California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

   Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery, and Greenhouse in San Diego County

May also be called: Farm Laborers; Field Hands; Field Irrigation Workers; Field Workers; Garden Center Employees; Greenhouse Workers; Growers; Harvesters; Hired Hands; Hoe Workers; Irrigators; Nursery Harvesters; Nursery Workers; Orchard Workers; Pickers; Plant Production Workers; Transplant Workers

Specialties within this occupation include: Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop; Nursery and Greenhouse Workers; Sustainable and Organic Farmworkers and Laborers

What Would I Do?

Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery, and Greenhouse* play a crucial role in supplying the nation and world’s food supply. The large agricultural industry in California requires large numbers of laborers to work on the farms, despite the increasing use of mechanized farm equipment. The exact duties performed by Farmworkers and Laborers vary depending on the crop and agricultural methods used to grow and harvest the plants. The diverse duties performed include planting, watering, pruning, and harvesting crops, and packaging fruits and vegetables. Farmworkers and Laborers need to be able to recognize diseased plants and markings left by pests or insects in order to remove damaged plants. Pesticides and herbicides may be used to eliminate pests, insects, and weeds. Farmworkers and Laborers may also be required to perform general upkeep duties, such as repairing fencing or maintaining irrigation systems.

Crop Farmworkers and Laborers perform their jobs in orchards or farms. Aside from traditional farm duties, such as irrigating and harvesting crops, Crop Farmworkers and Laborers may be required to drive large farm vehicles, such as tractor-trailers and combine harvesters in order to perform their job duties.

Nursery and Greenhouse Workers prepare land or greenhouse beds for growing horticultural products, such as trees, plants, flowers, and sod. Their duties include planting, watering, pruning, weeding, and spraying the plants. They may cut, roll, and stack sod; stake trees; tie, wrap, and pack plants to fill orders; and dig up or move field-grown and containerized shrubs and trees. Nursery and Greenhouse Workers may interact with members of the public in customer service roles, including cashier duties, when needed.

Sustainable and Organic Farmworkers and Laborers carry out many of the same tasks as their conventional counterparts, but with the added requirement of using methods that support the farms’ goals of conserving resources and preserving environmental integrity, such as cover cropping and composting. The use of natural fertilizers and pesticides in place of commercial ones is also commonplace. The additional requirements posed by sustainable and organic farms may make these operations more labor-intensive, placing greater physical demands on Farmworkers.

Tools and Technology

Some specialty tools and technology used in this occupation include bed formers and bed rollers; mulch spreaders and garden hand seeders; greenhouse ventilation equipment; hand held and hose-end sprayers; pesticide sprayers; saws; soil cultivators; cargo trucks; and water sprinklers.

Green Economy

Farmworkers and Laborers have the potential to be members of the green economy. As sustainable farming practices become more widespread and dependence on hazardous pesticides and herbicides becomes less common, Farmworkers will contribute to the reduced dependence on natural resources, such as fossil fuels and water use. By setting up and operating booths at local farmers' markets, Farmworkers will bring farm fresh goods directly to the consumer, eliminating the need for extra transportation and fuel costs and third-party distributors.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only.

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Plant, spray, weed, fertilize, and water plants, shrubs, and trees, using hand tools and gardening tools.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Harvest plants, and transplant or pot and label them.Operation and Control
Harvest fruits and vegetables by hand.Static Strength
Operate tractors and other machinery and equipment to fertilize, cultivate, harvest, and spray fields and plants.Equipment Selection
Set up and operate irrigation equipment.Equipment Maintenance
Dig, rake, and screen soil; and fill cold frames and hot beds in preparation for planting.Manual Dexterity
Apply pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers to crops.Quality Control Analysis
Identify plants, pests, and weeds to determine the selection and application of pesticides and fertilizers.Troubleshooting
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Working conditions for Farmworkers and Laborers may vary depending on the type of farm or nursery where they work. Crop Farmworkers and Laborers may spend most of their time outside in all kinds of weather. They may spend long periods of time bent over in order to harvest different kinds of fruit and vegetables and lift and carry heavy boxes. Nursery Farmworkers and Laborers may spend some of their time working indoors or in a greenhouse, growing plants and helping customers. Although California law requires employers to provide toilets, hand washing facilities, and drinking water whenever there are five or more workers, Farmworkers should carry a canteen or water bottle filled with water at all times, especially during very hot weather conditions, in order to reduce the risk of dehydration and other physical illnesses. Spending long periods of time working in direct sun can pose health risks. Farmworkers should wear light colored, long sleeve shirts and pants and apply sunscreen to exposed areas. Farmworkers and Laborers may be exposed to herbicides, pesticides, and other hazardous chemicals that are sprayed on crops or plants. Exposure can be reduced if proper safety procedures are followed.

Nursery Farmworkers and Laborers may be employed year-round. For Nursery workers, the spring and summer seasons are generally the busiest times of the year. As temperatures get colder, Nursery workers may need to move plants indoors to protect them from the cold weather. Greenhouse workers have steady work year-round because they are not dependent on weather conditions. Many Crop Farmworkers and Laborers are employed seasonally, requiring them to move to different farms or cities to find crops that are in season.

Working hours vary depending on the type of crop. Long hours and working on weekends is common. For example, Farmworkers and agricultural equipment operators may work six or seven days a week during planting and harvesting seasons.

Union membership is uncommon but some Farmworkers may belong to unions such as, the United Farm Workers of America.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop and Nursery may appeal to those who enjoy activities that include dealing with hands-on problems and solutions and working outside with plants. It is helpful for individuals considering this occupation to also like working in an environment that requires following set procedures and routines while performing clearly defined activities.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop and Nursery in California is $20,003 annually, or $9.62 hourly. The median wage for Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop and Nursery in San Diego County is $24,393 annually, or $11.73 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$19,515$20,003$22,838
San Diego County$20,287$24,393$31,478
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Although uncommon, some employers may offer sick leave, paid vacation, and health benefits.

What is the Job Outlook?

Overall employment is expected to show little or no change. Fewer agricultural workers will be needed overall because of continued consolidation of farms and technological advancements in farm equipment that is raising output per Farmworker. The agriculture industry also is expected to face increased competition from foreign countries and rising imports, particularly from Central America and China because of trade agreements with those regions. Nursery and Greenhouse Workers might experience some job growth in this period, if the demand for landscaping plants resumes its growth pattern.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop and Nursery is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop and Nursery are expected to increase by 12.4 percent, or 33,400 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

In San Diego County, the number of Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop and Nursery is expected to decline between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop and Nursery
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2014-2024)
269,200302,60033,40012.471,700
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
5,2204,980-240-4.61,580
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 3,350 new job openings per year is expected for Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop and Nursery, plus an additional 7,170 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 10,510 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 158 job openings due to net replacement needs is expected per year for Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop and Nursery.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop and Nursery
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2014-2024)
3,3507,17010,510
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
0158158
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Most Farmworkers learn their jobs quickly as they work; many do not have a high school diploma. People without a high school diploma are particularly common in the crop production sector. Depending on the job's responsibility level, some agricultural workers may need one month to one year of on-the-job training.

Early Career Planning

High school students planning to become organic or sustainable Farmworkers should take courses in biology, natural sciences, Spanish, and, if available, participate in their local 4-H Youth Development Organization.

Continuing Education

While continuing education is not required for most Farmworkers and Laborers, those who specialize in sustainable farming may need to stay up to date on current methods. This may require them to attend professional seminars, workshops, or classes.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop and Nursery are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting 96.1%
Beverage & Tobacco Product Manufacturing 1.1%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Jobs may also be found through registration with temporary employment agencies and through classified advertisements in newspapers, trade publications, and Internet job listings. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop and Nursery.

  • Farms
  • Farming Services

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

As Farmworkers and Laborers become experienced, they may take on more responsibility and carry out assignments with limited supervision and eventually supervise less experienced Farmworkers.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop and Nursery with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Agricultural Equipment OperatorsProfile
Farmworkers, Farm, Ranch, and Aquacultural AnimalsProfile
Landscaping and Groundskeeping WorkersGuide
Packers and Packagers, HandGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification45-2092
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Nursery Workers45-2092.01
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RCI
   Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop45-2092.02
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RCI
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Crop Production 010304
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Plant Science010300