To Feed Mankind!

To Feed Mankind!

Big city life not for you? Does concrete and steel box you in? Do you crave the space and light of open fields, and a day’s work that is set by the circadian rhythms of Nature herself? Does the idea of working dawn to dark in growing seasons, then off for all the free months of winter, appeal to you?

Only he can understand what a farm is, what a country is, who shall have sacrificed part of himself to his farm or country, fought to save it, struggled to make it beautiful. Only then will the love of farm or country fill his heart.--- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When you wake in the predawn dark, do you want to walk among growing fertile fields, and see the sun rise, throwing it’s colors across the budding land, warming your face? Will today bring too much rain, too much sun? Or will it be a perfect day for growing the green things that feed our world?

Whether you know it or not, if you recognize all yearnings, these feelings… you are a farmer.

The love of the land has shaped the lives of many families, from time immemorial. If you have inherited land, or will inherit land, or if you plan to lease land someday to farm, you must learn everything you can.

Or maybe you have a head start— you grew up on the land and learned farming from your dad, your mother, your grandparents. But you realize that you just learn more, to compete with the big corporations, and survive.

Green farming. Organic farming. Competitive farm management. So much to learn. So much to know.

You may find excellent employment with a giant agricultural corporation as a manager. If you want to be the farmer of your own land, small-scale farming is a major growth area and offers the best opportunity for entering the occupation. Horticulture and organic farming will provide better employment opportunities. Today, the small farmer, after years of suffering from giant corporation competition, are getting much-needed comradeship from the Obama Administration.

Since the 1980s, American agriculture has become increasingly concentrated. Today, less than 2 percent of farms account for half of all agricultural sales. The new antitrust division of President Obama’s Justice Department has said that scrutinizing monopolies in agriculture is a top priority. That shift is giving hope to independent farmers, who have complained for years that agriculture giants are shrinking the marketplace and paying farmers less for their products. Starting next year, the Justice and Agriculture departments will hold public workshops in farm towns throughout the United States to learn about anti-competitive conduct in agricultural markets.

Happy Farmer

This is your chance to become farmer, if the soil is in your blood, and if you are willing to earn the knowledge needed to compete.

American farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers produce enough food and fiber to meet the needs of the United States and for export. Agricultural managers manage the day-to-day activities of one or more farms, ranches, nurseries, timber tracts, greenhouses, or other agricultural establishments for farmers, absentee landowners, or corporations. Their duties and responsibilities vary widely but focus on the business aspects of running a farm. On small farms, they may oversee the entire operation; on larger farms, they may oversee a single activity, such as marketing.

While most farm output is sold directly to food-processing companies, some farmers—particularly operators of smaller farms—may choose to sell their goods directly to consumers through farmers’ markets. Some use cooperatives to reduce their financial risk and to gain a larger share of the prices consumers pay. For example, in community-supported agriculture, cooperatives sell shares of a harvest to consumers prior to the planting season, thus freeing the farmer from having to bear all the financial risks and ensuring the farmer a market for the produce of the coming season. Farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers also negotiate with banks and other credit lenders to get the best financing deals for their equipment, livestock, and seed.

Like other businesses, farming operations have become more complex in recent years, so many farmers use computers to keep financial and inventory records. They also use computer databases and spreadsheets to manage breeding, dairy, and other farm operations. A good agriculture degree will include these key business issues.

On crop farms—farms growing grain, cotton, other fibers, fruit, and vegetables—farmers are responsible for preparing, tilling, planting, fertilizing, cultivating, spraying, and harvesting. After the harvest, they make sure that the crops are properly packaged, stored, and marketed. Livestock, dairy, and poultry farmers and ranchers feed and care for animals and keep barns, pens, coops, and other farm buildings clean and in good condition. They also plan and oversee breeding and marketing activities. Both farmers and ranchers operate machinery and maintain equipment and facilities, and both track technological improvements in animal breeding and seeds, and choose new or existing products. Every speciality requires specific knowledge and training, for the farmer to have a good chance to succeed.

Operators of small farms usually perform all tasks, physical and administrative. They keep records for management and tax purposes, service machinery, maintain buildings, and grow vegetables and raise animals. Operators of large farms, by contrast, have employees who help with the physical work that small-farm operators do themselves. Although employment on most farms is limited to the farmer and 1 or 2 family workers or hired employees, some large farms have 100 or more full-time and seasonal workers. Some of these employees are in nonfarm occupations, working as truck drivers, sales representatives, bookkeepers, and computer specialists.

Agricultural managers usually do not plant, harvest, or perform other production activities; instead, they hire and supervise farm and livestock workers, who perform most daily production tasks. Managers may establish output goals; determine financial constraints; monitor production and marketing; hire, assign, and supervise workers; determine crop transportation and storage requirements; and oversee maintenance of the property and equipment. Agriculture and business degrees are essential.

Two types of farmers that are growing in importance are horticultural specialty farmers and aquaculture farmers.

Horticultural specialty farmers oversee the production of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants used in landscaping, including turf. They also grow nuts, berries, and grapes for wine. Aquaculture farmers raise fish and shellfish in marine, brackish, or fresh water, usually in ponds, floating net pens, raceways, or recirculating systems. They stock, feed, protect, and otherwise manage aquatic life sold for consumption or used for recreational fishing.

On livestock-producing farms and ranches, work goes on throughout the year. Animals, unless they are grazing, must be fed and watered every day, and dairy cows must be milked two or three times a day. Many livestock and dairy farmers monitor and attend to the health of their herds, which may include assisting in the birthing of animals.

Farming tractor

Farm work can be back-breaking during the work months, and hazardous. Tractors and other farm machinery can cause serious injury, and workers must be constantly alert on the job. Education and training in the proper operation of equipment and handling of chemicals are necessary to avoid accidents, safeguard health, and protect the environment.

Experience gained from growing up on or working on a family farm is the most common way farmers learn their trade. However, modern farming requires increasingly complex scientific, business, and financial decisions, so postsecondary education in agriculture is important even for people who were raised on farms.

A 2-year associate degree or a 4-year bachelor’s degree at a college of agriculture is becoming increasingly important for farm managers and for farmers and ranchers who expect to make a living at farming. A degree in farm management or in business with a concentration in agriculture is important.

All State university systems have at least one land-grant college or university with a school of agriculture. Common programs of study include agronomy, dairy science, agricultural economics and business, horticulture, crop and fruit science, and animal science. For students interested in aquaculture, formal programs are available and include coursework in fisheries biology, fish culture, hatchery management and maintenance, and hydrology.

Agricultural colleges teach technical knowledge of crops, growing conditions, and plant diseases. They also teach prospective ranchers and dairy farmers the basics of veterinary science and animal husbandry. Students also study how the environment is affected by farm operations, for example, how the various pesticides affect local animals.

Farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers need managerial skills to organize and operate a business. A basic knowledge of accounting and bookkeeping is essential in keeping financial records, and knowledge of credit sources is vital for buying seed, fertilizer, and other needed inputs. Workers must also be familiar with complex safety regulations and requirements of governmental agricultural support programs.

Computer skills are becoming increasingly important, especially on large farms, where computers are widely used for record-keeping and business analysis. In addition, skills in personnel management, communication, and conflict resolution are important in the operation of a farm or ranch business.

Agricultural managers can enhance their professional status through voluntary certification as an Accredited Farm Manager (AFM) by the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. Accreditation requires several years of farm management experience, the appropriate academic background—a bachelor’s degree or, preferably, a master’s degree in a field of agricultural science—and the passing of courses and examinations related to the business, financial, and legal aspects of farm and ranch management.

An increasing number of enterprising small-scale farmers have developed successful market niches that involve personalized, direct contact with their customers. Many are finding opportunities in organic food production, which is the fastest growing segment in agriculture. Others use farmers’ markets that cater directly to urban and suburban consumers, allowing the farmers to capture a greater share of consumers’ food dollars.

Some small-scale farmers organize collectively owned marketing cooperatives that process and sell their product. Other farmers participate in community-supported agriculture cooperatives that allow consumers to directly buy a share of the farmer’s harvest.

Aquaculture may continue to provide some new employment opportunities over the 2006–16 decade. Concerns about overfishing and the depletion of the stock of some wild fish species will likely lead to more restrictions on deep-sea fishing, even as public demand for the consumption of seafood continues to grow. This has spurred the growth of aquaculture farms that raise selected aquatic species—such as shrimp, salmon, trout, and catfish—in pens or ponds. Aquaculture has increased even in landlocked States, as farmers attempt to diversify.

USGOV Projections data

USGOV Projections Data

Job prospects are encouraging, for farm management positions, and for the individual. With a large number of farmers expected to retire or give up their farms in the next decade, there should be many opportunities to own or lease a farm.

The market for agricultural products is projected to be good for most products over the next decade, and thus many farmers who retire will need to be replaced. Farmers who produce corn used to produce ethanol will be in particular demand as ethanol plays a greater role in energy production as fuel for automobiles. Farmers who grow crops used in landscaping, such as trees, shrubs, turf, and other ornamentals, also will have better job prospects, as people put more money into landscaping their homes and businesses.

So. You are drawn to the land, to be the keeper of the land, to bring forth the life force that creates the food that sustains Mankind. What will you do?

Feed the world, with your education and your energy. People must eat. The world must have food.

Go and get the knowledge you need, get the degree, the depth, to be what you know, what you are. If you feel the pull of the earth, in your heart and soul, you are born to be a farmer.

For general information about farming and agricultural occupations, contact either of the following organizations:

  • Center for Rural Affairs, P.O. Box 406, Walthill, NE 68067.
  • National FFA Organization, The National FFA Center, Attention Career Information Requests, P.O. Box 68690, Indianapolis, IN 46268.

For information about certification as an accredited farm manager, contact:

  • American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, 950 Cherry St., Suite 508, Denver, CO 80222.

For information on the USDA’s program to help small farmers get started, contact:

For information about organic farming, horticulture, and internships, contact:

  • Alternative Farming System Information Center, NAL, 10301 Baltimore Ave., Room 132, Beltsville, MD 20705.
  • ATTRA, National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, P.O. Box 3657, Fayetteville, AR 72702.
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