How to Become a Farm Manager in 5 Steps
Farm managers oversee seed selection, crop production, harvesting, hiring and a range of other duties. Read here for more information on becoming a farm manager, like training options, job openings and certification. Schools offering Environmental & Social Sustainability degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Is a Farm Manager?
A farm manager often takes on many jobs in an agricultural operation, including planning and coordinating planting, harvesting, maintenance and other activities at one or more farms. The range of your duties as a farm manager varies, and you might oversee everything from seed selection and pesticide use to bookkeeping and human resources. At large farms, you could be responsible for a single facet of a farm's operations, such as hiring and training farm workers or marketing. At smaller farms you might supervise all phases of production. Other duties might include creating budgets, monitoring the storage and shipping of harvested crops and maintaining records.
Step 1: Consider Earning a Degree
The growing technical and financial complexity of modern farming increasingly favors managers who have postsecondary education. A number of schools offer bachelor's degree programs in agricultural or agribusiness management that prepare you for day-to-day decision-making on a farm or for industry roles like sales or policy-making. Program courses often cover crop science, animal science, accounting, economics and government policy.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
If you grew up on a farm, you may have already learned many skills necessary to run one. However, if you're coming to farming as an adult, you could participate in an internship or practicum to gain experience. Opportunities are available with trade associations and state and federal agricultural agencies. Many bachelor's degree programs include a course or courses that provide field experience.
Step 3: Pursue a Job
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that approximately 248,100 farm, ranch and other agricultural managers held jobs in 2008 (www.bls.gov). Figures for farm managers alone weren't available. From 2008-2018, the BLS projected employment to grow six percent to about 262,700 jobs. Demand for management skills will be driven by an ongoing trend towards consolidation of small farms into large farms held by absentee owners, reported the BLS. PayScale.com reported that as of November 2011, most farm managers earned between $20,567 and $76,378 annually.
Step 4: Stay Abreast of Developments
Technology, cultivation practices, government agricultural policy and farm commodity markets constantly evolve. Staying on top of these issues is usually necessary for farm managers. You can enroll in continuing education management courses and seminars offered by the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA). Course subjects include land management, valuation of intangible assets, property risk assessment and conservation policy.
Step 5: Consider Certification
You can raise your professional standing by obtaining the Accredited Farm Manager (AFM) credential from ASFMRA. To be eligible for the AFM exam you need to complete four ASFMRA agriculture land management courses, hold at least a bachelor's degree, have four years of farm management experience and submit a sample farm management plan. You also have to be a member of ASFMRA. The AFM exam tests your knowledge of farm planning, market planning and agricultural tax policy.
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