Getting a Job in Farming or Food Production
Working in agriculture is challenging. Even so, most farm workers enjoy being outside in the fresh air for most of the day.
Moreover, having a career in farming or the food industry is one that makes a real difference to people’s lives on a daily basis.
Simply put, making a move into being a farmer presents you with an opportunity to learn new skills and develop a meaningful trade.
Worldwide events highlight how the demand for skilled farm workers has increased in the United Kingdom. Thus, growing and distributing food products has become more critical to society.
If You Start a Career in Agriculture
- Fact: Agricultural careers do not only present opportunities for jobs in farming. There are openings for the workforce in other areas, such as:
- Fruit and vegetable harvesting
- Food production
- Managerial roles
- Nowadays, most of the modern farming methods use cutting-edge innovation and technology to match the growing demand. Hence, securing a role in agriculture could be one that tests new ways of finding solutions for common problems.
- As the global population expands, the demand for agriculture rises. So, working in the agricultural industry is one way to secure a job with long term prospects.
- Even though some jobs require you to have some formal qualifications, training is often provided on the job in farming – albeit the roles are likely to be physically demanding.
- For some, having the great outdoors as an ‘office’ is the main reason for getting into agriculture. As a result, being ‘at one’ with nature has a range of potential benefits for good health and well-being.
Note: The main section explains how to start looking for a new career, including information about the Kickstart Scheme in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Qualifications and Experience
In most cases, managerial staff at the farms will organise some level of training for people who are starting out in the business of farming.
Even though recruitment agencies might require you to have some experience for certain roles, many others do not (e.g. fruit picking).
Being fit and healthy is a major advantage for anyone starting a career in agriculture. Despite needing to have a valid driver’s licence for the majority of outdoor roles, you may also get free training in driving specialist vehicles (e.g. forklifts, tractors, or using agricultural equipment).
But wait – there’s more:
Having a related qualification (e.g. a Diploma in Agriculture or Level 3 Apprenticeship) is going to give you more choices and expanded opportunities.
Following that, the Foundation Degree in Science (FdSc in Agriculture and Technology) is another way to further solidify your grounding for future jobs in farming.
Important: Many of the workplace health and safety laws apply to jobs that involve operating chainsaws, being around farm animals, and using pesticides. In this case, you would need to hold ‘certificates of competence’ to avoid breaking the law.
What Skills Do You Need for Agriculture?
As a rule of thumb, having a range of transferable skills will set you up nicely for most roles in agriculture, such as having:
- An attention to detail and an ability to work by yourself – or as part of a team.
- Basic computer skills as well as a range of physical skills (e.g. coordination, dexterity, and movement with your hands).
- Patience – and being able to remain calm in challenging and stressful situations.
- Strong communication skills (including reasoning and the ability to think).
Your employer will expect you to be flexible with working hours and be able to handle physical, outdoor work. It may not be a surprise to learn that working on farms in the United Kingdom during the harsh winter months will expose you to the roughest of weather conditions.
Understanding how to calculate weights and measures, with a high degree of accuracy, is part and parcel of jobs in farming and food production.
Your Role as a Farm Worker
You should expect to work long days and some weekends – especially during the busy months for harvesting. As a rule, you will earn overtime for working extra hours.
Hence, living at the farm (or close to it) will be an advantage. The rules for pay and overtime changed in October 2013. So, the National Minimum Wage rates apply to all agricultural workers who are employed in England.
If you are thinking about starting a new career in agriculture, it will not be the ‘cleanest’ job you can find. In fact, most of it is ‘dirty work’. As a rule, your employer will supply suitable protective clothing for you to wear.
What Do Agricultural Workers Earn?
If you’re wondering whether a career in farming or food production is going to pay you well, it generally depends on three factors, being:
- Which part of the country you decide to work in.
- How much experience you have when you first start working there.
- What kind of farm you are working on (e.g. arable, pastoral).
Besides, working on a farm part time usually means you get paid according to the hours worked per week. So, it could be a set hourly rate or a piece rate (e.g. varying by how much produce you pick).
In essence, most farm workers earn around £12k to £18k per year. The pay rises to above £23k for workers with enhanced experience and skills. Pay increases usually mean you would have more responsibilities as well.
Prospects for Careers in Agriculture
After gaining extra qualifications and increased experience you might choose to look for a promotion (e.g. into a farm management role). If so, you may need to travel to secure a job that suits your ambition.
Opportunities to specialise into different sectors usually present themselves for workers on large farms. So, you might consider becoming an expert in a particular area of agriculture as a meaningful career move.
Note: The National Careers Service website provides further advice and guidance about training and work (for people living in England).
Agricultural Help Guides
- Agricultural workers’ rights on farms.
- Get help looking for work if you are disabled.
- Tractor licence rules in the United Kingdom.
Note: This short video presented by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may be helpful if you are thinking about looking for work and trying something new.