Career Information:

Farm, Ranch, and Other Agricultural Managers

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Farm, Ranch, and Other Agricultural Managers Overview

Farm, ranch, and other agricultural managers have knowledge gained from experience growing up on a farm, or from their education in agriculture. The future for employment will most likely decrease as farms consolidate and productivity increases. Small, local and organic farms will offer the best opportunities for future jobs.

Nature of the Work for Farm, Ranch, and Other Agricultural Managers

Farm, Ranch, and Other Agricultural Managers

The farmers, ranchers and agricultural managers of America manage the activities of the world’s largest productive areas of agriculture. Farmers and ranchers mainly own and operate family run farms. Land can be leased from a landowner. The agricultural manager manages and handles the day-to day operations and activities of more than one farm or ranch, and can also handle the agricultural establishments for farmers or landowners who are absent. Although duties and jobs may differ and vary, the agricultural manager pays close attention to all business aspects of the farm while mainly overseeing one aspect of larger farms.

Weather and climate have an impact of productivity on the farm. The farmer and manager have to determine which crops to plant, when to plant, and the best time to harvest the crops. The farm, ranch and agricultural manager also watch prices of products and the changes in costs. Planning ahead is important to take advantage of higher prices later as a result of storing their crops or keeping livestock. Contracts drawn ensure keeping prices stable and protecting taking a risk by ranchers or farmers.

Selling directly at a farmers market or cooperatives is another way to reduce some financial risk and also get a larger portion of the price paid by the consumer. The farmer, rancher, and agricultural managers also deal with banks and lenders to get the best financing on equipment and livestock.

Computers are used by farmer, ranchers and agricultural managers to keep financial records. Spreadsheets and databases help manage the farm’s operations including breeding.

Different farm managers operate according to specific jobs. Farmers are responsible for planting, tilling, cultivating, and harvesting on crop farms. After the harvest they are responsible for proper packaging, storage and marketing. Livestock, dairy, and poultry farmers care for the animals and keep the facilities including coops, pens and, barns in good condition. Farmers and ranchers maintain and operate machinery and equipment and follow new technology that will improve animal breeding and help to choose new products.

The size of farm usually dictates the jobs the farmers and ranchers will handle. The smaller farm’s operator usually does all chores and tasks, including physical and administrative duties. Keeping records, servicing machinery along with growing vegetables and raising the animals are all the farm operator’s duties. Large farms will have workers to do these jobs. Large farms can have up to 100 employees while small farms may have only a handful of workers. Agricultural managers do not usually handle any planting or harvesting but handle the hiring of workers, establishing goals and handling finances. Other duties include overseeing the maintenance and care of the property.

A horticultural specialty farmer will oversee the production of fruits and vegetables. They may also oversee the production of nuts, berries and grapes. Aquaculture farmers raise fish and shellfish often used for fresh water tanks and ponds.

Hours for farm workers are usually from sunrise to sunset during harvest seasons. The rest of the year may have shorter hours.

Livestock-producing farms work is year-round. Animals must be cared for and fed daily and cows milked two or three times daily. Caring for and helping in the birthing of animals may also be part of the farmer’s duties.

Large farms may have professional managers who may be in charge of several farms or travel from one farm to another. New and improved technology will allow more farmers to spend time in offices and computers.

Hazards on the farm can include injury caused by tractors or other farm machinery. The proper use of equipment and chemicals are important to ensure the safety of workers and avoid accidents.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Farm, Ranch, and Other Agricultural Managers

Recommended Education Level

Living and working on a farm is the most common way to learn the trade. Postsecondary education is important for farmers facing complex financial and business decisions even for those raised on the farm.

Farm managers, farmers and ranchers find a 2 year associate degree or 4 year bachelor’s degree more important these days, especially for those expecting to make their living from farming.

Students can attend state universities which all have a school of agriculture. Common coursework includes agriculture, farm management, agronomy, dairy science, and business.

Agricultural colleges can teach crop knowledge, growing conditions, and plant diseases. Basics of veterinary science and animal husbandry are also taught along with pesticide’s effects on animals.

New farmers and ranchers learn under the leadership of an experienced farmer the academic skills acquired. Those who do not have any formal training may take years longer to train.

Other skills such as business and managerial, accounting and bookkeeping are necessary for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers. Computer skills, safety regulations, personnel management, communication, and resolution of problems are also important.

Good mechanical aptitude and the ability to work with tools are important.

Continuing advances in agricultural methods and government regulations that could affect production methods are important as well.

Top 10 Most Popular Agriculture Business Schools

1. Texas A & M University (College Station, Texas)
2. University of California, Davis (Davis, California)
3. Cornell University (Ithaca, New York)
4. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (San Luis Obispo, California)
5. University of Florida (Gainesville, Florida)
6. Purdue University, Main Campus (West Lafayette, Indiana)
7. Northland Community and Technical College (Thief River Falls, Minnesota)
8. Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa)
9. North Carolina State University at Raleigh (Raleigh, North Carolina)
10. California State University, Fresno (Fresno, California)

See All Agriculture Business Schools

Most Popular Online Agriculture Business Schools

1. Kansas State University - Online School
2. Iowa Western Community College - Online School

Employment and Job Outlook for Farm, Ranch, and Other Agricultural Managers

Number of People in Profession


Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to decline slowly or moderately (decrease 3 - 9%)

More than 80 percent of farmers and ranchers are self-employed with the rest being wage and salaried agricultural managers.

Overall employment will decline with self-employed farmers declining moderately with larger more productive farms being successful.

Agricultural managers' jobs are projected to grow slower than average with growth of about 6 percent.

Small scale farmers have been successful by developing a market niche that is personalized and deals directly with the customer. Organic food production and horticulture along with farmer’s markets have allowed farmers to gain a larger share of the consumer’s dollar.

There are fewer jobs expected for farmers and ranchers but better prospects for those farmers earning wages and salaries as agricultural managers. Best opportunities include local farming, small-scale, and organic farming. Opportunities will also exist for those who want to own or lease a farm when farmers retire or give up their farms. Good prospects exist for farmers who grow crops for landscaping as people spend more money on landscaping their homes and businesses.

Innovations through private organizations are helping to make farmland available and affordable for new farmers. Programs like Land Link that operates in 20 states helps match up young farmers with those that are retiring so that arrangements to pass along the farm are made possible. A new farmer will sometimes work for years on a farm until ownership is transferred.

Earnings and Salary for Farm, Ranch, and Other Agricultural Managers

Full-time, salaried farm, ranch, and other agricultural managers have median annual earnings of $59,450. The middle half earn between $43,180 and $78,770. The lowest paid 10 percent earn less than $31,680, and the highest paid 10 percent earn more than $103,210.

Annual Salary for Farm, Ranch, and Other Agricultural Managers

On average, Farm, Ranch, and Other Agricultural Managers earn $59,450 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $31,680/yr $43,180/yr $78,770/yr $103,210/yr

Hourly Wage for Farm, Ranch, and Other Agricultural Managers

On average, Farm, Ranch, and Other Agricultural Managers earn $28.58 per hour.

10% 25% 75% 90% $15.23 $20.76 $37.87 $49.62

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook