Farm Manager: Job Duties, Employment Outlook and Educational Requirements

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

What Is a Farm Manager?

Farm managers direct all operational duties on a farm, including employee supervision, crop and livestock planning, financial analysis and bookkeeping. Many tasks and responsibilities of a farm manager vary on the type of farm they are managing. Their duties also vary depending on the season and weather. They often make the supply purchase decisions and help maintain farm machinery and facilities, including water pipes, animal shelters and fences.

Farm managers may also be responsible for monitoring animal health, selling of goods and monitoring soil conditions. Depending on the size of the operation, they may oversee other farm workers and assistants. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required None required; bachelor's degree helpful
Training Required Work experience, government programs, internships available
Education Field of Study Agriculture, farm management
Key Responsibilities Farming operations such as planting, harvesting, animal care; equipment maintenance; employee supervision; financial operations
Certification Required Optional certification available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% decline (farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers)*
Average Salary (2015) $69,880 (farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Job Duties Would I Have as a Farm Manager?

The day-to-day duties of farm managers vary, depending on the size of the farm. On smaller farms, managers work hands on, while on a larger farm, the manager acts as a supervisor. In either case, you'd be responsible for both the operation and the profitability of the farm. Some of your duties would include determining what crops to plant, setting planting and harvesting schedules, marketing, making decisions regarding the use of fertilizers and chemicals and monitoring the price of crops.

It would be your duty to supervise the farm workers who perform day-to-day duties, such as planting and harvesting crops and attending to animals. Not only would you be responsible for the upkeep of farm building and machinery, but you'd develop profit strategies, such as holding crops until market prices increased or participating in the futures market. You might find it necessary to secure credit to purchase seed for the year's crops.

What Is the Employment Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects an overall employment decline of 2% for farm, ranch and other agricultural managers from 2014-2024, mostly due to the closure or consolidation of smaller farms and the growing ability within agriculture to produce more with fewer workers (www.bls.gov). However, larger farms may outsource management positions because owners don't reside on their farmland, so there will be some opportunity for farm managers.

In addition, some small farm managers are finding opportunities to sell directly to customers through cooperatives and farmer's markets, and there are a number of programs designed to help new farmers and ranchers get started in the business. The BLS reports that as of May 2015, farm managers made an average salary of $69,880, with the top-paying states being Florida (average salary $95,990), Pennsylvania ($88,270) and Arkansas ($88,090).

What Educational Requirements Must I Fulfill?

Farm managers are expected to have a high level of business acumen in addition to agricultural knowledge. Farms are increasingly owned by corporations or land owners who look to their farms' managers to increase the farms' profitability in addition to managing the daily operations. So, as a farm manager with an associate's degree in applied agriculture or a Bachelor of Business Administration in Agriculture, you'll have the advantage. Your state should have a land-grant university, or you may find suitable programs online.

Whether you opt to pursue an associate's or a bachelor's degree, agricultural programs may cover topics such as horticulture, crop science, animal science, growing conditions, plant disease, veterinary science and animal husbandry. You'll also receive training in the areas of business and management, including accounting, food marketing, safety regulations and government requirements. Hands-on training will be essential, so if you weren't raised in a farming background, you should plan to spend a period of time working with experienced farmers.

You can increase your marketability and enhance your professional image by a acquiring a certification such as the Accredited Farm Manager (AFM) designation offered by the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA). Certification is awarded to farm managers who possess bachelor's or master's degrees in agriculture plus years of farm management experience and who can demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the industry.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

An alternative career path for those interested in the field is agricultural and food science technicians. These individuals need an associate's degree to measure and analyze the quality of agricultural products. They often work with agricultural and food scientists, which is another related career field. Agricultural and food scientists need a bachelor's degree and research how to improve the safety of these products. One may also be interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree to become a buying and purchasing agent. These individuals buy products for organizations and work with various suppliers.

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