goods). This is not the only administrative part of the role – farmers also have to keep records of their finances and productions (and employee data if they employ people).
What Skills Does a Farmer Have?
Working as a farmer requires you to be skilled in several different areas. Some of these skills are ingrained into you from a young age, and others can be nurtured while working in the role. Below, we have a look at some of the most important ones:
Mechanical and Repairing Skills
You need to be handy when working on a farm – maintenance is important, especially when working with machinery, and ideally, you won't need to acquire the services of a professional mechanic at every hiccup. With this being the case, having some basic mechanical skills and being the kind of person who is good at repairing things will stand to you in the role.
When an issue arises on the job, it is important that farmers approach it calmly and reasonably. Having good problem resolving abilities is a key part of the role, as things don't always go as smoothly as one would like, as is the nature of the job.
Unforeseen circumstances can arise all the time and farmers need to be adaptable to them. Whether it is an unexpected (or indeed in some cases an expected) change in the weather or the illness of an animal, farmers must be prepared to change their plans and run with a situation to achieve the best results.
Because the role of a farmer is so varied, they need good time management to ensure they are using their time as productively as possible. It also means they they give an appropriate amount of time to areas that deserve it and don't get bogged down in medial tasks, which can easily happen.
Organization Skills (Long Term Plan)
Farmers need to approach their work with a long-term plan, which means they need excellent organizational skills. They need to know, for example, that when they're planting crops that it is at the correct time of the year, and that they will be prepared when harvest time arrives. They must also ensure they have enough food for their livestock and much more – it's a role that requires a long-term vision.
How Do You Become a Farmer?
There are no essential qualifications to becoming a farmer. Most will have a high school degree, but there is no specific certification required to gain access to the role.
So, how do you go about becoming a professional farmer? Many people are born into and subsequently grow up working on a farm, and continue to do so as they become adults. This isn't the case for everybody though, so if you're a first generation farmer, there are a couple of ways of finding out whether the job is for you.
Perhaps the first thing you should do is reach out and talk to some farmers in your area to see how they feel about the job. As the work is such a big part of a farmers life, they are sure to be able to arm you with good advice, at the very least.
As there are certain things you need to be an independent farmer, you're going to want to experience being one first. Ask farmers if you can provide them with any help. If this is not the way you'd like to go about it, have a look at the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) website as they offer a rewarding way to learn about the profession. By volunteering or working with a farmer or organization, you can find out whether the lifestyle is for you.
If it is for you, then look into how you could get your start as an independent farmer. It usually takes at least one or two years of being part of a farming operation in some capacity to gain the skills required to even considering branching out on your own, The success of an independent farmer is solely placed on their own shoulders, so make sure this is something you are comfortable with. Acquiring lands, livestock, crops and more is a big undertaking, so decide what kind of farmer you would like to be, and then learn by doing.
There's a chance you will have to move to work in the profession, as there are many places that farms are irregular such as cities, but also many places where they are plentiful, like in the countryside.
Salary and Additional Benefits
If you can get into farming in a professional capacity, it can provide a fine livelihood. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for farmers as of May 2016 was a lucrative $66,360 (the median salary is a figure that is determined by finding out the wage at which the highest fifty percent of earners and the lowest fifty percent of earners overlap, meaning it gives a good indication of the average salary).
To give a better idea of the salary range, according to the same source, the lowest 10 percent of farmers were earning less than $35,020, and the highest 10 percent were earning more than an astounding $126,070.
There are a number of large factors that will determine how much your salary will be as a farmer. Firstly, there are things such as how much land you are working with and where your farm or the farm you're working on is located and how much production they're doing. Secondly, the incomes of farmers may differ year-on-year due to factors outside of their control, such as the weather and fluctuations on the market prices of farm products.
In addition to the money earned from the farm itself, farmers can receive government grants (and similar alternatives) to add to their income.
In terms of additional benefits that come with working as a farmer, you get to work in an area that you are passionate about – agriculture. Many people are drawn to this – the chance to work with livestock, crops and to be in control of what you're working with. For many farmers, it's not just an occupation but a way of life.
You will also be able to make use of your own produce, meaning you'll know exactly what goes into what you're eating when it comes to crops, for example. As a farmer, you also have to be an entrepreneur and look at how you can be most productive and also looking at the ways to have the most success, both at present and in the future.
If the idea of working as a farmer has many facets that interest you, it may also be worth hearing bout similar jobs. Thankfully, there are other jobs out there that utilize similar skills sets to that of a farmer – jobs like that of an agricultural science technician and a construction equipment operator.
Agricultural Science Technician is a good role for somebody in love with farming, but with prefer to work more behind the scenes. Agricultural Science Technicians perform tasks such as analyzing the quality of agricultural products, meaning they work hand-in-hand with many farmers.
Construction Equipment Operators are the people that maneuver the heavy machinery that is used to make roads, buildings, bridges and other things. It is a job that involves getting your head down and working hard, just like that of a farmer.
If you’re idea of a dream career involves using your hands, being out in nature and working with animals, then a job as a farmer could be perfect for you. It is challenging and varied and offers a fine livelihood. It is also a career that does not require you to get a degree.
College and degrees aren’t for everybody – staying in the education system and working up huge student debts isn’t a viable option for everybody – so don’t be dismayed that you can’t get a foot on the ladder of your dream job. Jobs like that of a farmer prove you don’t need a college degree, so be sure to consult your options before committing to a degree!