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Farmers and Farm Managers

At a Glance

  • Duties vary by the size of the farm
  • Manage livestock, crops, equipment, buildings, and employees
  • Raise a variety of animals, from worms to cattle
  • Deal with external customers
  • May work seven days a week
  • Have years of work experience

Career summary

Farmers and farm managers raise crops and livestock for market.

#match with 4164, no alt titles no info brought over, checked 2/27/19 lh Outlook section complex.

Farmers' duties vary by the type and the size of the farm or ranch.

Crop farmers plan, plant, cultivate, spray, and harvest. They analyze their soil and fertilize it so that it produces better plants. They store, load, transport, and market their crops. They also set up, inspect, and maintain farm equipment.

On livestock, dairy, and poultry farms, farmers plan, feed, and care for animals. They also may oversee breeding. Modern farmers raise many different kinds of stock. For example, farmers may raise earthworms, shellfish, or bees.

On small farms, farmers do most of the work themselves. Workers may include the farmer and one or two family members or hired employees. On large farms, farmers hire employees to help with the physical work. The largest ones may have 100 or more full-time and seasonal workers. Owners of these large farms may hire farm managers. Farm managers supervise and direct farm and ranch workers. These workers may oversee most activities or focus on a single activity, such as harvesting.

Both farmers and farm managers make managerial decisions. They decide which crops to plant or animals to raise, and what type of equipment and supplies to purchase. They must think about weather predictions, disease outbreaks that could make their plants or animals sick, farm product prices, and federal farm programs. They must also adjust irrigation systems to use water efficiently, and make sure that buildings and equipment are clean and repaired.

Farmers and farm managers look for new ways to improve their yield for less money. For example, they may use a new pest control method that increases their output because it reduces damage from bugs.

To start new ventures, farmers and farm managers negotiate and secure loans from banks. They must keep good records of their costs and their production. They also must understand federal and state regulations that apply to farming and to selling products.

Related careers

This career is part of the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to farmers and farm managers.

Common work activities

Farmers and farm managers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, farmers and farm managers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Farmers and farm managers frequently:

It is important for farmers and farm managers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for farmers and farm managers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Farmers and farm managers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a farmer or farm manager, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most farmers and farm managers learn through years of work experience. However, with advances in modern farming practices, it is becoming more important that farmers and ranchers have formal training. Agronomy, dairy science, and agriculture economics are a few courses you can take. If you are interested in a particular crop or type of farming, look for schools in states that grow or support that type of farming. Every state has a land-grant university with a school of agriculture.

Business management courses are also very important. Community colleges offer two-year programs in business management.

Work experience

Most farmers and farm managers have years of work experience. Growing up on a farm provides good work experience. It is also helpful if you join clubs such as 4-H or the National FFA Organization while in high school. You learn how weather, fertilizers, seed, and feeding affect crops and animals.

On-the-job training

Some farmers learn their skills on the job. This is especially true on family farms.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link).

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many farmers and farm managers are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers prefer to hire farm managers who have experience managing farms. Employers look for a basic knowledge of accounting and bookkeeping, or someone who has experience in keeping financial records.

Employers also prefer to hire farm managers who have computer skills. Many managers use computers to keep records and analyze how the farm is producing. Some farmers use the Internet to get the latest information on prices of farm products and other agricultural news. Farm managers must also know good credit sources to keep a farm running. In addition, they must know how to operate and repair farm equipment.

Successful farmers must be good business people, with knowledge of economics, chemistry, and machinery repair. They also must be self-directed and willing to work long hours when necessary. Beginning farmers must be prepared to make a large initial capital investment. Previous farm or ranch experience is valuable.


Vocational training in welding, mechanics, and other areas is helpful. Knowledge of precision agriculture, which combines Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS), is becoming increasingly important for farmers who grow crops.

#Information on precision farming added 3/31/14 cj http://www.gps.gov/applications/agriculture/ (external link)

Costs to workers

Farmers wishing to own and operate their own farm must make a substantial capital investment for land and equipment.


Farmers often obtain licenses for specific tasks such as pesticide application, pasteurizing operation, or cream grading. Licensing divisions within the Washington State Department of Agriculture (external link) at 360.902.1800 can provide specific information.

#Checked state web site updated url 2/27/19 lh

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers (SOC 11-9013)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $27.48 $32.91 $38.40 $50.23 $61.47
Monthly $4,762 $5,703 $6,655 $8,705 $10,653
Yearly $57,160 $68,460 $79,880 $104,490 $127,850
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $33.64 $35.71 $39.15 $48.26 $57.92
Monthly $5,830 $6,189 $6,785 $8,363 $10,038
Yearly $69,968 $74,271 $81,442 $100,372 $120,468
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $28.49 $33.87 $38.79 $44.87 $50.16
Monthly $4,937 $5,870 $6,722 $7,776 $8,693
Yearly $59,270 $70,461 $80,681 $93,337 $104,339
    Vancouver Hourly $17.58 $22.18 $33.98 $47.91 $58.77
Monthly $3,047 $3,844 $5,889 $8,303 $10,185
Yearly $36,566 $46,136 $70,668 $99,655 $122,240
    Wenatchee Hourly $27.84 $32.61 $40.66 $51.51 $59.55
Monthly $4,825 $5,651 $7,046 $8,927 $10,320
Yearly $57,910 $67,838 $84,586 $107,143 $123,867
    Yakima Hourly $30.87 $35.04 $41.32 $58.43 $72.12
Monthly $5,350 $6,072 $7,161 $10,126 $12,498
Yearly $64,200 $72,866 $85,944 $121,537 $150,012
United States Hourly $17.04 $24.10 $32.67 $48.11 $65.84
Monthly $2,953 $4,177 $5,662 $8,337 $11,410
Yearly $35,440 $50,130 $67,950 $100,070 $136,940

Farm income varies greatly depending upon the type and size of farm. For example, vegetable and cotton farms generally produce the highest income. Beef and hog farms generate some of the lowest income. Large farms generally produce more income than smaller farms. However, some small farms that produce specialty crops have high incomes.

Farmers' incomes vary greatly from year to year. The prices of farm products change depending upon weather and other factors. These factors influence the quantity of farm products produced and the demand for those products. Farms that show a large profit in one year may show a loss in the following year.

Many farmers receive payments from the government that supplement their incomes. Some of these price supports are being phased out and may result in lower incomes for these farmers. Thus, many farmers have business activities away from the farm to supplement their income.

Farmers and self-employed farm managers must supply their own benefits. As members of farm organizations, they may receive group discounts on health and life insurance. Farm managers who are not self-employed may receive housing as a benefit. They may also receive paid vacations and health insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

In Washington, the outlook depends on the amount of land available for cultivation, allocation of water resources for farm product irrigation and transportation, and the cost of labor, grains, seed, fertilizer, electricity, fuel, and other products needed for farm operations. A combination of low prices for farm products, drought, and rising fuel and fertilizer prices has made it difficult for many small, family-owned crop-growing farms to stay in business. Farmers are also affected by the funding levels for various federal farm services such as conservation programs and farm ownership loans, and the ability to secure crucial operating loans. Technological improvements in agriculture, environmental regulations, and the domestic and international markets for agricultural products also affect outlook.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers (SOC 11-9013)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 4,769 12.4% 16.1% 492
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 1,465 8.4% 13.4% 137
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 345 9.9% 8.6% 33
    Benton and Franklin Counties 507 14.4% 15.0% 55
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 39 7.7% 11.9% 3
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 71 8.5% 15.2% 6
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 267 13.1% 14.1% 28
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 386 11.4% 14.6% 38
    King County 88 18.2% 19.6% 10
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 1,424 15.2% 13.8% 157
    Pierce County 45 42.2% 15.2% 8
    Snohomish County 65 12.3% 12.4% 6
    Spokane County 59 18.6% 13.9% 6
United States 975,400 -0.9% 5.2% 95,600

National employment

About 68% of farmers and farm managers are self-employed.

Farm managers tend to work for large commercial farms. Others may work for companies that supply agricultural goods to farms. Some may work for agricultural worker supply services. These service companies contract with farms to help with the harvest or other services.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation expected to show little no change. Farms are consolidating and technology allows farmers to produce larger crops and land suitable for farming is expensive.

There are an increasing number of small-scale farmers who are finding success by meeting the demands of specific markets. For example, many small farmers grow foods without pesticides or chemicals because there is a demand for organic food. Other farmers are starting to raise trees or plants for nurseries. Some growth in farming has occurred as people want to purchase their food directly from farmers through community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs.

Other resources

AgCareers.com (external link)
Western USA Office
AgForLife (external link)
Agriculture Council of America (external link)
11020 King Street, Suite 205
Overland Park, KS 66210
American Farm Bureau Federation (external link)
600 Maryland Avenue SW, Suite 1000W
Washington, DC 20024
American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture (external link)
600 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20024
American Poultry Association (external link)
PO Box 9
Lucasville, OH 45648
American Society of Agronomy (external link)
5585 Guilford Road
Madison, WI 53711
American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (external link)
720 South Colorado Boulevard, Suite 360-S
Glendale, CO 80246
AmericanHort (external link)
Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (external link)
4420 West Lincoln Way
Ames, IA 50014
Irrigation Association (external link)
8280 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive, Suite 400
Fairfax, VA 22031
National Farmers Organization (external link)
528 Billy Sunday Road, Suite 100
PO Box 2508
Ames, IA 50010
National Future Farmers of America Organization (external link)
PO Box 68960
6060 FFA Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46268-0960
National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (external link)
P.O. Box 3838
Butte, MT 59702
Society for Range Management (external link)
6901 South Pierce Street, Suite 230
Littleton, CO 80128
Soil and Water Conservation Society (external link)
945 SW Ankeny Road
Ankeny, IA 50023
Turfgrass Producers International (external link)
444 E. Roosevelt Road #346
Lombard IL, 60148
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services (external link)
Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance (Vesta) (external link)
Washington Business Week (external link)
PO Box 1170
Renton, WA 98057
Washington Farm Bureau (external link)
975 Carpenter Road NE, Suite 301
Lacey, WA 98516
Washington State Conservation Commission (external link)
PO Box 47721
Olympia, WA 98504-7721
Washington State Dairy Federation (external link)
PO Box 1768
Elma, WA 98541-1768
Washington State Tree Fruit Association (external link)
2900 Euclid Avenue
Wenatchee, WA 98801


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