Crop Farmer/Crop Manager
Kaiahuwhenua Huangakai/Kaiwhakahaere Huangakai
Crop farmers/crop managers plan and manage food plant production on farms and in orchards, vineyards and hothouses.
Crop farmers/crop managers usually earn
$50K-$100K per year
Source: Horticulture New Zealand, 2016
Crop farmers/crop managers usually earn between $50,000 and $100,000 per year.
Pay rates for crop farmers/crop managers vary widely depending on:
- farm size
- crop type
- farm profitability, which may vary from season to season
- prices received for the crops.
Source: Horticulture New Zealand, 2016.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Crop farmers/crop managers may do some or all of the following:
- decide what crops will be grown, and develop a planting schedule
- prepare land for planting using tractors and cultivators
- plant seeds and crops, and monitor their growth
- ensure crops are well watered, fertilised and pruned, and are free of weeds, disease and contaminants
- manage irrigation and frost protection
- organise the harvesting, grading and packing of crops, and arrange for their sale and transport
- buy seed, fertiliser, machinery and other farm materials
- check, clean and maintain equipment
- train, organise and supervise workers and contractors
- ensure that food safety, health and safety, and other regulations are complied with
- keep production and financial records.
Skills and knowledge
Crop farmers/crop managers need to have:
- knowledge of how to grow and harvest various types of crops
- knowledge of crop diseases, weeds and pests, and how to control them
- understanding of climate and weather conditions, and how they affect crops
- knowledge of soil and crop rotation, and cultivation and harvesting methods
- understanding of food safety, market certification and quality requirements
- knowledge of health, safety and employment regulations
- the ability to recruit, train and manage staff.
Crop farmers/crop managers:
- usually work between eight and 10 hours a day. During peak seasonal harvest and planting times they work longer hours, including weekends, and may also be on call
- work outdoors, or in glasshouses, nurseries, packing sheds or offices
- work in all weather conditions, with machinery and chemicals that can be dangerous
- may have to travel between crop fields, to markets or suppliers. They may also travel locally or internationally to attend seminars or conferences.
What's the job really like?
Gareth Holder manages 1,600 hectares of squash, onions, grain, tomatoes and sweetcorn – grown for export on farmland all over Hawke's Bay.
Ensuring quality is high, from seeds to final crop
A big part of Gareth's job is making sure all the crops his farms produce are up to export quality.
"At the start of each season we plan what area we need and which crops and varieties we are going to grow. We do a lot of trials to decide which crops are worth continuing with.
"We only get paid on the quality of the produce that arrives at its final destination, so we place a lot of weight on it."
Keeping the customers satisfied and the money coming in
For Gareth, getting his produce out into the marketplace can be incredibly satisfying.
"Once the crop is being harvested, it is coming off well and you are able to tick it off the planting schedule – it is a really big buzz. Our buyers usually visit in April from Japan, Asia and Europe while we are harvesting.
"What I rely on a lot for encouragement is the feedback from the buyers. If they say, 'Hey we are really happy with the produce', that's a big tick for me. I don't consider the job done until it has arrived, they've paid the money and there is a happy customer at the other end. That's what I base the performance of my operation on."
Caleb talks about his role as a vineyard technical officer - 2.41 mins. (Video courtesy of Ministry for Primary Industries).
So I started out straight out of university. I asked for a reference and got offered a job. And I basically started out driving a tractor and working on some of our regional vineyards. From there I got involved with a project to do with internal business software we were developing. So I developed the vineyard side of that for us. Then, from there that just grew into the current role I’ve got.
I’ve always enjoyed being outside. I’m also quite interested in the science and business side of things as well, and viticulture provides a good balance for that for me.
But yeah, I came from Wellington, Dad’s an accountant, Mum’s a teacher, grandparents are teachers, so yeah, no farming in my background.
In horticulture there’s certainly a lack of young people, so that does open up a lot of opportunities for people that look for them. Like anything, if you look for them and you want to go for them they’re there for you.
So we’ve got a real team structure here. We’ve got the national vineyard manager, myself and then we’ve got vineyard managers at each of our sites. We make decisions as a group. No one tells anybody what to do in terms of viticulture decisions and the responsibility lies with different people within different parts of the structure. And because of that, we have to work together to achieve the best outcomes and that actually allows us to achieve a better outcome than just having one person’s opinion.
The weather is definitely the biggest challenge. It’s the only thing you can’t plan for and can’t change. But there’s lots of small challenges along the way. There’s nothing you do which is easy. I think that would be boring if everything was easy.
Hand-picking is a challenge. We’ve got 60 pickers out at one of the vineyards today, so you’ve got to organise all of that. Organise fruit transport around the country. You’ve got to organise spray programmes. Everything has got its challenges.
I’m doing something different every day. I’m out there – you never quite know exactly what the next day is going to bring. You’re continually learning and growing. And what you’re doing is making a difference.
I’m lucky I’m working for a really nice winery and we produce some fantastic wine. And I can take that wine and take it around to a friend’s place for dinner or show people that wine.
I was involved a couple of weeks ago with a function for all of our key customers. I was pouring some of our premium wine there. And to be able to interact with those customers and see how much joy they get out of something you produce is really, really satisfying.
There are no specific entry requirements to become a crop farmer/crop manager, apart from experience in the horticulture industry. However, a qualification such as a certificate or diploma in horticulture, or a degree such as Bachelor of AgriScience (Hort) is recommended.
A driver's licence is essential and a licence with a forklift endorsement is useful.
If you are starting out you can also train by doing an apprenticeship.
- Primary Industry Training Organisation website - information about agricultural and horticultural training
Extra requirements for chemical spraying
If your job requires agrichemical spraying you need a certificate from approved providers such as Growsafe.
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a crop farmer/crop manager. However, a minimum of three years of secondary education is preferred. Useful subjects include maths, agricultural and horticultural science, biology and chemistry.
For Year 11-12 students, working towards a national certificate in horticulture through a trades academy may be possible, including off-site learning and some on-the-job training.
- Primary Industry Training Organisation website - information for school students about primary industry careers
Crop farmers/crop managers need to be:
- good administrators, with computing, accounting and business planning skills
- good at communicating with, and managing people
- able to relate to people from a wide range of backgrounds
- practical and organised
- responsible and patient
- adaptable, observant, motivated and quick-thinking
- able to work well in a team and under pressure.
If you are flexible and able to communicate on different levels, it's a big plus. If you decide you want to do a job and you are telling people what to do, you need to be clear – changing your mind every five minutes does not go down well.
Useful experience for crop farmers/crop managers includes:
- farm or horticulture work
- driving specialist equipment or heavy vehicles
- mechanical work
- business management
- working with harvesting contractors
- any work with plants.
Crop farmers/crop managers need to be reasonably fit and healthy and have reasonable level of stamina as they may spend a lot of time walking around farmland.
Find out more about training
- Horticulture New Zealand
- (04) 472 3795 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.hortnz.co.nz
- Primary Industry Training Organisation
- 0800 208020 - email@example.com - www.primaryito.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
High demand for crop managers
Demand for crop farmers' and crop managers' skills is increasing as the horticulture industry continues to grow.
Crop managers are particularly in demand because:
- farms are getting larger and more complex, and require advanced soil and crop management skills to achieve greater productivity
- farm owners need to comply with increasingly strict council requirements on employment practices and sustainable farming – for example, how resources such as water and nutrients are managed.
However, the number of crop managers is insufficient to meet demand. As a result, market gardener – crop production/agronomist manager (crop manager) appears on Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled crop managers from overseas to work in New Zealand.
September to March the best time to secure work
The best time to look for a crop manager role is between September and March – the busiest months for crop farming.
Vacancies also arise on farms each year because of managers retiring, changing employers or moving into other roles.
Crop farmers/crop managers may work for employers or be self-employed
Crop managers can work for private farm owners, businesses or grower companies that may own one or more farms, including orchards, vineyards or nurseries. Companies can range in size – from those with fewer than 10 staff, to large businesses with as many as 500 staff.
Crop farmers are self-employed and own their own farms.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Immediate Skill Shortage List', accessed March 2016, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Martech Consulting Group Ltd, 'Fresh Facts: New Zealand Horticulture 2014', Plant and Food Research, 2014, (www.freshfacts.co.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Ministry for Primary Industries, 'Future Capability Needs for the Primary Industries in New Zealand', April 2014, (www.mpi.govt.nz).
- Pickering, S, senior business manager, Horticulture New Zealand, Careers New Zealand interview, March 2016.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Crop farmers/crop managers may start out working as farm workers, before moving into supervisory or management roles, or buying their own farms. They may also become agricultural/horticultural consultants.
Crop farmers usually specialise in a particular area such as:
- Field Crop Grower
- Field crop growers grow and sell grain, oilseed, wheat and other pasture crops.
- Flower Grower
- Flower growers grow and sell seeds, seedlings, bulbs, buds and flowers.
- Fruit or Nut Grower
- Fruit or nut growers grow and sell fruit or nuts.
- Grape Grower
- Grape growers grow grapes for making wine.
- Horticultural Contractor
- Horticultural contractors are self-employed. They organise one or more gangs of workers to prune, pick and do other work for crop farmers.
- Mixed Crop Farmer
- Mixed crop farmers grow and sell a variety of crops.
- Vegetable Grower
- Vegetable growers grow and sell vegetables
Last updated 25 September 2018