Education and Training: College
Salary: Median—$54,900 per year
Employment Outlook: Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
The size and complexity of many farms have created a strong demand for managers to oversee and coordinate farming operations. The extent of a farm manager's duties and responsibilities depends on the size and nature of the operation. Farm managers might supervise a small farm and even perform some of the manual labor. On larger farms a manager may oversee only one facet of the business, such as selling crops or caring for livestock. Managers are also hired to supervise the operators of tenant farms. They may work for an individual farm owner, a corporation, or a farm management firm.
The responsibilities of a farm manager include deciding which crops to plant and in what quantities, drawing up planting and harvesting schedules, and coordinating these activities with farm operators. A farm manager might plan the work schedules of full-time employees and decide when temporary workers will be needed. At harvest time the manager may be responsible for deciding when and to whom crops should be sold for maximum profit. If production goals have not been met, the manager is responsible for identifying and correcting the problem to ensure that the farm runs as efficiently and profitably as possible.
Education and Training Requirements
Employers prefer candidates with a college education, especially when the candidate does not have a background in farming. Agricultural colleges offer two- or four-year degree programs in farm management or in specialized areas such as agricultural economics, business, or dairy, crop, or animal science. Work experience on a farm is a significant asset, especially in combination with the training provided by 4-H clubs (youth organizations administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension System) and farming programs offered to youths in rural areas.
Aspiring farm managers may also seek certification from the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. For accreditation as a farm manager, this society requires several years of practical experience, a bachelor's degree in agricultural science, and demonstrated knowledge of farm-related course work in law, business, and finance.
Getting the Job
The placement offices of agricultural colleges may have information about available jobs. Openings may be advertised in newspapers or agricultural journals. Write directly to large farms or farm management companies to inquire about job openings.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Farm managers may advance to better-paying positions with more responsibilities on larger farms or within farm management firms. They may be promoted from supervising one portion of the operation to managing several areas or an entire farm. Some managers may become farm owners.
The employment picture is poor for farm managers, with positions in this field expected to decline through 2014. The trends toward larger, corporate-owned farms and automated farming will severely limit the number of job openings in this field. Farm managers who leave the field will fuel the majority of job openings.
Conditions vary with the type of farm and the extent of the manager's duties. Some managers perform heavy physical labor, while others spend much of their time in offices and perform less strenuous outdoor work such as conducting site inspections. Managers may work fairly regular hours or, during planting and harvesting, remain on the job from dawn until sunset. Their jobs may be year-round or seasonal. Travel may be required.
Where to Go for More Information
American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers
950 South Cherry St., Ste. 508
Denver, CO 80246-2664
United Farm Workers of America
P.O. Box 62
Keene, CA 93531
Earnings and Benefits
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, farm, ranch, and other agricultural managers earn a median salary of $54,900 per year. Self-employed farm managers must provide their own benefits.