Education and Training Requirements
Take classes in math, accounting, and business to prepare for the management responsibilities of running a farm. To further assist you in management and the use of farming-related technology, take computer classes. Chemistry, biology, and earth science classes can help you understand the various processes of crop production. Since many farmworkers speak Spanish as their primary language, it is a good idea to take Spanish to improve your ability to communicate with these workers. Technical and shop courses will help you to better understand agricultural machinery. With county extension courses, you can keep abreast of developments in farm technology.
Although there are no specific educational requirements for this field, every successful farmer, whether working with crops or animals, must know the principles of soil preparation and cultivation, disease control, and machinery maintenance, as well as have a mastery of business practices and bookkeeping. Farmers must know their crops well enough to be able to choose the proper seeds for their particular soil and climate. They also need experience in evaluating crop growth and weather cycles. Livestock and dairy farmers should enjoy working with animals and have some background in animal science, breeding, and care.
The state land-grant universities across the country (with at least one in every state) were established to encourage agricultural research and to educate young people in the latest advancements in farming. They offer agricultural programs that award bachelor's degrees as well as shorter programs in specific areas. Many students earn a degree in business with a concentration in agriculture, agricultural economics and business, animal science, agronomy, crop and fruit science, dairy science, farm management, or horticulture. Some universities offer advanced studies in horticulture, animal science, agronomy, and agricultural economics. Most students in agricultural colleges are also required to take courses in farm management, business, finance, and economics. Two-year colleges often have programs leading to associate's degrees in agriculture. It is highly recommended that farm managers and farmers earn at least an associate's degree in agriculture or a related subject (or business with a concentration in agriculture) in order to stay up to date with technological advancements and changes in farming practices.
A small number of farms provide formal apprenticeships or internships to help people learn how to become farmers. Additionally, federal and state governments are taking steps to help young farmers and ranchers prepare for the field. One federal program of this nature is the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (https://nifa.usda.gov/program/beginning-farmer-and-rancher-development-program-bfrdp).
A bachelor's degree in aquaculture or fish and wildlife biology is the primary path into the field of aquaculture. A minor in business or accounting may also be valuable to a prospective aquaculturist. Course work focuses on hydrology, fisheries biology, fish culture, and hatchery management and maintenance.
Many people become beekeepers by receiving informal on-the-job training working with an experienced beekeeper. Community or junior colleges that offer agriculture classes may also provide another avenue for learning about honey production and bee care. Finally, some states may offer apprenticeship programs in beekeeping.
Other Education or Training
The American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers provides courses and seminars on farm management topics such as conservation practices and crop insurance. Continuing education opportunities are also provided by the American Beekeeping Federation and the World Aquaculture Society. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
The American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers offers the accredited farm manager credential. Certification requires four years' experience working on a farm, an academic background—a bachelor's or preferably a master's degree in a branch of agricultural science—and completion of courses covering the business, financial, and legal aspects of farm management.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Prospective farmers obtain experience by working on farms of established farmers. Contact farmers in your area to see if farm laborer positions or volunteer opportunities are available.
You'll need to keep up to date on new farming methods throughout the world. You must be flexible and innovative enough to adapt to new technologies that will produce crops or raise livestock more efficiently. You should also have good mechanical aptitude and be able to work with a wide variety of tools and machinery. Other important traits include a good work ethic, determination, good health, organizational skills, and business acumen.