If you haven’t noticed, agricultural talent is in high demand. Trends such as an aging workforce, less young people from agricultural backgrounds, and overall urbanization have not helped. We have a serious talent shortage in agribusiness that only appears to be getting worse. In addition to these trends there has recently been a lot of exciting work being done in areas such as precision agriculture, urban agriculture, sustainable agriculture, and agricultural technology. One of the things I love most about the agriculture industry is that it is very merit based. YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFUL HERE! Whether you have a college degree or not, if you are willing to work hard, treat people with respect, learn and grow, you can have a long and very successful career in ANY ONE of the below categories no matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your educational background may be. Here are 7 of the TOP Ag Jobs:
1. Ag Retail Sales. This includes all individuals engaged in the sales of products direct to farmers. Most common of these include products like seed, feed, equipment, crop nutrition and protection, and other agricultural technologies. Most of the positions are located in rural areas with maximum exposure to the farmer customer base. If you are the type of person who loves being outdoors, interacting with people, and serving customers’ needs, this position may be for you. Employers range in size from small retailers to cooperatives to large agribusinesses. If you build up a good reputation and rapport with your customers you can build yourself a career for life. While there are retail ag sales opportunities everywhere, many of these openings are in rural parts of the Midwest, so if you are the type of person who craves the “small town” life to raise a family this is a TREMENDOUS career track to do just that.
2. Agribusiness Operations Manager. This category includes professionals who run some sort of agribusiness other than a farming operation (we’ll get to that in a bit). Common positions include Grain Elevator Manager, Plant Manager, Feedlot Manager, Greenhouse Manager, or Feed Mill Manager. These positions run the gamut in terms of expertise and experience required. For instance, there are some Grain Elevator Manager positions that require minimal post-graduate training while it may take years to work up to other management positions. Generally, requirements for an operations manager will include organizational skills, communication skills, integrity (a given for any position but ESPECIALLY important for management roles), and problem solving. Many individuals in this career work with a great deal of autonomy and are trusted to meet benchmarks without having a direct supervisor present. If you are the type of person who is extremely organized and thorough, motivated by challenges and solving problems, and has the ability to manage and lead others; these positions could be a great fit for you!
3. Custom Applicator/Pest Control. All crops have pests and diseases that are constantly threatening farmer’s yields and profits. However, farmers only need to worry about specific pests and diseases in key times of the year. For this reason, the investment in equipment and expertise to address various pest and disease issues is often contracted out to pest control and custom application specialists. “Custom Application” is a term that describes someone who is paid to apply certain crop health products to a farmer’s crop as a service. Also, in certain states such as California, one needs to be licensed to give advice or sell most pest control products. Therefore, by law farmers must rely on these pest control specialists to address many of the problems that threaten their livelihood. Successful candidates for these positions are often knowledgeable about the products they use and the crops they work with. Also they generally are very good at working with equipment (especially in the case of a Custom Applicator), and have exceptionally high attention to detail. Some bad math or missed detail could very easily lead to ineffective application which wastes the customer’s money or could damage the crop or cause negative environmental and/or health consequences. If you have the desire to learn the products and uses and the attention to detail to be successful, please contact us because there are PLENTY of openings in this field!
4. Farm Manager. In the past 30 years the size of the average farm has more than doubled. As a result of this growth in farm size, many farm owners cannot do it alone. In addition to this there are many older farmers that cannot or don’t wish to do the day-to-day operations and don’t have kids who wish to take over. Finally, there are plenty of large corporate farms that are constantly looking for management talent to improve their organizations. This creates a demand for capable individuals to take over running the farm. How would you like to spend more of your day outside in a company owned pickup or an air-conditioned tractor cab? This position is so much “in demand” that many employers are willing to train the right individual even if your farm background is limited (but of course experience ALWAYS helps!). Desirable skills in this category include knowledge of operation and maintenance of farm equipment, problem solving, basic agricultural knowledge, ability to work independently, strong work ethic, and management and communication skills. Do you want the satisfaction of a hard days work and the chance to SEE the fruits of your labor at the end of a season? This job may be just the opportunity to escape the cubicle but still maintain the quality of life you desire.
5. Agricultural Finance/Accounting. These positions include working for farm lending institutions as a Loan Officer, Loan Analyst, or Relationship Manager or working for an agribusiness as a Bookkeeper, Accountant, Credit Manager, Comptroller, or even CFO. There are certain tax and accounting principles that are very unique to agriculture and require an expertise that most professionals don’t possess. But don’t be detoured, there are plenty of entry-level positions to get your foot in the door here and give you the chance to learn and improve. If you’re more the type of person who prefers to work in a quiet office atmosphere, you enjoy to be challenged, and like working with numbers. Employers are looking for someone who has the ability to analyze, think critically, and make sound decisions, as well as someone who has exceptional attention to detail and follow through in every task they do. If you’re the type of person who gets their kicks balancing your checkbook this might be the career path you are looking for.
6. Agriculture Technician. Would you like to be in demand by understanding very specific processes and procedures that most people don’t know? This is what an agriculture technician is all about. Employees here can work for the agricultural extension service, USDA, NASS, or any one of a number of independent agribusinesses in research and development. One overlooked opportunity in this field is that most agricultural commodities that is shipped by rail, container, vessel or barge is typically analyzed by a private inspectors that are licensed by the USDA. Each of these positions includes following specific protocol and honing your skills for setting up experiments or analyses, collecting data, and analyzing that data. If you’ve always loved experimentation and find research-type work interesting, you will find a career as an agriculture technician exciting and rewarding. While many of these careers do require advanced degrees, there are entry-level positions available. This might also be a great field to explore if you are perhaps wondering if an advanced degree is right for you and want to get a taste for the day-to-day before applying for that Master’s Degree or PhD.
7. Agronomist. An agronomist is a crops expert. Many of the above careers fall under the category of agronomy (Ag Sales, Pest Control, Farm Manager), but an Agronomist is paid specifically for his or her knowledge on the newest and best methods for growing crops. These positions are in demand by large farming corporations, seed companies, fertilizer and chemical companies, and even food companies that work with their growers to optimize both quality and output. If you’ve always loved growing things and are fascinated by the science and technology that produces our food supply, check out the openings as an Agronomist and see what you need to do to ready yourself for this “in demand” career.
One factor you may have noticed not addressed above is compensation. This was because the amount you will be compensated varies wildly depending on the specific position, your experience, and your results. Many new graduates place so high of a priority on compensation that they ignore all other criteria. This is a mistake. Over time if you prove yourself to be valuable you will be compensated accordingly. If a few years down the road you are successful but not paid appropriately, you will also have caught the attention of other employers who will be more than happy to pay you what they’re worth. The point here is to find a good fit in terms of boss, team, upward mobility, and a brand and mission you can really get behind every day.
There is no doubt in my mind that ANYONE who is willing to work hard and prove themselves can find a very rewarding career within the 7 categories listed above. Don’t be afraid to take a risk; if you’re not happy where you are try something new! Be willing to relocate! Give yourself a chance to thrive in the industry of agriculture!
Don’t know where to start? Here at Great Plains Consulting, we have a team of professionals ready and willing to lend a helping hand! Using the services of a recruiter are of no cost to you, the candidate. We have companies that pay us to find exceptional people to fill their open positions. We are aware of opportunities throughout the Midwest and we’d love to chat further with you, get to know you, hear about your background and see how we can assist you in finding that right fit for your career!