What is an Agricultural Worker?

Also known as: Farm Hand, Farm Worker.

An agricultural worker is someone who works on a farm, maintaining crops such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. Some agricultural workers only tend to livestock. They typically work under the supervision of an agricultural manager where they receive on-the-job training. They may work on farms of all sizes, from small, family-run businesses to large industrial agriculture operations.

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What does an Agricultural Worker do?

An agricultural worker will typically do the following:

  • Harvest and inspect crops by hand
  • Irrigate farm soil and maintain ditches, 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 in order 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 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 the 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. 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.

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