Find out about agriculture jobs and different careers in farming and food production
Agriculture jobs include all kinds of farm work. Farm workers grow crops, raise animals, and turn farm produce into food. American agriculture depends on immigrants. Refugees, immigrants, and migrants all help to produce the nation’s food.
Maybe you have a farming background and want to work on a farm. Perhaps you would like to train in an agriculture career. Read about different kinds of agriculture jobs and how to get started.
- Small farmer – many small farms produce organic or specialist foods. Starting your own farm in the United States requires a lot of work and investment.
- Farm worker – farm workers on large farms work either with animals or with crops.
- Meat packer – work slaughtering animals and packing meat in a factory-like environment. More likely to offer health insurance than other agricultural jobs. Many meat-packing plants employ refugees.
- Seasonal worker – seasonal workers are often migrants who travel around the United following the crop harvests and planting seasons. They harvest, plant, weed, water, pack and load these crops. Most seasonal workers are undocumented and working conditions are poor.
- Inner-city projects – there are many volunteer opportunities and some paid positions on city farms and community gardens.
- Farm machinery operator – operators of large equipment on farms need more training and certification, but they are in demand and often better paid than other farm workers.
- Government inspector – agricultural inspectors make sure food crops and animals are raised properly and follow health, safety and environmental regulations.
- Farm manager or agricultural supervisor – managers supervise farm laborers, especially migrant workers who travel from farm to farm.
- Agribusiness – careers in the business side of agriculture, including sales and other support industries, are growing. These jobs offer more management positions.
- Scientists – agricultural science includes soil science and plant genetics.
Are agriculture jobs right for me?
Agriculture is hard physical work. Farm workers and people working with animals need to be strong. Many agricultural jobs also use machinery, so it is a good job for someone who works well with machines. If you want to work outside, agriculture jobs will suit you. But farm work is dangerous, and you need to be alert around machines, chemicals and animals. If you are able to take on responsibilities, then being a farm manager or supervisor may be a good fit for you. Speaking two languages is a great asset for a manager of farm workers.
Where do I start?
Agriculture jobs are a big part of the economy in California, Texas, and some mid-western and southern states. The dairy, fruit, vegetable and meat industries always need farm workers. They do not usually ask for experience or a high school education. The farmer or farm manager will train you. But these jobs are not well paid. According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than half of all farm workers are undocumented.
Other agriculture careers may require education and some training. Government jobs, such as agricultural inspector, require citizenship.
Find agricultural classes near you
Community colleges in areas with lots of farms offer classes in agriculture. They offer two-year associate’s degrees. You can get an associate’s degree in animal science, agricultural science or biology. To work in agribusiness, or if you want to start a farm enterprise, you may also need business skills. There are many business courses at community colleges.
- Online courses from the Cornell University Small Farms Program
- Watch safety videos from U.S. Agricultural Safety and Health Centers
Farming programs for New Americans
Many refugees and immigrants come to America with knowledge of farming. Across the United States, you can find programs that support, train or employ refugee farmers. Here are some of them:
- California: New Roots
- Georgia: Global Growers
- Hawaii: Kunia Agricultural Incubator
- Idaho: Global Gardens
- Illinois: Global Garden Refugee Training Program
- Maine: The New American Sustainable Agriculture Project (NASAP)
- New York: Syracuse Refugee Agricultural Partnership
- Massachusetts: New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
- Missouri: International Institute Global Farms
- Tennessee: Growing Together
- Texas: Plant it Forward
- Vermont: New Farms for New Americans
- Virginia: New Roots
Watch a video about a refugee farming program in Vermont
What else do I need?
Start your job search
Government employment centers are free. They offer advice and keep a list of local jobs. They help with resumes and job applications. They can connect you to job training and education.
- Aghires is is a job website for agriculture jobs
More resources from the Refugee Center Online
Meet Morris Gbolo, owner of World Crops Farm in New Jersey
In 2002, Morris Gbolo moved to southern New Jersey as a refugee from Liberia. Today, he is back doing what he loves – farming his favorite vegetable crops from his native land.
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