What is an Agricultural Worker?

Agricultural workers maintain the quality of farms, crops, and livestock by operating machinery and doing physical labor under the supervision of agricultural managers. They typically work outdoors. Some work primarily with crops and vegetables. Others handle livestock. They generally receive on-the-job training.

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What does an Agricultural Worker do?

Agricultural workers typically do the following:

  • Harvest and inspect crops by hand
  • Irrigate farm soil and maintain ditches or pipes and pumps
  • Direct and monitor the activities of work crews as they plant, weed, or harvest
  • Operate and service farm machinery
  • Spray fertilizer or pesticide solutions to control insects, fungi, and weeds
  • Move shrubs, plants, and trees with wheelbarrows or tractors
  • Feed livestock and clean and disinfect their pens, cages, yards, and hutches
  • Examine animals to detect symptoms of illness or injury
  • Use brands, tags, or tattoos to mark livestock to identify ownership and grade
  • Herd livestock to pastures for grazing or to scales, trucks, or other enclosures
  • Administer vaccines to protect animals from diseases.

What does it take to be an Agricultural Worker?

Agricultural workers typically receive on-the-job training, which usually lasts up to a year, depending on their responsibilities.. Many do not need a high school diploma before they begin working, but employers generally require animal breeders to have either more work experience and training or a bachelor’s degree in animal science and genetics.

What is the workplace of an Agricultural Worker like?

Agricultural workers usually work outdoors in all kinds of weather. Those who work as animal breeders may travel from farm to farm to consult with farmers, ranchers, and managers about their livestock.

Agricultural workers’ work can be difficult. To harvest fruits and vegetables by hand, workers frequently bend and crouch. They also lift and carry crops and tools. Workers may have limited access to drinking water and bathrooms while working in fields.

Agricultural workers risk exposure to pesticides sprayed on crops or plants. However, exposure can be minimal if safety procedures are followed. Tractors and other farm machinery can cause serious injury, so workers must be constantly alert.

Agricultural workers who work directly with animals risk being bitten or kicked.

Some agricultural workers, also called migrant farmworkers, move from location to location as crops ripen. Their unsettled lifestyles and periods of unemployment between jobs can cause stress.

Many agricultural workers have seasonal work schedules. Seasonal workers are typically expected to work longer hours during planting or harvesting times or when animals must be sheltered and fed.

How much does an Agricultural Worker earn?

The median annual wage of agricultural workers was $18,970 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10% earned less than $16,810, and the top 10% earned more than $29,740.

Learn more about being an Agricultural Worker