Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers
Nature of the Work
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers operate establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products.
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers typically do the following:
Supervise all steps of the crop production and ranging process, including planting, fertilizing, harvesting, and herding
Determine how to raise crops or livestock by evaluating factors such as market conditions, disease, soil conditions, and the availability of federal programs
Select and purchase supplies, such as seed, fertilizers, and farm machinery
Ensure that farm machinery is maintained and repaired
Adapt their duties to the seasons, weather conditions, or a crop's growing cycle
Maintain farm facilities, such as water pipes, hoses, fences, and animal shelters
Serve as the sales agent for livestock, crops, and dairy products
Record financial, tax, production, and employee information
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers produce enough crops and livestock to meet the needs of the United States and still have more left over for export.
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers monitor the constantly changing prices for their products. They use different strategies to protect themselves from unpredictable changes in the markets. For example, farmers carefully plan the combination of crops that they grow, so if the price of one crop drops, they will have enough income from another crop to make up for the loss. Farmers and ranchers also track disease and weather conditions closely, because disease and bad weather may have a negative impact on crop yields or animal health. When farmers and ranchers plan ahead, they may be able to store their crops or keep their livestock to take advantage of higher prices later in the year.
Most farm output goes to food-processing companies. However, some farmers now choose to sell their goods directly to consumers through farmer's markets or use cooperatives to reduce their financial risk and to gain a larger share of the final price of their goods. In community-supported agriculture (CSA), cooperatives sell shares of a harvest to consumers before the planting season in order to ensure a market for the farm's produce.
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers also negotiate with banks and other credit lenders to get financing, because they must buy seed, livestock, and equipment before they have products to sell.
Farmers and ranchers own and operate mainly family-owned farms. They also may lease land from a landowner and operate it as a working farm.
The size of the farm or range determines which tasks farmers and ranchers handle. Those who operate small farms or ranges usually do all tasks, including harvesting and inspecting the land, growing crops, and raising animals. In addition, they keep records, service machinery, and maintain buildings.
By contrast, farmers and ranchers who operate large farms have employees—including agricultural workers—who help with physical work. Some employees of large farms are in nonfarm occupations, working as truck drivers, sales representatives, bookkeepers, or information technology specialists.
Farmers and ranchers track technological improvements in animal breeding and seeds, choosing new products that might increase output. Many livestock and dairy farmers monitor and attend to the health of their herds, tasks that may include assisting in births.
Agricultural managers take care of the day-to-day operation of one or more farms, ranches, nurseries, timber tracts, greenhouses, and other agricultural establishments for corporations, farmers, and owners who do not live and work on their farm or ranch.
Agricultural managers usually do not do production activities themselves. Instead, they hire and supervise farm and livestock workers to do most daily production tasks.
Managers may determine budgets. They may decide how to store and transport crops. They oversee the proper maintenance of equipment and property.
The following are examples of types of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers:
Crop farmers and managers—those who grow grain, fruits and vegetables, and other crops—are responsible for all steps of plant growth. After a harvest, they make sure that the crops are properly packaged and stored.
Livestock, dairy, and poultry farmers, ranchers, and managers feed and care for animals. They keep livestock in barns, pens, and other farm buildings. These workers also oversee the breeding and marketing of the animals in their care.
Horticultural specialty farmers and managers oversee the production of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and plants (including turf) used for landscaping. They also grow grapes, berries, and nuts used in making wine.
Aquaculture farmers and managers raise fish and shellfish in ponds, floating net pens, raceways, and recirculating systems. They stock, feed, protect, and maintain aquatic life used for food and for recreational fishing.