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There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to your path in agriculture. Most commonly, folks engage in non-linear and non-traditional experience when it comes to exploring and directing your career. This is not a definitive guide, but instead an offering for the different ways we can show up in the fields. You can use this page as a tool to explore possible pathways for your farm journey.
In regards to farming, I am someone with….
Are you a seasoned farmer or looking for specific agricultural resources? Click below to review our collected guides and tools.
Starting out (<1 working years of experience)
Volunteering on farms is a great way for folks to set food in established operations and give them a sense of the type of work they’ll be engaged with. Most non-profits and donor-funded farms will have volunteer opportunities; it is unlikely that higher production growers will have space for new learners beyond hired staff.
Farmer Incubators and Farmer Starter Programs
These programs are for new learners who want to immerse themselves in a hands-on learning environment with a group of other classmates. These programs are often state-funded or run through non-profits and vary in curriculum, program length and expectations.
Starting a seasonal position may be ideal for someone who is experienced in gardening, horticulture, or landscaping, and who knows the demands of working in the elements with a product (livestock, produce, etc.) This could also be someone who has prior experience on a farm or someone who recently graduated from a farmer-started program.
Building Experience (1-3 years of experience)
Working on crews and farms ‘Not Your Own‘
Did some volunteering or just ready to take the plunge into your first farm job? Working for other farms is an option if you’re not ready to think about starting your own farm business or if you need to gain hands-on experience.
Your employment can be part or full time, temporary, or seasonal working for someone else’s operation. Working on ‘farms not your own’ may look like working for a family-operated business, a couple-operated farm, or seasonal work in group environments. If this is your first time looking into crew positions or working for an owner, we highly recommend you read resources provided by Not Our Farm to be aware of red flags and self-advocating your employment needs.
Non-profit and funded farms
There are a plethora of Non-profit organizations and board-directed farming operations. Roles in these types of farms tend to be higher paying for staff members, stable through unpredictable seasons, and may have more administrative duties outside of the field. These are more traditional Monday-Friday work environments, they may or may not offer benefits, PTO, or other employment perks. Each farm is different, so make sure you come with questions about role duties, expectations, and work environment.
Locally and nationally, there are annual meetings of farmers gathering to share new knowledge, swap stories, and network with others. For some, meeting at conferences each year is one of the few times farmers get to engage in deep thoughtful interaction with their neighbors and peers. If you have been in the agricultural and food community, you know the importance of exposing new folks to a network community and expansive topics. Here are a few local conference to the Central Texas area:
- Southern Family Farmers & Food Systems Conference (Annual, August)
- TOFGA Conference (Annual, January)
We recommend two comprehensive guides to farming on land that is not-your-own from Not Our Farm. They’ve created thoughtful, comprehensive and worker-centered resources to empower early-stage growers who are specifically working on small to medium sized diversified farming operations. If you are a farmworker actively laboring or looking for an operation to work for, we highly recommend these two resources to help guide you.
Fine-tuning (3+ years of experience)
Securing Jobs and Long-term employment
The path to a future in farming and agriculture often takes on a meandering shape: those who are in it for the long haul may have help different jobs on farms, agricultural organizations and non-profits, or kitchens and food-service. There is no clear trajectory for the long-game in farming when it comes to advancing or “making it”. Everyone has different work needs and comfort with levels of physical labor. If you need assistance with the next step in your career, we recommend finding mentorship in community meetings, farmer events, conferences, and other spaces where you can network and strengthen ideas with your fellow farmers.
Finding land is the number one barrier for farmers in the U.S.. Leasing a farm is a great opportunity to build your business without putting your life savings into a property or piece of land. But often times, leasing opportunities are not widely publicized and there is currently no land-linking infrastructure or program in Texas to help young farmers find or secure land.
Leasing opportunities get transitioned through to work-of-mouth, emails, hand-shake arrangements and back-door channels. Being plugged into an community grassroots organization/ farm organizers in your area may be the best way to find out opportunities if/or when they become available from landowners.