There’s a common expression in the agricultural industry, “If you eat, you’re in agriculture.” Farmers, ranchers and agricultural managers produce the majority of all food consumed worldwide. The type of work they do varies widely based on the operation involved; a wheat farmer may have machinery to maintain and commodity prices to watch, a cattle rancher has a working knowledge of the anatomy, physiology and basic needs of his cattle and a high tunnel greenhouse manager may need to manage pests in a time of the year they wouldn’t typically be a problem outside of a greenhouse. The work can be strenuous but rewarding, requiring a dedication to livestock and the land.
High School or GED
More than 5 years
High School or GED
More than 5 years
A willingness to spend long hours on the job during planting and harvest times or during birth seasons is required, as well as a dedication to animal welfare or crop management. Though there are some office hours spent recording expenses, dealing with contracts and arranging for agricultural workers or repair services, most time is spent outside. Being a self-starter is vital; issues that are not cared for in time can become costly very quickly, and 80% of workers in this field are self-employed. Analytical and critical-thinking skills also serve a central role.
Though many skills are learned on the job, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree is often very helpful to remain competitive in today’s agricultural industry. Knowledge of new techniques and economies allow those in this field to increase their profits and reduce expenses. There are a variety of free and low cost educational opportunities available to you from the U.S.D.A. Agricultural Extension service and similar programs.
Steps to Becoming a Farmer, Rancher & Agricultural Manager
With a good amount of training happening on the job as well as needing to be up to date on new technologies and methods of production, a degree program combined with an internship in your field of choice provides an excellent balance of education and experience.
Related fields include agricultural and food science technicians assisting agricultural and food scientists, agricultural and food scientists who study agricultural production and food safety techniques, agricultural workers providing labor on farms and ranches and purchasing managers, buyers and purchasing agents who buy products for use or resale. Other similar careers more closely related directly to ranching include animal care and service workers who provide training and care to a variety of animals, veterinary assistants help a veterinarian in their office, veterinary technicians provide testing and procedures under a veterinarian, who provides medical care to animals.
Working full-time in this industry has an average annual income of $59,450, with half earning between $43,180 and $78,770 annually. It is also extremely common that a much larger number of individuals work part-time as a farmer, rancher or agricultural manager and supplement their farming or ranching income with an additional outside job.
The career outlook for industrialized agriculture is declining at a moderate rate of 8%, but the job opportunities remain steady to favorable due to many farmers reaching retirement age while their younger counterparts often approach a more direct-to-consumer marketing approach rather than selling to a wholesaler, agent or broker. The best opportunities for higher pay exist as agricultural management on large farms, which is experiencing a slightly slower than average growth at 6% versus the category’s combined rate of declining by 8% over the decade from 2010 to 2020. Increased interest in organic foods, cruelty-free meat production, localized food production and specialty products provides a wealth of opportunities for small family farmers and ranchers but require additional marketing, sales and customer service skills as well as specialized knowledge for your area of interest.