Agriculture is a fundamental element of any society. As motivational speaker Brenda Schoepp quips, “Once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher, but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.”
That said, agribusiness—that is, businesses related to agriculture, such as those that provide supplies and equipment to farms—plays a key role in growing and sustaining the agricultural and farming sectors.
The field of agribusiness offers some of the most fulfilling career options, some of which include farm and livestock management, commodity marketing, agricultural and rural policy, foreign trade, and economic development. Below is a rundown of careers that might be of interest to those who want to make a living doing farming and farming-related commercial activities.
1. Agronomy Salesperson
This is a position that relies on having thorough business knowledge and a know-how of and agricultural processes. In particular, agronomy salespersons are employed as crop specialists (e.g., potato or corn) in a certain region or area. They then help farmers by providing specialized services to improve their crop production outcomes. One example of this is providing soil quality analysis. They may also help grain and livestock buyers and commodity purchasing agents make informed decisions on farm supplies, such as seeds, grains, fertilizer, and large equipment.
As with most sales and marketing positions, this job requires strong interpersonal skills, as well as the ability to relate with all kinds of people.
2. Renewable Energy Analyst
The agriculture industry used to be largely reliant on fossil fuel, a nonrenewable resource and a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. While this may still be true at present, there is now a growing recognition of the benefits of and drive towards making the agriculture sector more sustainable.
One way the agricultural sector, in particular farmers, is learning to adapt is through using renewable energy (such as solar energy) to power their operations. In this regard, a renewable energy analyst is a valuable ally in helping farmers make the switch to more sustainable farming practices and alternatives.
On any given day, energy analysts may be engaged in calculating the energy efficiency of systems, machineries, and equipment and analyzing how farms are utilizing energy. Based on information they gather, they can then help clients create more sustainable operations by developing energy models for structures, suggesting system or process improvements, as well as providing technical assistance (such as installations).
3. Agricultural Manager
Whether they are self-employed or working within a larger industrial setup, Agricultural Managers bear the crucial responsibility of ensuring the world’s food supply by making sure agricultural and food production sites are running smoothly.
Armed with the knowledge to make day-to-day operational decisions, agricultural managers are usually tasked with overseeing animal and crop production, while at the same time leading a team of employees.
While an agricultural manager’s work may often see them working in the field, they also do plenty of indoor office work, such as planning next season’s crop cycle, sending farm equipment for repair and maintenance, or marketing their produce.
4. Dairy Economist
Mark Stephenson is the director of Dairy Policy Analysis with the University of Wisconsin–Madison, located in one of America’s largest dairy-producing states. As a dairy economist, his main concern is monitoring and forecasting milk and dairy prices, suggesting and developing policies that will benefit the dairy industry, and monitoring dairy trade on the local, national, and global scale.
Dairy farmers rely tremendously on dairy economists, especially on their analysis of milk production outlook, their projection of dairy sales, and forecasting of dairy prices over the next few years.
Dairy economists usually have a bachelor’s degree in economics, and may then move on to pursuing graduate and postgraduate degrees in economics or agribusiness, with others benefiting greatly from having experience working on a dairy farm or sales.
5. Agricultural Operations Specialist
Often providing general assistance to agriculture managers, agricultural operations specialists play a key role in a farm’s day-to-day operations.
Whether they are assigned to work in farms, laboratories, or ranches, agricultural operations specialists are generally expected to provide hands-on support in managing individual tasks, crop analysis, and staff supervision.
Below are just some of the tasks an agricultural operations specialist may perform on a regular basis:
- Coordinate the application of treatments on agricultural lands, forests, or greenhouses
- Oversee and supervise during planting, feeding, watering or general animal care
- Plan and manage crop schedules
- Coordinate for the repair, maintenance, and improvement of facilities and equipment
- Take accurate inventory of animals, facilities, labor, and supplies
- Prepare yearly budgets and monitor operations expenses
- Supervise and train staff and employees
6. Agricultural Policy Specialist
Agricultural policy specialists and analysts are responsible for developing and analyzing government policies that have a direct or indirect effect on the agricultural sector.
As the job title suggests, agricultural policy specialists are well-versed and up-to-date on agricultural policy making and have excellent understanding of local as well as international agricultural trade.
Agricultural policy specialists may find work in federal agencies such as the USDA, or may be employed in the public and nonprofit sectors, providing assistance to small-scale farms.
7. College Agricultural Sciences Teachers
Indeed, there is no career more noble than teaching. There are those who have spent considerable time in the agriculture sector and use their practical and technical knowledge and expertise in training and mentoring future movers and leaders in the field of agribusiness.
As with most academic programs, having a master’s degree or a PhD in agribusiness or a related field is the minimum requirement for teaching at the college level. Additionally, most academic institutions preferring those who have substantial experience in the agricultural—specifically agribusiness—sector.
8. Agricultural Accountant
Agricultural accountants are experts at analysis, record-keeping, and budgeting. Aside from finding usual employment with agricultural lending banks and insurance companies, their services are also considered invaluable to maintaining the fiscal health of any farm operation or agricultural business.
With their strong background and knowledge in mathematics, accounting, economics, and agricultural operation, agricultural accountants help farms in areas such as minimizing their tax liability, providing recommendations for improving and updating systems, as well as bookkeeping. Agricultural accountants are also much-needed help to farms and businesses when it comes to tax compliance, VAT administration, and funding documentation.
A bachelor’s degree in accounting, business administration, or agricultural business is usually the first step on the path to becoming an agricultural accountant. Having experience working (especially keeping records and balancing books) on a farm is an advantage as well.
9. Agribusiness Manager
America is home to 2 million farms and ranches, ranging from small family-owned types to multinational corporations. That said, agribusiness managers play a vital role in keeping daily farm operations running smoothly.
Agribusiness managers, depending on whether they work in small farms or in multinational settings, take on varied roles and responsibilities. Their work can often take them outdoors, where they do hands-on tasks such as starting seeds for planting, feeding animals, and putting up fences, among others. In larger farm operations, agribusiness managers are in charge of providing logistical support, overseeing the work of laborers, and even sales.
10. Market Analyst
In general, a market analyst’s role is to analyze the financial condition of the agribusiness economic market. In general, market analysts collect relevant information and create sound marketing strategies and policies for agricultural producers (such as in the cattle sector).
Market analysts are expected to have an excellent grasp of how the agricultural market functions. One of the primary duties of an agricultural market analyst is predicting market trends. To do this, they need to keep tabs on historical market data.
Farmers and agricultural businesses benefit greatly from the in-depth market information, analysis, and commentaries that market analysts provide in areas such as supply, demand, and local and world trading.
Most market analysts have master’s degrees in fields such as agricultural economics, agricultural business, or applied economics. Additionally, experience working in the agricultural industry is also a key advantage.
Despite the widespread perception of agriculture in general as a sleepy, low-tech industry, agribusiness is in actuality a thriving industry filled with diverse and exciting career opportunities. Whatever your area of interest or expertise, there is sure to be a specific agribusiness career waiting to be explored by you.