Career Snapshots: Farming and Agriculture
- Farmer/Grower: aquaculture, dairy, fishery, fruit and vegetable, livestock (beef, poultry, pork, goat, lamb), nurseries, and greenhouses
Jobs: owner, manager, farmhand
- Agriculture: engineer, agronomist, botanist, horticulturist, biologist, ecologist, arborist, specialist, loan officer, inspector, beekeeper, park ranger
As a farmer or grower, you will produce food in a variety of outdoor environments, such as a farm or nursery. You may work with fruit and vegetables or animals such as cattle or poultry. Farm work is physically demanding, often requiring long days in all types of weather, but it is very rewarding to raise fresh produce from seed or animals from birth. You could also work for a professional seafood company, dairy, or aquaculture business.
Farmers generally produce crops, livestock, or dairy products either organically or conventionally. They care about providing high-quality and nutritious food, connecting with their community and working outdoors, and many use sustainable practices to build soil health. Farms vary widely: they may be owned by a family or a corporation; they can be small, medium, or large in size or acreage; and they can produce one commodity crop like corn or a diversified mix of produce and animals.
There are opportunities for farmers in both rural and urban areas, and there are many financial incentives for beginning, minority, veteran, or women farmers. This career path can take many different forms but tasks generally include managing the land, caring for crops, animal husbandry, and maintenance and repair. Here are some examples of different farm types:
- Vegetable farm: grow one crop, such as corn, while other types of farms diversify and produce many different crops and varieties of fruits and vegetables. Vegetable farms vary in size, and can be hundreds of acres in a rural area or a quarter acre in an urban lot.
- Orchard or fruit farm: maintain one or more types of fruit; some types like citrus and nut trees and blueberry bushes will produce for many years under good care and management.
- Livestock farm or ranch: raise a variety of animals such as cows for beef, chicken for poultry, or pigs for pork.
- Dairy farm: produce milk from a herd of dairy cows, goats, or sheep that could also be value-added into other dairy products like cheese, butter, or ice cream.
- Aquaculture: raise or catch animals that live in water, such as a seafood or crawfish farm. Aquaculture involves raising fish or seafood in an enclosure such as a pond, netting placed in coastal waters, or tanks.
- Nursery or greenhouse: grow trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and other plants in a controlled environment.
Education and Training
For farmers and growers, relevant experience is often more important than higher education. One way to gain experience is by working on a farm for a growing season to receive observational and hands-on training. Some farmers are born into the family business and receive training from a young age, while others complete apprenticeship programs over the course of a few growing seasons to gain enough experience to move from an entry-level farmhand to a higher-level management position. Certificate programs, many of which are online, are also available and are recommended for those already working in agriculture.
Along with on-farm training or other forms of gardening or animal husbandry experience, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from a land grant institution like Louisiana State University is helpful, especially if you want to own a farm business. Some relevant majors include agricultural business and economics, farm management, dairy science, animal science, horticulture, and organic farming. Check out the agriculture majors at Louisiana State University.
Other Agricultural Careers
There are many other agricultural career paths other than working as a farmer or grower. You may want to understand more about the science behind plants and animals, engineer technology for more sustainable farming practices, or ensure food produced by farm businesses are safe. Many of these opportunities require work in an office or laboratory, are less physically demanding, and require higher education. Here are some examples:
As an agricultural engineer you would integrate technology with farming. You may design, construct, and test farm equipment, build farm infrastructure like water reservoirs or warehouses, or find new solutions to agriculture waste. Many modern farms integrate technology in farm operations using robots and temperature sensors for more precise, efficient, and profitable agriculture. This career path is a good fit for someone who wants to focus on the science and technology behind food and farming, work both inside and outside, and manage projects. Most entry-level jobs require a bachelor’s degree in a related field like agricultural or biological engineering, while higher-level jobs require a professional engineer (PE) license. Learn more about this career path by visiting Louisiana State University’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.
As a plant scientist there are many related career opportunities as a botanist, agronomist, ecologist, conservationist, or horticulturist. Botany is the scientific study of plants, and as a botanistyou would do just that! There are many topic areas you could focus on within this field that vary across geographical settings. An agronomiststudies soil science and may focus on soil management in the Great Plains, an ecologist could study ecosystems in the Amazon rainforest, a conservationist could work to preserve and protect Louisiana’s wetlands. As a horticulturist you may study edible or ornamental plants and apply the scientific research of botanists, agronomists, ecologists, or conservationists in a variety of ways. Most entry-level jobs require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree with a major in horticulture, botany, environmental science, or biology. Learn more about this career path by checking out the majors available at Louisiana State University’s College of Agriculture.
As an agricultural inspector you would ensure that the food products sold to consumers are safely grown and processed on farms and ranches. There are a variety of settings an agricultural inspector could work in, such as a laboratory, processing plant, or performing site visits at farms or ranches. This career path would be a good fit for someone with a diverse set of interests in science, technology, and business. Many entry-level positions require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in biology, animal science, agricultural science, or a related field. Working in this field you may become very familiar with government regulations around producing and processing food or specific farm certifications such a USDA Organic. Learn more about this career path by checking out the majors available at Louisiana State University’s College of Agriculture.