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What Are the Duties of a Farmer?

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Farmers grow, raise and harvest animals and crops to sell at farmers' markets or to food-processing businesses. The job comes with a lot of multitasking and requires farmers to stay on their toes as they ensure animals are fed, seeds are sprouting and resources aren't dwindling. Farmers put on a variety of hats each day, whether they're installing sprinkler systems, raising honeybees or calculating budgets.

Determining Their Focus

Combine harvester working on the wheat field
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Large farms may have the resources to support crops, livestock, poultry and more, but they require farmers to manage all these tasks. Smaller farms may specialize in one type of product, such as only crops or poultry. For example, farmers in aquaculture breed, feed and raise shellfish or fish. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some farmers specialize in horticulture and grow either plants and flowers for landscaping purposes or berries and grapes for wine-making.

Planning the Season

Farmer Sitting on a Tractor in a Field
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Farmers are like managers, carefully deciding each plan for the entire season. They consider business contracts, weather forecasts, consumer demands, financial aspects and workloads to decide which crops to grow or cattle to breed. For example, if customers at farmers' markets want fruits or vegetables after their natural growing season ends, farmers may decide to grow them in greenhouses to meet the demands. Planning ahead and producing various products also create a security blanket if the market fluctuates, which can happen if the price of farmers' main crop suddenly plummets.

Maintaining the Land

Agriculture tractor sowing seeds and cultivating field
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Farmers churn and fertilize soil before planting and tending to crops. Based on the size of the farm, they may employ teams to assist with duties from watering fields to feeding livestock to bundling harvested crops for distribution. Of all maintenance activities, ensuring adequate pesticide and herbicide application may be the most crucial. Farmers regularly inspect their land for signs of trouble, including invasive weeds and insect pests. "The New York Times" noted the trouble many farmers face with Palmer amaranth -- a weed that can produce as many as 200,000 seeds from each plant. The article noted that one farmer's battle included several sprayings of herbicides that killed about four out of five plants, but the remaining weeds, apparently having evolved herbicide resistance, sprang back to life after a few weeks.

Selling the Products

Biological chicken
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Since farmers are self-employed, they must deal with buyers directly to discuss prices, negotiate deals and sell their products. Contract deals, which are usually used by food-processing companies, are established in advance. As soon as farmers begin harvesting activities, such as collecting eggs and milk or rounding up crops and picking fruits or vegetables, the rush to deliver is on. Products generally go through a quick rinse before they're inspected for quality, bundled or packaged and quickly sent to buyers.

References

About the Author

Based in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, Megan Torrance left her position as the general manager for five Subway restaurants to focus on her passion for writing. Torrance specializes in creating content for career-oriented, motivated individuals and small business owners. Her work has been published on such sites as Chron, GlobalPost and eHow.