Farm and Ranch Manager

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Related roles: Aquaculture Director, Farm Manager, Farm Operations Technical Director, Fish Hatchery Manager, Greenhouse Manager, Harvesting Manager, Hatchery Manager, Hatchery Supervisor, Nursery Manager, Ranch Manager, Farm Production Manager


Similar Titles

Aquaculture Director, Farm Manager, Farm Operations Technical Director, Fish Hatchery Manager, Greenhouse Manager, Harvesting Manager, Hatchery Manager, Hatchery Supervisor, Nursery Manager, Ranch Manager, Farm Production Manager

Job Description

It’s impossible for anyone who has never worked on a farm or ranch to imagine all the work that goes on! There almost aren’t enough hours in the day to manage the daily operations. 

Farm and Ranch Managers work tirelessly to plan and coordinate dozens of often complex activities. These can range from planting, watering, and harvesting crops to feeding livestock, helping with the labor and delivery of newborn calves and foals, tending to greenhouses or timber tracks, hiring workers, and meeting with customers or banks. The list of tasks is virtually endless, and the pace never slows down. But without their diligent efforts, our communities wouldn’t have enough groceries to buy and eat! 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Working in a business that’s feeding society and driving the economy
  • Helping find ways to boost food and livestock production
  • Learning the “behind-the-scenes” processes of one of the largest, most important industries on Earth
2021 Employment
2031 Projected Employment
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Farm and Ranch Managers work full-time, with overtime common. They may get up before dawn and work well past dusk. Weekend and holiday hours may be expected. 
  • They may work in offices at times, but spend ample time outdoors in all types of weather. Their roles require close proximity to animals, and exposure to insects, chemicals, vehicle noise and exhaust, manure, pathogens, dirt, dust, and allergens. 

Typical Duties

  • Assess market, climate, and soil conditions 
  • Continually monitor prices and try to maintain a variety of crops or livestock, in case prices go down for some
  • Determine crops to grow or livestock to maintain
  1. Common crops in the US include corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, fruit and tree nuts, rice, soybeans, sugar beets, sugarcane, etc.
  • Inspect crops, soil, animals, animal feed, and living conditions on a regular basis
  • Keep an eye on disease trends; take steps to mitigate exposure 
  • Maintain a schedule for feeding and caring for animals 
  • Supervise crop production (i.e., planting, fertilizing, harvesting, pest control, etc.)
  • Purchase seeds, fertilizers, and equipment 
  • Operate and maintain equipment (or hire workers for these jobs)
  • Build and maintain facilities, including animal shelters
  • Install fencing and irrigation systems
  • Market crops, livestock, and associated products (such as milk) to corporations or direct to consumers/co-ops
  • Ensure animal breeding is controlled and pregnant animals receive support and assistance, when necessary 
  • In some cases, Farm and Ranch Managers may manage operations of more than one farm or ranches. They may also manage nurseries, greenhouses, or timber tracts
  • They may hire others to perform duties such as:
  1. Aquaculture management 
  2. Crop management
  3. Livestock, dairy, and poultry management
  4. Nursery and greenhouse management
  • Collaborate with specialists such as feed nutritionists, entomologists, veterinarians, water quality experts, agricultural engineers, inspectors, etc., as needed
  • Review eligibility for federal programs that help farmers, such as:
  1. Crop and livestock insurance
  2. Farmers Market Promotion Program
  3. Farm Service Agency loans
  4. Federal State Marketing Improvement Program
  5. Housing assistance
  6. Organic Cost Share Program
  7. Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
  • Prepare budgets, estimate earnings, write profit and loss statements; manage financial records and submit taxes
  • Oversee human resources functions such as recruiting, hiring, training, payroll and benefits, etc. 

Additional Responsibilities

  • Review animal activities, living spaces, and eating habits
  • Stay current on state and federal laws related to crop production, water usage, soil management, pesticides, animal feeding and care, hygiene and traceability, handling and transporting raw materials, product labeling, safety, and other procedures
  • Work with agribusiness banks to secure funding for machinery purchases, renovations, system upgrades, or to cover temporary losses
  • Manage incoming and outgoing deliveries; coordinate shipping with truck drivers; ensure proper storage environments and safeguards 
  • Meet with sales representatives and potential customers
  • Study industry trends; use new technologies and apply lessons learned
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Adaptable
  • Analytical 
  • Attention to detail
  • Commitment 
  • Communication skills
  • Coordination
  • Critical-thinking and decision-making
  • Independent
  • Integrity
  • Investigative
  • Loyalty
  • Monitoring
  • Objectivity 
  • Organized
  • Patience
  • Physical stamina
  • Problem-solving
  • Resourceful 
  • Sound judgment 
  • Stamina
  • Strong Initiative
  • Teamwork
  • Trustworthiness 

Technical Skills

  • Accounting and budget software
  • Animal husbandry 
  • Biotechnology, crop and soil science, crop physiology, and propagation
  • Business acumen
  • Calendar/scheduling software
  • Crop production, storage, farm equipment (plows, tractors, combines, balers, and mowers); and earthmoving heavy equipment (excavators, skid steers, backhoes, bulldozers, and graders)
  • Farm-related programs such as Ag Leader Technology, CattleMax, Trimble Farm Works
  • FDA and USDA guidelines
  • Fiduciary responsibility
  • First aid; job safety; personal protective equipment; and sanitation
  • General skills in biology, chemistry, geography, arithmetic, statistics, and meteorology
  • Geographic information systems
  • Map creation programs; process mapping; project management
  • Time accounting/payroll software; human resources management
  • Tools and equipment for testing agricultural products
  • Understanding of food-related disease control, antimicrobial resistance, and foodborne germs
Different Types of Organizations
  • Aquaculture sites
  • Crop producers
  • Livestock producers
  • Research and development facilities
  • Self-employed farmers and ranchers
Expectations and Sacrifices

Farm and Ranch Managers bear significant responsibilities to their operations, workers, stakeholders, end customers, communities, animals under their care, and the environment itself! And because of their huge commitments, they must stay constantly vigilant and involved with every aspect of the farm or ranch they manage. 

Their personal lives become tied to their jobs, which have demanding schedules that require getting up early and working late to tend to livestock and crops. They must be ready to adapt and respond to seasonal weather fluctuations, broader environmental challenges, pest and disease outbreaks, market uncertainties, and changing regulations—all while ensuring their daily tasks get done. 

The work of Farm and Ranch Managers is crucial for ultimately providing food for local, out-of-town—and even out-of-state—communities. Though often unrecognized for their invaluable contributions, they are the agricultural backbone of our entire society! 

Current Trends

Farms are still recovering from the effects of the pandemic, which negatively impacted the global food industry. Supply chain disruptions have caused shipping delays, with food items going bad en route. Meanwhile, the industry is facing unprecedented climate factors that continue to affect crops, animals, pest infestations, and water usage. 

Science-based solutions aim to “help [farmers] make their operations more resilient and sustainable for the long term.” This is part of a larger shift towards more sustainable, eco-friendly agricultural practices. At the same time, smaller farms that don’t realize sufficient profits may close or sell their land to larger organizations.

Overall, the career field is shrinking slightly due to improvements in production practices and technologies that increase efficiency. However, workers with knowledge of these practices and tech tools should fare better than those without.  

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Farm and Ranch Managers often grow up on farms or in rural areas with close ties to the local agricultural communities. They probably always loved being outdoors, working in gardens or fields, and just being around horses, livestock, and other animals! 

They’re practical, hard-working, and don’t mind getting their hands dirty. In school, they may have participated in 4-H, Future Farmers of America, National High School Rodeo Association, or related activities.

Education and Training Needed
  • Farm and Ranch Managers do not necessarily need a college degree. Many are self-employed, and a high school diploma plus plenty of practical work experience is often enough to get started
  • An associate’s or bachelor’s in agriculture may be desirable because a degree can help managers perform certain duties better or give them tools to effectively run operations
  • In addition, modern agribusinesses rely on high-tech programs, equipment, and advanced practices which may be best learned by taking classes
  • Common undergraduate courses include:
  1. Agricultural chemicals 
  2. Agribusiness, economics, and accounting
  3. Commodities
  4. Crop production and science
  5. Dairy business
  6. Farm tractors and power units
  7. Geographic Information Systems
  8. Livestock production
  9. Management of agricultural systems
  10. Plant and animal science
  11. Processing and storage of agricultural products
  12. Sanitation procedures 
  13. Statistics 
  14. Water and soil management
  • Practical experience is a major qualification to enter this field, so managers need to learn by doing (i.e., by taking jobs on farms or ranches and working their way up)
  • Optional certifications such as the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers’ Accredited Farm Manager can boost one’s credentials and help them qualify for advancement 
Things to look for in an University
  • Farm and Ranch Managers do not always need a college degree
  • Seek programs with internships or opportunities to get practical experience 
  • Compare tuition and fees costs, noting in-state vs. out-of-state costs
  • Review scholarship and financial aid options
  • Check out graduation and job placement statistics for alumni 
Things to do in High School and College
  1. Check out USDA’s For Students site for more opportunities!
  • If attending college, check out organizations such as Collegiate 4-H, Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences Club, Sigma Alpha, or other clubs
  • Apply for part-time jobs, internships, or apprenticeships where you can gain real-world experience on farms, ranches, or even greenhouses or vineyards
  • Try to get experience working with as many types of farm tools, equipment, and vehicles as possible 
  • Reach out to working Farm and Ranch Managers to request an informational interview. See if you can shadow them on the job for a day!
  • Decide if you want to get a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s before applying for jobs
  • Read articles and watch documentary videos related to farming, crops, animal science, and running an agribusiness. Also review online resources and ask questions in discussion forums
Typical Roadmap
Farm and Ranch Manager Roadmap
How to Land your 1st job
  • Scan job portals like, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and the career pages of the 
  • Also look at AgCareers, AgHires, Farm Job Search, EcoFarm, Farm and Ranch Jobs, USDA Jobs, AgriculturalCrossing, Good Food Jobs, Green Jobs, and Marbleseed    
  • Consider relocating to where there are more (or higher-paying) job opportunities! The states that employ the most Farm and Ranch Managers are California, Florida, Texas, Nebraska, and Michigan. States with the highest concentration of these jobs are Idaho, Nebraska, Hawaii, Iowa, and North Dakota
  • Scan job openings for keywords and phrases; work those into your application materials
  • Let your network know you’re looking for work. Most jobs are still found through personal connections—plus, many farms and ranches are family-owned or operated businesses, so you may need an inside connection to get noticed
  • Managers tend to start in entry-level roles and work their way up over the years. Many farms and ranches promote from within, so look for jobs where you can get your foot in the door 
  • Reach out to former coworkers, supervisors, and teachers to see if they’d be willing to serve as personal references. Don’t give out their contact information without permission
  • Review sample Farm and Ranch Manager resumes and research potential interview questions
  • Keep up-to-date on news and trends in the industry. Being well-prepared will help you feel more confident 
  • While business attire is usually suitable for office job interviews, it might seem out of place when applying to a farm or ranch job. As ZipRecruiter says, “the general rule is to dress similarly to the other people in the workplace but to wear your very best version of it.” If applying for farm managerial roles, business casual may be a good option.
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Keep organized and on schedule. Complete all of your daily tasks and ensure workers are getting theirs done, too
  • Take good care of the crops and animals under your protection
  • Strive to find ways to improve efficiency, boost productivity, and keep costs under control
  • Stay compliant with state and federal regulations
  • Stay ahead of the curve. Learn all you can about new technologies and best sustainable practices
  • Knock out extra education and training, via certifications or a college degree
  • Consistently deliver results, and tell your boss you’re interested in advancement and ready to tackle additional responsibilities
  • Build strong working relationships with workers, managers, customers, local agencies, and other farmers and community members
  • Participate in professional organizations (see our list of Recommended Resources)
  • ZipRecruiter notes that top-earning Farm and Ranch Managers can earn $120,000 a year. But if your current employer does not have room for you to grow, consider applying for a job at a larger organization
  1. If you decide you have to move on, talk to them well in advance. Loyalty goes a long way in this industry! 
Recommended Tools/Resources



Plan B

Farm and Ranch Managers are absolutely crucial to our national economy and food supplies. But the work requires long hours and carries a great deal of responsibility. In addition, it can take a long time to work your way up to a managerial position.  

If you’re interested in related occupations, check out the suggestions below! 

  • Agricultural and Food Scientist    
  • Agricultural Engineer
  • Agricultural Worker
  • Animal Care and Service Worker    
  • Biologist
  • Conservation Scientist    
  • Construction Equipment Operator
  • Environmental Scientist    
  • Grounds Maintenance Worker    
  • Industrial Ecologist
  • Microbiologist    
  • Precision Agriculture Technician
  • Purchasing Manager
  • Soil and Plant Scientist 
  • Veterinarian    
  • Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist


Online Courses and Tools