California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

   Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers in California

May also be called: Beef Farmers; Cash Crop Farmers; Cattlemen; Croppers; Dairy Farmers; Farm Operators; Farm Ranchers; Grain Farmers; Livestock Farmers; Poultry Farmers

Specialties within this occupation include: Agricultural or Farm Managers; Aquaculture Farmers; Horticultural Specialty Farmers; Organic Farmers and Ranchers; Sustainable Farmers and Ranchers

What Would I Do?

Farmers, Ranchers, and other Agricultural Managers* oversee and direct the daily activities on farms throughout California. Under their supervision, the farms throughout the State are some of the most productive and profitable in the world. Farmers and Ranchers mainly operate family-owned farms or lease farmlands that are smaller in size and production output than corporate-owned farms. The job duties of Farmers and Ranchers can vary depending on the size of the farm. On larger farms, they may oversee specific business functions, such as marketing or billing. Smaller farms may require the Farmer to divide time between business operations and hands-on activities, such as harvesting, maintenance, and working alongside farmworkers and laborers. Regardless of the size of the farm, all Farmers and Ranchers are focused on the business aspect of running a farm.

Farmers’ and Ranchers' job duties also depend on the type of crop or animal that is raised on the farm. On farms where livestock is raised, Farmers may need to be knowledgeable of veterinary practices such as, vaccinations and assisting animals with giving birth. Knowledge of animal husbandry practices may also be necessary.

Farmers and Ranchers who work in crops and orchards make important decisions that could affect crop output, such as when to plant and harvest crops, when to apply pesticides and herbicides, and how to recognize and treat pests and crop disease infestations.

The amount of crop production and the income the farm generates is strongly influenced by weather conditions, disease, price fluctuations of domestic farm products, and federal farm programs. With careful planning, Farmers can protect themselves against economic losses by planting a variety of crops in order to protect against price drops. Some Farmers and Ranchers may participate in futures markets where they contract for future delivery of future goods. Futures contracts guarantee a purchase price for goods and minimize the Farmers’ risk of unforeseen price drops.

Most farm goods are sold directly to food processing companies that provide canning and packaging services, or distribution to grocery stores. The sale of farm goods directly to consumers through local farmers’ markets has allowed Farmers to reduce their dependence on third-party companies and increase profits.

Agricultural or Farm Managers supervise the day-to-day activities of one or more farms, ranches, nurseries, timber tracts, greenhouses, or other agricultural establishments for Farmers, absentee landowners, or corporations.

Aquaculture Farmers raise fish and shellfish in marine, brackish, or fresh water, usually in ponds, floating net pens, raceways, or recirculating systems. They stock, feed, protect, and otherwise manage aquatic life sold for consumption or used for recreational fishing.

Horticultural Specialty Farmers oversee the production of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants used in landscaping, including turf. They also grow nuts, berries, and grapes for wine.

Organic Farmers and Ranchers abide by many of the same practices as their sustainable counterparts, including conserving resources and following clean environmental practices. The difference is that in order to be labeled organic, they must meet strict certification guidelines set forth by such governing bodies as the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Most conventional pesticides cannot be used on organic farms, for example, and livestock cannot be given antibiotics or hormones.

Sustainable Farmers and Ranchers manage the day-to-day business operations of farms, ranches, and other agricultural establishments. The differences lie in standards of practice. While both conventional and Sustainable Farmers strive to be commercially competitive, Sustainable Farmers are additionally committed to practices that are resource-conserving, environmentally sound and socially conscious, with a goal of long-term sustenance. Soil and water conservation, the use of alternative energy sources (such as energy-saving light bulbs) and producing and using renewable fuels are fundamental to sustainable farming. Additional examples of sustainable farming methods include the use of mushroom composting systems. These systems can improve soil quality and plant growth. Sustainable Farmers may implement tailwater retention systems that collect water runoff in collection ponds for irrigation use later. Natural pest control methods like pheromone traps and interplanting crops with beneficial species, minimizes the negative impacts of pests without the use of toxic chemicals.

Tools and Technology

Some specialty tools and technology used in this occupation include light trucks or sports utility vehicles, power saws, tractors, animal blood collection or vaccination syringes, combine harvesters, and hay balers. Due to the increasing sophistication and complexity of farming, Farmers and Ranchers may need to be proficient with personal and tablet computers, e-mail, and spreadsheet software.

Green Economy

Specialized farming methods, such as sustainable farming and organic farming require Farmers to use little or no forms of pesticides or herbicides. Farms may also recycle animal and plant byproducts for other uses, such as composting or biogas generation. Farmers may specialize in growing energy specific crops, such as switch grass. Creating and using biogas from animal and plant waste, a renewable source of energy, reduces the use of fossil fuels and harnesses the potential energy of these products that would otherwise go unused.

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
Perform crop production duties such as planning, tilling, planting, fertilizing, cultivating, spraying, and harvesting.Food Production
Select and purchase supplies and equipment such as seed, fertilizers, and farm machinery.Management of Financial Resources
Plan crop activities based on factors such as crop maturity and weather conditions.Administration and Management
Monitor crops as they grow in order to ensure that they are growing properly and are free from diseases and contaminants.Problem Sensitivity
Lubricate, adjust, and make minor repairs to farm equipment, using oilcans, grease guns, and hand tools.Repairing
Maintain facilities such as fencing, water supplies, and outdoor housing and wind shelters.Management of Material Resources
Set up and operate farm machinery to cultivate, harvest, and haul crops.Mechanical
Determine types and quantities of crops or livestock to be raised, according to factors such as market conditions, federal program availability, and soil conditions.Judgment and Decision Making
Assemble, position, and secure structures such as trellises, beehives, or fences, using hand tools.Control Precision
Maintain financial, tax, production, and employee records.Economics and Accounting
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Working conditions for Farmers and Ranchers vary depending on the size of the farm and the type of crop or animal that is raised. Farmers and Ranchers who grow crops typically work from sunrise to sunset during the planting and harvesting seasons. During other times of the year they may spend their time planning for the next planting season, repairing farm machinery, and looking for new markets to sell their products. Typically on larger farms, Farmers and Ranchers will spend their time meeting with farm supervisors who are in charge of various farm-related activities. Agricultural Farm Managers may oversee multiple farms at once and need to divide their time between farms. On smaller farms, Farmers and Ranchers may spend most of their time outdoors, working alongside farmworkers and laborers regardless of the weather conditions. On larger farms, Farm Managers may spend a majority of their time working indoors on a computer, using e-mail, and spreadsheet software.

Farmers and Ranchers who work at nurseries, greenhouses, and farms with livestock generally have work year-round. These farms tend to allow employees to work eight-hour shifts. Farm work can be dangerous. Farm machinery such as, tractors can cause serious injury requiring workers to constantly be on alert. Pesticides and Herbicides must be used with caution in order to avoid harmful exposure to humans, animals, and the environment.

Union membership is not typical for Farmers and Ranchers.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Farmer and Rancher may appeal to those who enjoy working outdoors in activities that involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions. This occupation generally involves working with plants, animals, and large machinery. The job may also interest those who are attentive to detail and thorough in completing work tasks. Dependability and integrity are also important in successful farming.

Farmers and Ranchers must have managerial skills in order to operate a farm. Stress management skills are also beneficial as price fluctuations on farm output and income are common. Farmers and Ranchers should also be able to exercise patience, as disasters such as bad weather, crop failure, or crop damage due to insects may occur.

Sustainable and organic farming and ranching may appeal to those who are environmentally, ecologically, and socially conscious. Persistence and the ability to be resourceful are especially important since the work requires use of alternative resources and methods that are likely to be more labor-intensive than conventional farming.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The wages for Farmers and Ranchers generally vary from year to year. This is due to changing weather conditions and other factors that influence the price of farm products as well as the quantity and quality of farm output and the demand for those products. However, Farmers often receive government subsidies or other payments that supplement their incomes and reduce some of the risk of farming. Additionally, most Farmers (especially those who operate smaller farms) typically have income from non-farm business activities or careers.


The median wage in 2020 for Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers in California is $86,622 annually, or $41.65 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 2020Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2020 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Farmers and Ranchers who own or lease the land that they farm may need to purchase their own retirement and health benefits. Farm Managers who work for large corporate farms may be provided with sick leave, paid vacations, and health benefits.

What is the Job Outlook?

Overall employment of Farmers and Ranchers is expected to decline as small family farms disappear. Openings for Agricultural Managers are expected to slightly increase as larger, better financed farms increase their presence in the agricultural landscape and hire managers to oversee specific areas of the farming business. As land, machinery, seed, and chemicals become more expensive, only well-capitalized Farmers and corporations will be able to buy many of the farms that become available. These larger, more productive farms are better able to withstand the adverse effects of climate and price fluctuations on farm output and income. Larger farms also have advantages in obtaining government subsidies and payments because these payments are usually based on acreage owned and per-unit production. Owners of large tracts of land, who often do not live on the property they own, increasingly will seek the expertise of Agricultural Managers to run their farms and ranches in a business-like manner.

Although the small family owned farm may be disappearing, small-scale farming niches provide opportunities for individuals looking to own and operate their own farm. The popularity and presence of organic and sustainable farms has grown among consumers who are interested in reducing their exposure to pesticides and herbicides, as well as reducing their carbon footprint.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers is expected to decline between 2016 and 2026.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Most Farmers and Ranchers learn their jobs by growing up on a farm or through years of work experience. With the increasing sophistication of modern farming techniques, completion of a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree at a college of agriculture is becoming increasingly important for Farm Managers and for Farmers and Ranchers who expect to make a living at farming.

Early Career Planning

High School students planning to become Farmers and Ranchers should take courses in biology, natural science, Spanish, and participate in the 4-H Youth Development Organization if available in their area. Training programs in agriculture are available through Regional Occupational Programs (ROP). To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

While continuing education is not required for most Farmers and Ranchers, those who specialize in sustainable and organic farming methods may need to stay up-to-date on federal and State laws as well as current products and practices in their farming specialty. Attending seminars focusing on leadership training and modern farming methods will provide valuable insights into all aspects of agriculture.

Apprenticeship and Work-Study Programs

An organic farming apprenticeship is available at the College of Marin’s Indian Valley campus. Apprentices will earn college credits while completing paid hands-on training at a local organic farm. For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site at


Certification is available for both sustainable and organic farming. For sustainable farming, certification is open to those who fulfill the environmental and social best practices standards established by the Sustainable Agricultural Network (SAN). Certification decisions are made by Sustainable Farm Certification, Intl. Once certified, agricultural producers may apply to use the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal on their products.

Organic certification requires adhering to standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program. In California, the main governing body for organic certification is the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Those who qualify may use the CCOF Organic and USDA Organic seals on their products. In order to maintain certification farmers must renew their certification annually and receive a yearly site inspection. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

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?

About 80 percent are self-employed farmers and ranchers, and the remainder is agricultural managers. Most farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers oversee crop-production activities, while others manage livestock and dairy production. Most farmers and ranchers operate small farms on a part-time basis.

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 and CalJOBSSM at

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 Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers.

  • Agricultural Consultants
  • 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?

Farmers and Ranchers usually own and work their own farm leaving little possibility for promotions. Those working as Agricultural Managers may eventually go into business for themselves and purchase land to farm and manage.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers with links to more information.

Agricultural InspectorsProfile
Farm and Home Management AdvisorsProfile
Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery, and GreenhouseGuide
First-Line Supervisors of Farming, Fishing, and Forestry WorkersProfile
Fishers and Related Fishing WorkersProfile

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.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification11-9013
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Nursery and Greenhouse Managers11-9013.01
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)ERC
   Farm and Ranch Managers11-9013.02
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)ERC
   Aquacultural Managers11-9013.03
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)ERC
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Agribusiness/Agricultural Business Operations 010102
   Animal/Livestock Husbandry and Production 010302
   Crop Production 010304
   Dairy Husbandry and Production 010306
   Horse Husbandry/Equine Science and Management 010307
   Agricultural Production Operations, Other 010399
   Applied Horticulture/Horticultural Operations, General 010601
   Plant Nursery Operations and Management 010606
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Animal Science010200
   Artificial Inseminator (Licensed)010220
   Dairy Science010230
   Equine Science010240
   Plant Science010300
   Agricultural Pest Control Adviser and Operator (Licensed)010310
   Viticulture, Enology, and Wine Business010400
   Nursery Technology010930
   Agriculture Business, Sales and Service011200