Farm Ownership & Management
The U.S. Census defines a farm as any establishment that has produced or sold at least $1000 worth of agricultural products during the year, and according to that standard, there are over 2.1 million farms in the United States.
That said, only about 960,000 people claimed farming as their principle job, and about one in four of the farms had revenues of over $50,000 per year. Clearly, many farm owners in the United States consider this a part-time source of income.
Most of these farms, both which provide a full-time income for their owners and those which are just part-time or hobby farms, are owned by individuals or families, so even with the growth of corporate farming in America, owning your own farm or managing a farm are still viable career routes for those interested in agriculture.
The top-tier farming position to hold is one in management. You can also branch out and start your own farm, or buy out a farmer who is retiring, which is a great option if you’ve been working for a small family farm for a number of years. At some farms, the owner takes care of most of the management. Others have an entire staff to take care of human resources, livestock health or crop rotation, accounting and payroll, and other farm issues.
The biggest advantage of working in farm management is that the pay rate is higher. While most farms start their day laborers and seasonal at minimum wage, those who work their way through the ranks can expect to make more. Many agriculture companies pay their administrative staff on salary, rather than by the hour.
The most important part of any farm management job is figuring out how to make the largest profit possible. This includes inspecting pesticide and fertilizer application, keeping animals health, and ensuring that the farm is properly insured. Owners or farm management staff members also deal with legal aspects, which vary depending on the type of crops being grown or the types of animals being raised.
Many jobs in management do not require you to have a degree, though some do, depending on the size of the farm and the position you want. In college, you can major in business, agriculture, finance, or a related field if you wish to work in farm management, but if you don’t want to pursue and advanced degree, this kind of position is possible through hard work and years of employment in this industry, preferably with a single employer.
How much can you make as a farmer? That depends on whether or not you want to work with a larger corporation under contract or work for yourself. It also depends on the crop or animal you produce and how large your farm is. Reports show that of the farms that are non-hobby and provide a full-time income for their owners, most make less than $100,000. About 8.3% make $100,000 to $249,999 annually, and another 4.5% make $250,000 to $500,000 annually.
If you want to own a farm, be prepared for large start-up costs. Good credit is important, since you’ll likely need a loan to purchase enough land to make farming possible. If you open a farm to raise livestock or grow crops for a specific company, you may also need to adhere to regulations set forth by the parent company, which require you to purchase certain equipment or build your facilities in a certain manner. Owning a farm is a chore – a struggle for many – though it is possible to succeed in this industry as long as you do your research when it comes to your specific agricultural niche.
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