Soybean Farming Jobs

The soybean is one of the most popular commodity crops in the United States. It can be used for tofu, soy sauce, vegetable oil, baby formula, alternatives to other dairy products like soymilk, tempeh, biodiesel, soap, cosmetics, plastics, cattle feed, and more.

The United States is the top producer of soybeans, harvesting over 87 million metric tons in 2006 alone.

Work on some soybean farms starts in spring, when the ground is prepared by plowing. Other farms use a “no till” method of farming in which the seeds are planted using a special machine directly after wheat or other crops are harvested in mid-spring. Seeds are planted in spring and early summer in most locations in the United States.

Most farmers use genetically modified seeds, which resist certain sprays. Farmers can they use these sprays to kill weeds while leaving the crop unharmed. Some farmers also spray for bugs and other pests and spread fertilizer. The crop is ready to harvest in the fall, after the leaves turn brown and the pods of beans are fully mature. Workers then drive a combine through the field to collect the soybeans and transfer them to a holding tank.

Some farmers store their soybeans, while others sell them right away. Soybeans can also be used as part of livestock’s diet, so your work on a soybean farm may include mixing the beans with other grains, like barley, oats, and corn, to create a mixture for animals, which like cattle. The farm can use this mixture if your employer raises livestock, or it can be sold to other farmers. Many farmers simply choose to store soybeans while waiting for prices to rise, though farms also often take advantage of government subsidy programs.

Some farmers clean their seeds, though this is illegal if a seed company, which developed the genetics for that variety, owns the particular kind of seed. Seed cleaning is only legal for certain varieties, and this is a dying practice with soybean farmers, as the genetically modified seeds are often easier to grow and sell.

Farms that grow soybeans hire both seasonal workers and year-round workers, though in both cases, you can expect longer hours in the late spring and fall, when the soybeans are planted and harvested. Pay typically starts at minimum wage, and increases over time as you advance to management positions or work at the farm for a number of years.

Further Reading:

National Soybean Research Laboratory
Soybean Production

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