Grain Farming Jobs
Corn is the crop most subsidized by the government, so it is also the most popular among farmers. However, a number of other grains are also grown in the United States. The tasks associated with working on these types of farms may vary slightly, but in general, the annual cycle is the same for each type of crop:
- Plow the land
- Plant the seed
- Fertilize the fields
- Track crop growth
- Apply pesticides and more fertilizer as needed
- Harvest the crop
- Prepare the crop for sale
- Sell the product
Other types of grains that are common in the United States include rice, wheat, barley, oats, and rye.
Rice has been grown in the United States since the late 1600s and is grown primarily in the Mississippi River Delta and California. In 2006, the rice industry in the United States accounted for $1.88 billion, and about half of that rice was exported to other countries. Most of the rice in the United States is used directly by consumers, but about 16% goes toward processed foods and beer, while another 10% is used in pet food. Much of the rice in this country is grown in wet marshes, which means that farmers flood the fields after planting. Fish can also be raised in these fields, so working on a rice farm may mean that you care for both plants and animals.
The United States was the world’s third largest producer of wheat in 2007, supplying 56 million metric tons to the world.
It can be powdered to create flour, processed to make foods like pasta and cereal, mixed into animal feed, fermented to make beer, and processed to create biofuel. After the grain is harvested, the by-product is straw, which is also important for animal bedding on many farms. Unlike many other crops, many kinds of wheat are planted in the fall, though some varieties are also planted in early spring. Wheat harvesting is typically done in the summer, so this provides a good source of seasonal farm work while other plants may still be growing.
Barley is a major source of food for livestock, but if can also be used in food, beer, and whiskey. It does not tolerate the cold as well as wheat, but it is extremely tolerant of drought, so it is often grown in drier states. In most of the United States, barley is a summer-grown crop with a fairly short growing season.
Oat fields are popular in areas of the country that get a lot of rain, so this is kind of a counterpart to barley. They’re one of the first types of seeds to be sown in the spring, even when there is still the risk of a late frost, and the plant lies dormant during the summer heat. While some cattle feed contains oats, it is most commonly used in feed for horses, as oats are an important part of their diet. So, if you work on a horse farm, you may also work with oats, as many stables choose to produce their own feed.
Rye is used in food, beer, vodka, whiskey, and animal feed. It is grown in much smaller quantities in the United States than other grains, and is often seen as a “bonus crop.” Rye is planted to grow over the winter months to prevent weeds from taking route in fields traditionally reserved for corn or other crops, and it grows during the winter, even when snow is on the ground, whenever the temperature reaches above freezing. Some farmers don’t actually harvest rye, but instead till it into the ground to add nutrients back to the soil for other crops.