A guide on how to become a farmer (plus skills and salary)
Updated 28 April 2023
If you're enthusiastic about agriculture and working outdoors, you might enjoy working as a farmer. Farming is a varied and interesting career path, and there's more than one way to start working in the farming industry. If you're interested in this career, it helps to find out more about how to gain experience and start developing your skills as a farmer. In this article, we explain how to become a farmer, list the most important skills for farming and discuss the average salary for farmers.
How to become a farmer
If you're wondering how to become a farmer, it's worth recognising that there are multiple different routes into this career. Some people inherit farms from their families and might have little formal education relating to agriculture. Other people start their own farms or work on someone else's farm. The following steps provide one approach for you to start working as a farmer, but you might also consider tailoring each step depending on your local circumstances and career preferences. Use the following steps as guidance to help you begin work as a farmer:
1. Research different types of farming
There are many different types of farming, and researching these is a useful first step to becoming a farmer. Farmers tend to specialise in a particular type of farming, for example, rearing a particular type of livestock, growing food or focusing on organic farming. Identify your main area of interest and ensure you research it fully. Doing this helps guide your career and might influence the steps you take to find work.
2. Gain practical experience
Gaining practical experience is vital for developing a career as a farmer. There are various ways you might do this. For one, you may gain experience through voluntary work or an entry-level position on a farm. This also gives you a chance to make contacts in the industry. Another option is to start an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship allows you to work and earn money while also gaining a qualification that may help you in your career.
3. Obtain a driving license
Driving is essential for most farmers, so it's advised that you obtain a driving license. You can start taking driving lessons from the age of 17 before you take a mandatory driving test. Passing your test as early as possible makes your work as a farmer much easier, as you're likely to work in rural areas with very little public transport. If you work on a particularly large farm, you might also require your own vehicle to get around the site.
4. Gain formal qualifications
Consider attending a college or university to study for a formal degree or diploma in agriculture. Formal qualifications aren't necessarily vital to becoming a farmer, but these programmes typically offer students valuable practical experience to help them secure employment. These qualifications also demonstrate your passion for farming and may provide you with the knowledge that's essential for success in certain areas of the industry.
Regulations if you start your own farm
In the UK, farmers follow a strict set of regulations. Understanding these regulations is useful for any farming job, but it's essential if you plan on running your own farm. Different regulations apply to different farming sectors. Before you commit to anything, it's a good idea to thoroughly research the requirements for the type of farming you want to do. Staying up-to-date about developments and changes to these rules and regulations throughout your career is also vital. These are some of the regulations you might consider:
Planning permission: This is applicable when you want to build on your land or change its use.
Vehicles: Farmers are legally required to register all farm vehicles with the DVLA and ensure they adhere to health and safety requirements.
Land: It's a legal requirement to register land that you use or plan on using for agricultural purposes with the Rural Land Register.
Health and safety: Depending on your work as a farmer, you may have various health and safety protocols to follow, such as the proper handling of machinery or the operation of certain vehicles.
Food standards: If your farm produces certain consumables such as milk, you must register with the Food Standards Agency. There are also specific accreditation schemes for different types of food products.
Skills for farmers
While qualifications for farmers vary significantly, having the right skills for the job is essential. If you gain experience on a farm through either voluntary or paid work, you have the opportunity to cultivate the skills you require and increase your knowledge about farming. Regardless of whether you choose to gain a formal agricultural qualification, gaining new skills in this way is indispensable. Farmers have varied skill sets, and these are some of the main skills that you may require:
Farmers regularly carry out physically demanding tasks. Being strong and healthy helps you manage the routine daily operations of the farm, even if much of your work is administrative. At the start of your career, you're likely to focus more on physical labour tasks, so developing your physical fitness and maintaining your health is important. Maintaining good coordination and dexterity is also important for farmers.
Leadership skills allow you to manage a team of staff on your own farm. These skills help you motivate and support your team, delegate tasks and ensure that the overall running of the farm is successful. Cultivating these skills early in your career lets you take on more important responsibilities later on, especially if the business expands and your team grows.
Organisational skills are necessary for farmers because they often undertake a wide range of tasks. These include both practical and administrative activities. Being well-organised helps you understand your workload and prioritise each job. It also helps you manage your time more effectively to complete everything on time.
Farmers communicate with a number of stakeholders, such as employees, customers, visitors and local authorities. Effective communication allows you to outline tasks in full, check the progress of various tasks, ask questions concerning rules and regulations and relay important safety information. When interacting with customers, good communication also bolsters your sales skills.
Sometimes, circumstances force farmers to adapt rapidly to address challenging situations. This requires tenacity and a degree of flexibility. Flexibility helps you keep your business running regardless of new developments or obstacles. Rapid changes, such as those in legislation or the weather, often require you to be ready for anything or have backup plans ready in case of a disaster.
The average salary of a farmer
The national average salary for a farmer is £8.73 per hour or £15,270 per year. The number of hours you work as a farmer varies significantly depending on the type of farming you do, the size of your farm, your amount of responsibilities and even what time of year it is. The job often involves a significant amount of out-of-hours work, which sometimes makes it challenging for farmers to calculate a consistent annual income. When you're planning your career, it might be worth investigating which areas of farming are the most lucrative in your local area at the present time.
Benefits of working as a farmer
Farming is often a challenging career, but there are many benefits to doing this type of work. Being aware of these benefits helps you understand your motivations for becoming a farmer. If you're interested in finding an alternative to a corporate career, the benefits of farming might make this an appealing job for you. These are some of the primary benefits of having a career as a farmer:
Many farmers find their work highly rewarding, especially if they're involved in producing essential food. They have the satisfaction of knowing that their work makes a difference and contributes to society. Many farmers also play a part in creating sustainable products and working with environmental groups to protect land.
By working on a farm, you perform many physical duties outside. These roles have valuable health benefits, including lowering your stress levels and increasing your strength and stamina. For many farmers, this makes the job more appealing than working in another type of environment.
If you run your own farm, you're essentially self-employed and have the freedom to make your own decisions about your work and career. This allows you to develop your own unique career path that suits your preferences. For people who want greater control over their own careers and day-to-day routines, this can be an appealing aspect of being a farmer.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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