Ag careers grow beyond the farm

By Garland West December 7, 2023 | 6 MIN READ

The dirt

The food and agricultural sector is often overlooked as a fertile source of rewarding jobs and careers. Whatever the personality type, whatever the ambition… our agricultural system has something for virtually everyone.

Global Food


Sustainable Agriculture

Ag careers grow beyond the farm

Agricultural Labor

By Garland West December 7, 2023 | 6 MIN READ

The dirt

The food and agricultural sector is often overlooked as a fertile source of rewarding jobs and careers. Whatever the personality type, whatever the ambition… our agricultural system has something for virtually everyone.

Do what you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

So what is it you love to do?

  • Being in the great outdoors, enjoying all Mother Nature has to offer.
  • Peering into a test tube, unlocking the secrets science has to offer.
  • Interacting with other people, to accomplish important things.
  • Building and producing things with your own hands and imagination.
  • Helping people learn valuable lessons that make life better and more fulfilling.
  • Nurturing and caring for others.
  • Providing a safe, secure and healthy home for those you love.
    …Or something completely different?

In today’s world, it can be almost anything. We all want to do what we love. We want to do something not just enjoyable, but meaningful, too – something that matters not just to us individually, but to the world around us as well.

That drive to combine self-fulfillment with the betterment of the world around us defines a characteristic of the emerging generation of the American workforce.

ag career, Ag careers grow beyond the farmFor the young people seeking not just a job but also a lasting, rewarding career, the task of finding a way of making a living doing what you love may seem daunting.

Just finding any job can be tough. Finding the job may seem like a real challenge.

Where are those opportunities to be found? At Dirt to Dinner, we are perhaps a bit biased. But in our efforts to tell stories from all along the chain from dirt to dinner, we’ve been amazed at the world of opportunities within our food and agriculture system.

Our amazing food system has something to offer for virtually every type of persona and personality – not just jobs, but lasting opportunities for personal and professional satisfaction and reward.

Anyone who believes the food sector can’t compete with the glamor and prestige of other sectors of our economy in offering rewarding careers is simply and sadly mistaken.

Want to do something you love in the work you do. Think long and hard about what the food and agriculture sector has to offer.

You don’t have to run with the herd

Jobs in food and agriculture have real appeal for lots of younger people today, especially those with solid roots in the middle America and Middle American values.

Part of the interest seems linked to a recognition among those with rural roots of the importance of maintaining a vibrant, productive food sector. They see every day just how critical our food system is to feed a hungry world, and provide the economic vitality that keeps rural America alive and well. Food and agriculture are part of their DNA already.

But the appeal doesn’t end there. It’s not just young people from rural areas who see a future in the sector.

The interest extends to people defined less by geographic origins than personality type. That’s where the food and agriculture sector has its real strength. There’s a rewarding career opportunity for virtually every personality type – multiple avenues to finding exactly the thing you love to do.

What is your personality?

The textbook definition of personality is deceptively simple. It’s the characteristic way a person thinks, feels and behaves.

ag career, Ag careers grow beyond the farm

Each of us is an individual – a unique person, with our own likes, dislikes, sources of joy and fulfillment, and aspirations. But we nonetheless fall into types of personalities. Most of us have seen the concept up close and personal at some point in our lives.

It might have been high school, or a job application, or any of dozens of pathways to something like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. Tests like this help identify personality types and organize them into logical groupings.

Whatever labels we choose to apply to our diversity of personality types, the ability of the food and agriculture sector to accommodate them becomes very apparent very quickly.

Consider just a few of the possibilities…

The Scientist And Discoverer

So you really like science. You love the challenge of figuring things out, and using your skills to create new things. The world needs what you have to offer – and no one more so than people who eat.

Scientists play an essential role in finding new and better ways to produce not just more food but also healthier and more nutritious food. They hold the key to finding new and better plant varieties, more resistant to pests and helping renew the soil, or animals that grow faster, with less need for feed and water.

They formulate better food and feed ingredients, and more diverse sources of the proteins, oils, sweeteners and other essential components of a heathy diet. The list of potential areas of discovery and development is virtually endless, but here are just a few to get you started:

ag career, Ag careers grow beyond the farm

The Innovator and Inventor

This personality type sees things that others don’t see, and brings new ideas to life. They look for ways to do things better, and they see the potential within new technologies and modern science.

Creating new tools for an evolving global food system demands exactly this mindset and the skills that come with it. Different ways of making the same food. New farm equipment offering greater control in applying fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Remote control equipment. New food processing tools and systems. Better integration of computer controls and automation. The potential for rewarding careers – and an improved food system – are practically limitless. Consider this just a couple of options:

ag career, Ag careers grow beyond the farm

The Teacher and Educator

All the knowledge in the world may be useless unless it is shared. Making smart decisions about our food demands the right information, delivered effectively. It may be in educating people about healthy diets and nutrition, or food storage and preparation. It may focus on helping people understand where their food comes from, and how it is produced.

This important career helps build the consumer understanding and support for producers and others across the food chain from dirt to dinner.

ag career, Ag careers grow beyond the farm

The Marketer and Communicator

Today’s food system offers the widest variety of food choices in history. So how do consumers make smart decisions about what to buy and consume? Marketers and communicators fill this need – not just by hawking a particular brand or product but just as important by providing a steady stream of valuable information about the food products on our shelves.

What are the product’s nutritional content? How do they promote health and well-being? Do they meet our expectations for fair treatment of suppliers, sustainable environmental practices and other socially responsible considerations? They use the latest communication tools and technologies – such as social media – to create new channels for reaching larger, more diverse audiences. These marketing roles you commonly see across all industries, including:

ag career, Ag careers grow beyond the farm

The Business Manager

Guiding the activities of a successful enterprise can be a satisfying and rewarding career path. Few if any enterprises can match the challenges and satisfactions that come from managing a modern farm. Agronomy, logistics, supply chain management, finance, labor – all demand skill and attention.

Others in the food chain also must have the same business acumen. Transportation, storage and warehousing, basic ingredient processing, food manufacturing and delivery, retailing – all demand superior management skills. All the way from corporate headquarters, to processing, to the farm itself. Here are a few to think about:

ag career, Ag careers grow beyond the farm

The Naturalist

Admit it. Some of us simply want to avoid being cooped up in a small cubicle, cramped office – or even indoors, if we can avoid. Being out and in touch with the natural world is what we love. It’s a defining characteristic of most farmers and ranchers. But it’s not limited to them.

Consider the role of an agronomist in dealing with producers regularly. Or as an environmental technician or expert. Or a naturalist who cares deeply about sustainability. The list of potential jobs and careers grows even longer when you consider your other interests, such as gardening, animals and photography.

ag career, Ag careers grow beyond the farm

The Mechanic and Operator

Many of us prefer the real and immediate to the theoretical and abstract. We love the satisfaction that comes from using our heads and our hands to make things work the way they should. We thrive on the results our efforts help produce.

Our food system desperately needs that mindset and skill set. Labor remains one of our food system’s greatest challenges – simply having enough people to do the daily chores demanded of farming or ranching, of maintaining valuable equipment and systems, and being on hand to solve problems and deal with potential emergencies. Or equipment supplier, or any of the dozens of suppliers who interact daily with producers.

The need for reliable, competent mechanics and operators is real – and so are the job and career openings in this critical area.

ag career, Ag careers grow beyond the farm

The Numbers Person

Some people see the magic of numbers all around them. Whether used in as an analytical tool, or in an essential accounting and bookkeeping system, or in scientific research, mathematical and related skills are essential to every segment of the food chain.

A fascination with numbers doesn’t have to be channeled solely into rocket science, or any other single discipline. Our food and agriculture system needs that passion, too, across all sectors and in all business lines., including:

ag career, Ag careers grow beyond the farm

The Cyber Star

Ask anyone across the food chain what their most important tools are, and you may be surprised to find “good data and solid analysis” near the top of the list. We live in an age that demands smart decisions in every aspect of our lives. The food and agriculture sector is no different.

Collecting and organizing data is the first challenge. Turning data into knowledge and insight is just as important. Every segment of the food chain must do both, and people with the computer and cyber skills to put the two halves together have enormous career opportunities in agriculture.

Careers in this space offer more than some of the highest salaries available in the marketplace. Many of those working in this area also point to something beyond compensation. They point to the personal satisfaction that comes from knowing they are doing something important to the world around them. They aren’t helping sell more eye make-up or the latest equivalent of the old hula hoop. They are helping to feed a hungry world.

ag career, Ag careers grow beyond the farm

At the Front Lines

These are only a few examples of the exceptional range of job and career opportunities in our modern food system. To see an even more robust survey of food-related jobs and careers, start with a look at just one source of detailed career help for anyone interested in making our food system their preferred career track, like LoveToKnow’s ag careers page and the USDA’s presentation, too.

In recognition of the job and career opportunities available across agriculture, the Future Farmers of America have created AgExplorer – a career resource dedicated to helping young people identify the employment possibilities and prepare for careers not just in farming and but across the entire food and agriculture sector.

AgExplorer details more than 200 career focus areas, with careful attention to the marriage of computer science and technology to the world of food and agriculture. AgExploer helps students learn about the career opportunities as provides practical, real-world assistance in planning and preparing to find and secure the job and career they will love. That job and career may be in production agriculture, computer systems, environmental science, food manufacturing and sales, biotechnology services – the list goes on and on and on.

Show Me the Money

The range of salaries paid across the food and agricultural sector is predictably broad.

But specific jobs can come with much more attractive compensation levels.

Job sites like and report on some of the highest paying jobs in agriculture in 2023 – including estimates of salaries for farm managers and food scientists in the $61,000-72,000 range, and veterinarians and ag economists making well into six figures annually.

The bottom line

Career opportunities in the modern food system may not always attract the glamour and attention of some other segments of our economy. But few if any sectors can match the range of opportunities for almost every type of person. There is lots of work to be done in food and agriculture – work that is rewarding in many, many ways.