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How to get into agriculture and what to expect

Tractor on a field

Thinking of a new career in agriculture? Here’s what you need to know about skills, salary, what to expect on the job and more.

What skills will I need?

There are many transferrable skills for roles in agriculture, including:

•         The ability to work well with others

•         An attention to detail

•         Physical skills like movement, coordination and dexterity

•         Excellent verbal communication skills

•         Thinking and reasoning skills

•         The ability to work on your own

•         Patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations

•         The ability to work well with your hands

•         Basic computer skills

What qualifications and experience do I need?

For most roles, including picking, previous experience is not required, and training is given by the farms. For some roles, experience will be needed

You will need to be physically fit, and often you’ll need a driving licence. Full training will be given where it is required.

Qualifications will give you more choices, such as a Level 3 Apprenticeship or Diploma in Agriculture. This will provide you with a sound grounding in your job as well as a qualification. After these you could continue your studies with the FdSc in Agriculture and Technology.

You can also take short courses learning to operate agricultural equipment, drive a tractor or operate a fork lift. If your job involves operating chainsaws or using pesticides, you’ll need to get certificates of competence to operate these legally, but you’ll be able to do this training ‘on the job’.

There are a range of specialised courses available, which will help you do your job more effectively, often delivered by machine, other suppliers or your employing farm.

What will be expected of me?

Employers need people who aren’t afraid of physical, outdoor work, in all weather conditions, and are willing to work flexible hours.

You’ll be someone who has a genuine interest in farming and learning more about the business; and also able to take instruction from your supervisor or manager

You’ll be expected to calculate weights and measures accurately and also work safely at all times, particularly around farm equipment and animals.

What can I expect?

At certain times of the year you may be asked to work long days, but you can generally earn overtime for this. Your flexible hours may include weekends.

Because of these hours you’ll need to live close to, or in some cases live on the farm where you work, but this will vary between roles and you can discuss this with the farm you’re applying to.

A lot of the work is dirty so you will need to wear suitable protective clothing.

Despite being hard work, your time on a farm can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling, particular if you enjoy nature and the outdoors and, in the context of the Covid-19 emergency, because you will know you’re helping to do a vital role.

What about the pay?

This will depend on where you work, what type of farm you work on, and your level of experience when you commence your employment.

You might work on the farm on either a flexible or part time basis and be paid in accordance with how many hours you work per week.  You may be paid a set hourly rate or a piece rate which varies depending upon how much you pick.  However, you will always be paid the national minimum/living wage for the average of the hours that you work in a pay period.

You can expect to earn anywhere between £12k and £18k per annum rising to more than £23k as you increase your skills and experience, and take on more responsibilities.

You may also be provided with accommodation which could either be free or very cheap.

Anything else I might need to know?

As you gain qualifications and experience you could start looking for promotions into farm management – this will likely require you to travel to get a job that suits you.

If you work on a large farm you may get the opportunity to specialise and this could be another shrewd career move as you become an expert in one particular area of the job

Ready to apply?

Check out the latest opportunities here