What is a Farmer?

A farmer works under the umbrella of agriculture, producing a variety of food products for human and animal consumption. There are several kinds of farmers, ranging from farmers who raise animals to farmers who grow crops.

Farmers are responsible for all crops and livestock that are needed for us to survive. Without food, the world would slowly die, and farmers work hard every day to keep plenty of crops and animal products in the market to keep that from happening.

What does a Farmer do?

A tractor harvesting a crop out in the field.

A farmer's main goal is to produce a good crop and/or healthy animals in order to make a living and to feed the population.

A farmer has various responsibilities within their particular field. Whether it is the purchasing and planting of seeds on a cash crop farm, the purchasing of quality breeding stock on an animal husbandry farm, or the diet and care of a specific type of livestock on an animal production farm, a farmer needs to have a wide knowledge base of the agricultural industry as a whole.

Besides the general knowledge of planting dates, breeding cycles and harvesting periods, a farmer often needs a good working knowledge of mechanics in order to keep their equipment running and in optimal order.

A strong working knowledge of the limitations and regulations of the Food and Drug Administration, state agencies, and local government is a must for a farmer, as there are many regulations placed on the agricultural industry.

The following are various types of farmers:

Organic Farmer - produces fruits, vegetables, grains, or livestock without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers

Grain and Forage Crop Farmer - grows grains such as wheat, barley, canola, oats, rye, flax, peas and speciality crops or forage crops

Dairy Farmer - owns or manages a farm where cows are raised for the production of milk and other dairy products

Poultry Farmer - raises domesticated birds such as geese, ducks, turkeys or chickens

Rancher - raises livestock such as cattle or sheep, or less common livestock such as elk, bison, ostrich, emu or alpacas

Beekeeper - keeps honey bees, and produces honey, pollen, royal jelly and beeswax

Vermiculturist - breeds worms and uses the worms to convert waste products such as uneaten food, feces, grass clippings, and spoiled fruit and vegetables into healthy, nutrient-rich soil and organic fertilizer

Alligator Farmer - breeds and raises alligators or crocodiles in order to produce leather, meat and other goods

Are you suited to be a farmer?

Farmers have distinct personalities. They tend to be enterprising individuals, which means they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic. They are dominant, persuasive, and motivational. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if farmer is one of your top career matches.

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What is the workplace of a Farmer like?

Where a farmer works is based on which area of the agricultural industry they choose to work. Here we will outline just a few of the many options available to include fish farming, cash crop farming, animal husbandry, and livestock production.

In the area of fish farming - farmers will manage a large fishery, often specializing in one variety of fish, such as tilapia. These farmers specialize in the raising of fish to be processed for consumption or to be released into lakes, rivers, and streams in the attempt to repopulate a dying waterway. Fish farmers need to know the specifics of the species they are raising as well as the environmental requirements placed upon them by federal, state, and local governments.

In the area of cash crop farming - a farmer will raise crops to market for consumption, medical use, animal food production, and the growing herbal industry. A farmer in this field will be responsible for the planting, fertilization, and harvesting of the crops, as well as transport to the proper production elevators for sale at harvest. Cash crop farmers will need a strong working knowledge of planting times, harvesting times, and weather patterns in order to gain a good footing in their field.

Some of these crops may be processed to be sold back to farmers for future use. These crops are purchased by seed companies who treat the crops and process them, then sell them to farmers to use the next season as seeds to plant their fields. Other examples of such a circular sale include crops that are purchased to produce animal feed, which is then later sold to farmers in the animal husbandry and livestock production fields.

In animal husbandry - farmers concentrate on providing healthy, hearty livestock for later processing for consumption. Farmers often specialize in one type of animal in this field, carefully breeding the livestock to produce the best quality offspring each season. Offspring are then raised to take the place of the current breeding stock over time, with the current breeding stock sold after a period of time. Animal husbandry requires a strong knowledge of blood lines and species types, as well as the best possible out-crossings of those types to provide the best results in breeding.

Also, some offspring may be sold to other farms who specialize in livestock production to be raised for a specific production purpose. A veal farm is one example of a farm involved in specialized livestock production that may purchase offspring from an animal husbandry farm for a specific production purpose. As the calves must be placed on a special diet, these farms are responsible for holding the livestock to that diet, monitoring their health, and selling them to production facilities at the proper age, weight, and size to produce the necessary product requirements for their field. Animal production farmers will need to know the diets, illnesses, treatments, and growth rates necessary for their specialized areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I become a Farmer?

Farming offers a life of independence and connection to the land, but it also involves huge responsibility. To get a sense of how you are likely to respond to the demands of farming, consider your answers to the following set of questions:

Are you comfortable being solely responsible for an entire operation?
The success of most small farms rests entirely with their owner(s), who are typically responsible for both day-to-day operations and long-term planning.

Are you able to accept uncertainty and variability in your life?
Uncertainty, even insecurity, are not uncommon in the farming industry. Among the factors that can affect a farmer’s livelihood are climate change, government mandates and regulations, and global trade policies.

Are you a fast learner?
The farming industry has become rather complicated. It has a very steep learning curve. Farmers must constantly watch the markets to try to get the best price for their products and find the lowest prices for seed, fertilizer, and equipment. They must operate complex high-tech machinery, such as tractors with GPS-guided driving systems. They need to understand multiple varieties of bio-engineered seeds and the chemical make-up of fertilizers, soil types, and weed killers. Simply stated, becoming a farmer means you will need to absorb a lot of information and keep up to date with changing systems and techniques.

Are you a resourceful problem-solver?
Farming is as much a mentality or lifestyle as it is a profession. The challenges and setbacks presented by the occupation require that you possess imagination and creativity to find solutions and survive.

Are you a patient person?
When you start out, you will make mistakes and encounter stumbling blocks. You will be well served by taking the long-term view because success typically takes a long time.

Do you possess basic business management skills?
To keep a farm operating, farmers must be able to manage cash flow, budgets, and equipment depreciation schedules; calculate risk margins; track profits; and create marketing plans. They must understand economic trends and remain aware of government legislation relevant to their enterprise.

Are you prepared for the working conditions on a farm?

Hours of work and time demands: Unless they hire an assistant, it is not uncommon for fulltime, independent farmers to have no time off during the planting, growing, and harvesting seasons. Duties during these periods can often take from early morning to late evening. During the rest of the year, preparations for the upcoming season must be made; these may include maintenance and repairs, accounting, and marketing.

Manual labor: Even with modern equipment, farming remains a manual labor enterprise. A reasonable level of physical fitness is crucial.

Hazards: Handling livestock, using various chemicals, and operating and repairing farming machinery and equipment can be hazardous.

Do you have enough money to invest in farming?
Starting even a small farm requires considerable initial capital. You have to buy materials and equipment. You either have to buy land or deal with land lease relationships.

Are you prepared for the potential economic hardships of farming?
It has been estimated that to stay afloat, approximately 91% of all small farms require outside income, either from a second job or from government and foundations grants.

If you feel comfortable with the demands raised by the above questions, you may be further motivated to become a farmer by these simple, but attractive benefits of the occupation:

  • Escape the office
  • No dress code
  • No commute
  • Bring your pet to work
  • Spend your days outside
  • Stay fit
  • Join a close knit community
  • Feed the planet

What are Farmers like?

Based on our pool of users, farmers tend to be predominately investigative people. This prevailing characteristic is reflective of much of the work that farmers are called upon to do: investigate suitable land, examine crops, inspect livestock, analyze budgets, and explore marketing options. Clearly, ‘investigative’ perfectly describes the quintessential farmer.

Are Farmers happy?

Farmers rank highly among careers. Overall they rank in the 73rd percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.

The life of farmer may encompass operational, financial, and regulatory challenges, but the time-honored tradition of farming and the connection to the land that it offers may very well explain its high level of occupational happiness. While farming is not without its trials and tribulations, there appears to be something very fulfilling and profound about it.

How long does it take to become a Farmer?

Many farmers are born into a family farming business. From the time they are children they gain their knowledge through observation and hands-on experience.

The modernization and new complexities of the farming industry, however, have increased the need for farmers and ranchers to also receive formal training. This is especially true for those who are responsible for making financial and operational decisions.

Aspiring farmers who choose to supplement their hands-on experience with formal training or education will commonly add one or more of the following timelines to their learning track:

  • Certificate – the length of certificate programs varies greatly, depending on the type and amount of content.
  • Online Degree – one year to eighteen months
  • Associate Degree – one to two years
  • Bachelor’s Degree – four years

For further information, please see our How to Become page.

Farmers are also known as:
Agriculturer Farm Owner Agriculturist Agriculturalist Cultivator