Education and Training: Varies—see profile
Salary: Varies—see profile
Employment Outlook: Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Grain farmers grow grains such as corn, wheat, rye, and others, including grain sorghums. Farmers generally specialize in two or three types of grain. Many grain farmers own their land and work for themselves. Some farms are owned by large corporations that hire farm managers to oversee the operation. Grain farms range in size from 375 acres to more than fifteen hundred acres.
Grain farmers grow crops used for animal feed or as food for people. Because grain farming is highly mechanized, farmers invest heavily in equipment, land, and buildings. Grain farming is outdoor, seasonal work. Farmers are busiest during planting and harvesting times. At other times of the year, they may work at jobs away from the farm to earn a living.
Grain farmers must know the best way to prepare fields and understand the varieties of grain they plan to grow. They select planting times and the depth at which seeds should be planted. In addition, they plan methods of controlling weeds, insects, and disease. They generally use chemical sprays and dusts for this purpose. Some farmers hire private contractors for specific jobs, such as harvesting or threshing.
Marketing the crop wisely is the key to successful grain farming. Even with a good crop, the farmer can lose money if demand or prices are low. Some farmers sell their crop through farmers' cooperatives. Grain is generally stored after the harvest. Some farmers have their own storage facilities. Some take their harvest to terminal grain elevators located near railroads or other means of transportation. At the grain elevator farmers are given a receipt for the grain. They can exchange the receipt for cash when the grain is sold. Farmers try to store their harvest and sell it when prices go up.
Education and Training Requirements
Almost all sizable grain farms are heavily mechanized and require good management skills. As a result, many grain farmers are college trained. Many four-year colleges offer programs in agriculture. Two-year colleges also offer useful courses. Interested students should take courses in crop production, business administration, and marketing.
Getting the Job
To start a grain farm, a prospective farmer must have or be able to borrow a great deal of money. One way to get into the field is to start as a hired hand or technical worker on a farm. With many years of experience, a farm hand can become a farm manager. Others beginning in this field start as tenant farmers, so they can gain experience and earn an income that may eventually allow them to own and run their own farms. Career offices and teachers in agricultural colleges can offer job leads and placement assistance.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Grain farmers often buy more land to increase the size of their operation. Agriculture, including grain production, is a steadily growing industry. Because of improved farming methods, however, farmers will be able to produce bigger crops on fewer acres. The total number of farms and farmers is expected to decrease through the year 2012.
Grain farmers lead active, outdoor lives. During their busy season farmers may work long and irregular hours. For example, a stretch of bad weather may delay the scheduled planting or harvesting. To be successful, grain producers must keep careful records, fill out forms, and study the latest developments in farm journals or classes. Crop yields and market prices are variable and uncertain. However, grain farmers take pride in running their own businesses.
Where to Go for More Information
National Corn Growers Association
122 C St. NW, Ste. 510
Washington, DC 20001
National Grain and Feed Association
1205 Eye St. NW, Ste. 1003
Washington, DC 20005-3922
United States Durum Growers Association
4023 State St.
Bismark, ND 58503-0690
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings vary depending on location, investment, and size of the farm. The annual income of farmers fluctuates from year to year depending on weather conditions and other factors that influence farm production. On grain farms with huge acreage the profits are much higher. Grain farmers who are self-employed must provide their own benefits, such as health and life insurance.