Are you obsessed with FarmVille (a.k.a. Facebook’s most irritating game)? Do you love the smell of pigs in the morning? Do you like the idea of getting up at the crack of dawn and driving a massive tractor across fields, meadows, paddocks and any other area of grass that has the audacity to get in your way? Well then, a career in farming might be right up your street.
Farmers are the driving force behind the UK’s agricultural industry. If you get into arable farming, you will spend your life in the great outdoors tending to crops. If you pursue a career in pastoral farming, you will focus your efforts on rearing animals.
Understandably, different farmers have different responsibilities. It really depends on what kind of farming you go into. After all, the daily duties of a dairy farmer are completely different to that of a farmer who works on a sugar beet farm.
As a trainee or farm labourer, you will primarily focus your efforts on manual labour. Indeed, you will carry out a range of duties, including cleaning, tractor driving, general handiwork, tending to livestock, ploughing, planting and harvesting crops.
Furthermore, you might be responsible for carrying out basic maintenance and repair work on vehicles, machinery, fences, gates and walls.
As you gain more responsibility, you will begin to look after the business side of things. Admittedly, you will still carry out your fair share of hands-on farming activities. However, you will also be responsible for managing farm workers, looking after the administrative side of running a farm, monitoring budgets, and devising strategies for harvesting or breeding.
Moreover, you will be responsible for planning production, liaising with clients such as food suppliers, procuring supplies, visiting auctions and farmers’ markets, selling the farm’s products and maintaining financial records.
Finally, you will also be in charge of making sure the farm complies with strict environmental laws and health and safety regulations.
Salary & benefits
As a trainee, you will earn between £16,000 and £24,000 per annum. Once you have gained a decent amount of experience, your salary may increase to around £27,500.
Farm managers with a wealth of experience and expertise can earn up to £62,000 and beyond.
Some agricultural consultants can earn over £70,000 a year.
Farming is more of a lifestyle choice than a career. Indeed, this isn’t your average nine-to-five office job. Farmers are required to be ‘on-call’ 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Don’t worry! This doesn’t mean you’ll be out in the fields at midnight every Saturday. It does, however, mean that if there’s a problem, you will have to deal with it quickly and effectively.
A farmer’s working hours are also dictated by the seasons. For instance, when it comes to harvesting, you may find yourself working between 15 and 18 hours a day.
Farmers work outside all year round. Consequently, aspiring farmers should be prepared to battle the wind, rain and sun on a regular basis. Needless to say, it’s worth investing in a decent raincoat and some sun tan lotion.
Most importantly, aspiring farmers need to gain experience of working on a farm and acquire the technical and practical knowledge that goes with it.
However, the majority of farmers do now have formal qualifications, i.e. a degree or HND, in:
- Animal care
- Countryside management
- Land management
- Wildlife managementa
- Animal management
- Agricultural engineering
- Organic horticulture management
- Crop management
- Rural business management.
You can also enter this line of work via an agricultural apprenticeship.
Training & progression
The majority of your training will be done whilst on the job under the supervision of a farm manager.
Agricultural colleges and organisations, such as Lantra, also offer training courses and professional qualifications for farmers who are keen to develop specialist skills and enhance their employability.
Most farmers start their agricultural careers as trainees or assistant farm managers, before eventually moving into farm manager positions.
Once you have established yourself as a farm manager, you may wish to explore different opportunities in the agricultural sector. For instance, you may decide to become an agricultural consultant or work for a government organisation, such as the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
You could even move abroad in search of farm management opportunities.