How to Become a Farm Manager in 5 Steps

Research what to takes to become a farm manager. Learn about job duties, education and experience requirements, certification and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Landscape Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Farm Manager Do?

A farm manager runs one or more agricultural operations that produce livestock, dairy products and/or crops. The manager may be responsible for many aspects of the business, including planning and coordinating planting, harvesting, maintenance or animal husbandry. The specific responsibilities of the farm manager will vary depending on the particular type of farm that he/she manages. Managers generally have to work with outside parties to negotiate the sale of their crops or animal products. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required None required; bachelor's degree desirable
Education Field of Study Agricultural management, agribusiness, dairy science
Training Required Work experience, apprenticeships, government programs available to provide field experience
Key Responsibilities Oversee crops, livestock, dairy production; financial management; product storage/shipping; maintain facilities
Certification Required Optional certification available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% decline (for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers)*
Average Salary (2015) $69,880 (for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Farm Manager?

The range of your duties as a farm manager varies, and you might oversee everything from seed selection, crop production, harvesting 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 farm 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) reports that approximately 929,800 farm, ranch and other agricultural managers held jobs in 2014; figures for farm managers alone are not available. During the 2014-2024 decade, the BLS projects employment of this group to decline by 2%, to about 911,700 jobs. This is due to the consolidation of small farms into large holdings by corporations and/or other absentee owners, as well as an increasing ability for high farm production with fewer workers.

However, farm managers could see a demand for their skills from corporate and private owners who need someone to operate their businesses. There are also new programs designed to help small farmers succeed, such as in niche markets. Although farm manager salaries fluctuate from year to year due to changing market prices, the BLS reported in May 2015 that farm managers averaged a salary of $69,880.

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.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If an individual is more interested in working on a farm rather than managing one, they could pursue a job as an agricultural worker. Their role would include operating heavy machinery, looking after livestock, and following orders of farm managers. For those with an interest in science, there are also careers in agricultural and food science. Individuals could work as scientists or technicians and analyze the overall quality and makeup of farm and agricultural products. Careers in agricultural and food science require an associate's or bachelor's degree.

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