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If you plan to run a farm or ranch, you might be surprised to learn that you could need a college degree. In the past, a high school diploma was all the formal education you needed to manage a farm. Today, though, farming and land management has become increasingly complicated, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. The result is that agricultural managers need more knowledge to succeed in the role. They gain this knowledge through associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs in agriculture.
Agricultural managers do more than plant and harvest crops or feed and care for the farm animals. They supervise the entire business operations of one or more farms. An agricultural manager is responsible for making the big decisions about running the farm. These job duties can range from establishing and following budgets to deciding which crops to plant or animals to raise. Agricultural managers hire and train farm workers and handle the logistics of storing and transporting crops for sale. Today, many farms are going “green,” focusing on sustainable practices or growing organic produce. The agricultural managers need to understand environmentally responsible practices. To accomplish all of these responsibilities, an agricultural manager needs to know not only how to produce plant or animal goods on a farm, but how to manage this specific kind of business.
An Agriculture Degree Program
In an agriculture degree program at either the associate’s or bachelor’s level, you will study both the agriculture subjects you need to learn for successful farming practices and the business concepts and methods you need to successfully manage the daily operations of the farm. College degree programs in agriculture typically include courses such as farm management, agricultural economics and business. Most associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in agriculture will include coursework in subjects like dairy science, plant breeding and agronomy, the science of plant use.
Graduates of bachelor’s degree programs in agriculture can seek certification from professional organizations like the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. While not required, this accreditation can improve advancement opportunities and set candidates apart from the competition.
Despite the increased importance of earning a college degree, hands-on training is still an important part of successful farming and farm management. Some amount of farm work experience is beneficial, if not necessary, for attaining a management role. Many agricultural managers grew up living and working on a family farm. If you didn’t grow up on a farm, you can still learn the practical farming skills you will need to become an agricultural manager through apprenticeships and internships in ranching and farming. Agricultural managers need more experience to run a large farm or network of farms than they do to oversee a smaller operation.
Characteristics of Successful Agricultural Managers
Not every qualification you need to succeed at managing a farm is something you can learn in school or even through on-the-job training. There are natural skills that candidates should have, and developing these skills to your full potential is important.
Good agricultural managers are also good analytical and critical thinkers. They need to evaluate the quality of crops, livestock and farmland and reason their way through sometimes complicated problems. To succeed in supervising farm workers, it’s important that they have good interpersonal skills and are able to communicate effectively. Along with their practical farming skills, agricultural managers must have the physical stamina and mechanical skills to work farm equipment and do the physical labor required to produce crops and take care of farm animals.