Farmers and Farm Managers - What They Do

Managers in agriculture plan, organize, direct, control and evaluate the operations and functions of farms. They are responsible for growing crops, raising and breeding livestock, poultry and other animals and marketing farm products. They usually own and operate their own establishment.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Manage the overall operations of a farm, ranch or orchard
  • Determine the amount and kinds of crops to be grown and livestock to be raised
  • Organize and co-ordinate planting, cultivating and crop harvesting activities; raising and breeding of livestock and poultry
  • Hire and manage farm personnel
  • Establish a marketing program
  • Develop and keep financial and production records
  • Purchase farm machinery, livestock, seed, feed and other supplies
  • Maintain farm machinery, equipment and buildings
  • Perform farming duties.
  • Managers in agriculture manage farms of various sizes which may specialize in particular crops such as wheat, apples or potatoes or raise particular livestock such as beef cattle, swine or poultry.

Job titles

  • apiarist
  • apple grower
  • breeder, domestic animals
  • hog breeder
  • chicken farmer
  • fruit farmer
  • horse breeder
  • potato farmer
  • rancher
  • seed grower
  • sod farmer
  • vineyard manager
  • wheat farmer
  • market gardener
  • vegetable grower
  • dairy farmer
  • maple syrup producer
  • viticulturist
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Extensive farming experience, obtained as a farm supervisor or specialized crop or livestock worker or by working on a farm, is usually required.
  • A university degree or college diploma in agricultural management or other field related to crop or livestock production may be required.

Essential Skills


  • Read short text passages on equipment labels, e.g. farm managers read labels posted on equipment to learn about shock hazards. (1)
  • Read short logbook entries, e.g. farm managers read farm workers' and harvesting labourers' electronic logbook entries to learn about sick animals, equipment malfunctions and inventory levels. (1)
  • Read longer instructions on product labels, e.g. livestock farmers read administration instructions on medication labels and feed supplement labels. (2)
  • Read text on a variety of forms, e.g. farm owners read descriptions of services on invoices from veterinarians and crop specialists. (2)
  • Read memos and notices, e.g. livestock farmers read notices from Agriculture Canada to learn about new requirements to track the disposal of deceased livestock. (2)
  • Read emails, e.g. farm managers read emails from farm owners to learn about the condition of crops and fertilizer application schedules. (2)
  • Read product fact sheets, e.g. potato farmers read fact sheets to see if fungicides are suitable for late blight prevention. (2)
  • Read newspapers, magazines, e-magazines and newsletters to learn about commodity market trends and other developments in farming and agriculture, e.g. farm owners read magazine articles about new technologies and equipment to ensure they get the best possible crop and livestock results. (3)
  • Read procedure and equipment manuals, e.g. grain farmers read equipment manuals to understand how to assemble, safely operate, maintain, repair and store equipment, such as swathers and combined harvesters. (3)
  • Read agricultural journals and reports, e.g. dairy farmers read husbandry books and articles in agricultural journals to learn about current ideas on early weaning of calves and the effect on milk production of dairy cows. (4)
  • Read legislation, regulations and codes, e.g. livestock farmers read amendments to Canadian Food and Inspection Agency regulations for importing breeding cattle from the United States to learn about requirements for tattooing and documenting imported animals. (4)

Document use

  • View product and equipment labels, e.g. poultry farm managers view labels on nutritional supplements, antibiotics and pesticides for dosages, expiry dates, lists of ingredients and lot numbers. (1)
  • Identify symbols, icons and pictograms, e.g. farmers identify hazard symbols on packaging to learn about a product's toxic properties. (1)
  • Locate data in forms, e.g. farm managers locate quantities, product names and other data in purchase orders and packing slips. (2)
  • Enter data in lists and tables, e.g. farm managers enter production data, such as the date crops are sprayed, lot codes and quantities, into spreadsheets. (2)
  • Locate data in schedules and tables, e.g. crop farmers locate data, such as the previous season's crops, yields and fertilizer applications in field log books. (2)
  • Locate data in forms, e.g. field crop managers scan seed reference sheets to locate data on genetic modifications, requirements for spraying and special instructions for growing. (3)
  • Enter data into a variety of complex forms and applications, e.g. vineyard owners enter data, such as application dates, lot numbers, product codes, application rates, reasons for applications and observations, in fertilizer and pesticide application forms. (3)
  • Locate and interpret data in graphs, e.g. farm managers refer to commodity price charts published by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to locate the market price of grain, livestock and dairy products. (3)
  • Interpret assembly drawings, e.g. dairy farmers scan assembly drawings to find out how to assemble, operate and maintain milking machines. (3)
  • May locate data in schematics, e.g. farm managers locate water supply points and shut off valves in schematics of irrigation systems. (3)
  • Interpret and locate data in maps and scaled drawings, e.g. horse breeders locate dimensions and the locations of fixtures in construction drawings for new corrals. (3)


  • Write reminders, short notes and entries in log books, e.g. farm managers write notes to remind farm workers about outstanding tasks, such as checking fences, ordering supplies and making telephone calls. (1)
  • Write emails, e.g. farmers write email messages to suppliers and colleagues to request information about new products and upcoming events. (2)
  • Write descriptions and explanations on forms, e.g. farm managers write narrative accounts of incidents, such as the death of livestock, injuries to workers and safety procedure breaches. (3)
  • Write letters of discipline and performance evaluations detailing the actions and performance of workers under their supervision. (3)
  • Write comprehensive work procedures, e.g. farm managers write step-by-step procedures workers are to follow when setting up and operating equipment. (3)
  • May write contracts, e.g. write contracts to specify the terms and conditions of crop purchases. (4)
  • May write business, marketing and environmental farm plans, e.g. farm managers may write business plans to outline plans for expansion into other markets and how they want to stage the implementation. (4)


  • Count cash and make change for purchases, e.g. fruit farmers accept cash and make change for purchases made at farmers' markets and roadside stands. (1)
  • May buy parts, supplies, tools and equipment using money from petty cash. (1)
  • Take measurements using basic tools, e.g. use tape measures to measure the length of vegetables and thermometers to measure body temperature of livestock. (1)
  • Compare counts and readings to standards and specifications, e.g. dairy farm managers compare flow rates, temperatures and pressure readings to specifications in order to verify that milk cooling and storage systems are operating correctly. (1)
  • Compare operating and production statistics, such as crop yield per acre, to industry standards. (1)
  • Calculate expense claim amounts for travel and other expenses incurred. (2)
  • Calculate quantities of feed, seed, fertilizers and other materials, e.g. swine farmers prepare quantities of vaccines and feed supplements for livestock using mixture ratios. (2)
  • Calculate dimensions of buildings, enclosures and plots of land, e.g. ranchers calculate the area of pastures and crop lands to determine the amount of usable land for grazing. (2)
  • Manage inventories of seed, feed and other supplies, e.g. swine farmers manage inventories of feed using the average daily number of animals and feed consumption rates per animal as factors. (2)
  • May collect data and prepare statistics for a range of variables, such as production, breeding, quality control and performance, e.g. to select breeding stock, livestock farmers calculate statistics on the success of embryo implants, number of live births per pregnancy, incidence of post-birth complications and mothering qualities of breeder animals. (2)
  • Estimate times and time intervals, e.g. grain farmers estimate the time needed between spraying and rain to ensure that herbicides remain effective. (2)
  • Estimate costs, e.g. crop farmers estimate the cost of future farm equipment repairs. They consider the condition of the equipment and analyze data on maintenance expenditures in previous years to estimate costs. (2)
  • Calculate and verify invoice amounts, e.g. farm managers verify invoice amounts for services, such as harvesting crops, shearing sheep, shoeing horses and excavating and clearing land, at hourly, daily and piecework rates. They calculate prices of supplies and services, apply discounts and taxes and calculate subtotals and totals. (3)
  • May create schedules, timetables and timelines, e.g. dairy farmers develop daily milking and feeding schedules and weekly equipment and barn maintenance schedules. (3)
  • Prepare financial reports, such as net worth statements, cash flows, debt service statements, historical ratio analysis, cost of production statements and environment cost/benefit analysis. (3)
  • Create, monitor and adjust operational budgets, e.g. farmers plan annual operational budgets in which they specify expected revenues, expenses and retained earnings. They calculate expected revenues from the sale of farm products, and expenses for wages, supplies and seed. (3)
  • May use complex formulas to calculate the blend of fertilizers needed to meet specific nutrient targets. (3)
  • May analyze soil test results, e.g. grain famers analyze soil test results to establish the requirement for fertilizers and the required rate of application. (3)
  • May analyze production, performance and sales data to identify trends, e.g. farmers analyze health and operating data, such as static pressures and temperatures in barns, to decrease livestock losses. (3)

Oral communication

  • Discuss ongoing work with workers and suppliers, e.g. dairy farmers ask farmhands to connect milking machines. Sod farmers contact suppliers to ask about price and availability of tractors, seed and fertilizers. (2)
  • May exchange information with customers, e.g. vegetable farmers speak with customers to determine their need for produce. (2)
  • Give detailed instructions and constructive criticism to workers, e.g. farm managers provide detailed instructions to new employees during performance reviews about how to perform tasks and improve productivity. (3)
  • Discuss business matters with owners, consultants and other business professionals, e.g. farm managers discuss financial results, schedules and business plans with farm owners and boards of directors. (3)
  • Discuss complex animal husbandry and agriculture related topics with people, such as veterinarians and crop advisors, e.g. exchange information with a crop advisor to troubleshoot the cause of a crop failure and establish a course of action. (3)
  • May negotiate settlements and agreements, e.g. farmers negotiate settlement terms with vendors and the cost of construction projects with contractors. (4)


  • Encounter conflicts among workers. They minimize contact between the people involved and hold meetings to explore the reason for the conflict, discuss options and resolve differences. (2)
  • Discover that workers are not meeting standards for performance, quality control and safety. They review proper procedures with the worker and provide additional coaching and supervision as required. (2)
  • Experience delays due to poor weather conditions, equipment failures, lack of supplies and staff shortages, e.g. inclement weather prevents the planting and harvesting of crops. They review schedules and job lists to identify other sources of work to minimize lost time. They may work later than originally planned and reschedule remaining work. (2)
  • Decide which workers to hire and how much to pay them. They select workers based on their expertise and set rates of pay according to workers' job responsibilities, experience and productivity. (2)
  • Select job tasks and duty assignments for farm workers. They consider the complexities and physical demands of job tasks and the skill, training and supervision required by workers. (2)
  • Select general farm equipment, tools and supplies. They consider soil chemistries, crop yields from previous harvests, recommendations from crop specialists and their personal experience with suppliers and brands. (2)
  • Evaluate the work performance of workers. They consider factors, such as the quality and efficiency of work performed. (2)
  • Assess the safety and cleanliness of work sites. They check buildings for cleanliness, adequate ventilation, safety barriers, warning signage and availability of safety equipment and supplies. (2)
  • Find information about farming equipment and products. They review information from equipment suppliers' websites and seek opinions from other farmers and farm managers. (2)
  • Encounter distressed, injured and dying animals, e.g. poultry farmers find that chickens are distressed due to failure of the ventilation system. They complete a series of tests to isolate the cause and organize repairs as quickly as possible. They move poultry and use temporary forms of ventilation to minimize health risks. (3)
  • Encounter changing market conditions, e.g. cattle farmers find that prices are falling because of shifting consumer demand. They search for new markets and opportunities to rebuild their customer base. (3)
  • Choose methods to enhance the performance of workers they supervise. They decide which reward systems will best motivate workers and choose among supervisory measures, such as additional training, reprimands and demonstration of tasks. (3)
  • Choose crops to plant and locations to plant them, e.g. sod farmers choose which variety of grasses to grow and grain farmers choose the type of barley that suits their particular market. (3)
  • May select when and to whom their products are sold. They consider factors, such as regulations, shipping costs and the price customers are willing to pay. (3)
  • Assess the condition and health of livestock and crops, e.g. crop farmers visually inspect fields for weeds and insects and analyze data on foliage and growth. Cattle ranchers check the health of beef cattle by observing symptoms, such as wheezing, limping and loss of coordination. (3)
  • May assess the suitability of breeding animals, e.g. livestock farmers review data on breeding and birthing, post-birth complications, mothering skills and growth rates of offspring to assess the appropriateness of livestock for breeding programs. (3)
  • Find information about crop production and livestock husbandry, e.g. livestock managers find information about treatments for illnesses by reading trade publications, journals and suppliers' websites and by speaking with livestock specialists, veterinarians and other farm managers. (3)
  • Find information about farming best practices. They read newsletters, fact sheets, bulletins and reports and speak with suppliers and other farmers. (3)
  • Find information about changes to regulations on pest and disease management, animal husbandry and other agricultural activities. They consult officials from regulatory agencies and government websites, memoranda, notices and procedure manuals. (3)
  • Find information about commodity markets and trends. They read reports, research papers, newspapers articles and bulletin issued by associations, governments and mercantile exchanges. They speak with other farmers and consultants to seek their opinion and suggestions. (3)
  • Judge the advantages and disadvantages of planting other crops, introducing alternate farming methods and purchasing new equipment, e.g. potato farmers evaluate the suitability of new varieties for their farms. They visit potato breeding stock operations to assess the characteristics of the potatoes grown from the seed and run research trials to assess viability in local conditions, consider market acceptability and assess the new variety's visual appeal. (4)
  • Set their own work priorities and plan their daily activities to manage farm operations. Their work is often interrupted by unpredictable factors, such as inclement weather. They revise their priorities and adapt work schedules to maximize results. (4)

Digital technology

  • May operate hand-held devices, such as calculators to complete numerical tasks. (1)
  • May use electronic office equipment, such as printers, scanners, fax machines, copiers and postage meters. (1)
  • May operate digital equipment, such as scales and protein analyzers. (1)
  • Use word processing software to write letters, performance appraisals and reports. (2)
  • May use graphics software to create slide presentations used to promote products and train workers. (2)
  • May use databases to enter data and locate information, such as the dates and types of fertilizer applied to crops and breeding schedules for livestock. (2)
  • May use spreadsheets to record and track costs, inventories and sales. (2)
  • May use bookkeeping, billing and accounting software to process invoices and manage business expenditures, payroll and taxes. (2)
  • Use communication software to exchange emails and attachments with workers and suppliers. (2)
  • Use communication software calendar functions to record activities and appointments and maintain distribution lists. (2)
  • Use the Internet to access information on legislation, standards, livestock husbandry, cash crop management and agricultural news. (2)
  • Use the Internet to access local weather forecasts. (2)
  • Use the Internet to access commodity prices in real-time. (2)
  • May use the Internet to access blogs and web forums to seek and offer advice about farming and product trends. (2)
  • May use the Internet to access training courses and seminars offered by trainers, suppliers and associations. (2)
  • May input data, such as times, rates and flows, into program equipment, such as robotic cow and goat milking systems. (2)
  • May monitor and adjust equipment, such as electronic seeders and sprayers, to ensure their efficient operation. (2)
  • May input data into satellite guidance systems for the automated operation of self-propelled tractors and sprayers. (2)
  • May use data acquisition systems to monitor milking equipment and gather production data. (2)
  • May use spreadsheets to create operating budgets. (3)
  • May use specialized bookkeeping, billing and accounting software to input inventories, costs and receivables and to generate sales summaries and income and expenses statements. (3)
  • May use enterprise analysis software to monitor and forecast business activities. (3)
  • May use the Internet to auction and sell their crops and products. (3)
  • May use electronic navigation control systems on equipment to establish line and reference tracks for steering. (3)
  • May input data, such as rates and flows to program equipment, such as computerized sprayer systems. (3)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Managers in agriculture coordinate and integrate job tasks with vendors, supervisors and farm workers to ensure quality control standards and production targets are met. They supervise and provide guidance to farm workers and junior staff, such as assistant trainers. They work independently to create schedules, perform record-keeping tasks and inspect livestock and crops.

Continuous Learning

Managers in agriculture must learn continuously to stay up-to-date on new farming technologies, products and practices. They learn through on-the-job experience and discussions with other managers, farm owners and the workers they supervise. They also learn by reading trade publications and manuals. In addition, they may participate in seminars and courses offered by government departments and agencies, professional associations and local colleges and universities.