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Crop Farmer/​Manager

Kaiahuwhenua Huangakai/​Kaiwhakahaere Huangakai

Alternative titles for this job

Crop farmers/managers plan and manage plant production on farms and in vineyards and hothouses.

Pay

Crop farmers/managers with up to five years' experience usually earn

$55K-$110K per year

Crop farmers/managers working for large organisations usually earn

$120K-$180K per year

Source: Horticulture NZ, Trade Me Jobs, Indeed, 2019.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a crop farmer/manager are good due to a shortage of workers.

Pay

Pay for crop farmers/managers varies depending on:

  • farm size
  • crop type
  • farm profitability, which may vary from season to season
  • prices received for the crops.

Crop farmers/managers with up to five years' experience usually earn between $55,000 and $110,000 a year.

Crop farmers/managers who work for large organisations can earn between $120,000 and $180,000.

Sources: Horticulture NZ; Trade Me Jobs; and Indeed, 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Crop farmers/managers may do some or all of the following:

  • decide what crops to grow, and develop planting schedules
  • cultivate land 
  • plant seeds and crops, and monitor growth
  • ensure crops are watered, fertilised and pruned, and are healthy
  • manage irrigation and frost protection
  • organise the harvesting, grading and packing of crops, and arrange for 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/managers need to have knowledge of:

  • how to grow and harvest various types of crops
  • crop diseases, weeds and pests, and how to control them
  • climate and weather conditions, and how they affect crops
  • soil and crop rotation, and cultivation and harvesting methods
  • food safety, market certification and quality requirements
  • health, safety and employment regulations
  • recruiting, training and managing staff.

Working conditions

Crop farmers/managers:

  • usually work between eight and 10 hours a day, but during peak seasonal harvest and planting times may worker longer hours, including weekends
  • work outdoors, or in glasshouses, nurseries, packhouses or offices
  • work in all weather conditions, with machinery and chemicals that can be dangerous
  • may have to travel locally between crop fields and to markets or suppliers.

What's the job really like?

Crop farmer/manager video

Caleb talks about his role as a vineyard technical officer - 2.41 mins. (Video courtesy of Ministry for Primary Industries).

My primary role in our vineyards is to manage our technical programme. That’s things like our spray programmes, our pest and disease, our yield management monitoring, setting targets for different blocks and setting our viticulture programme as well, “Everything under control?”

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.

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements to become a crop farmer/manager as you gain skills on the job.

However, a New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture Production (Level 4) or a diploma or degree in horticulture may be useful.

You can also train on the job through Primary ITO's Let's Grow horticulture apprenticeship.

A driver's licence is essential and a licence with a forklift endorsement is useful.

Extra requirements for chemical spraying

If your job requires agrichemical spraying you need a certificate from approved providers such as Growsafe.  

Secondary education

A minimum of three years of secondary education is recommended. Useful subjects include accounting, agricultural and horticultural science, business studies, maths, biology and chemistry.

For Year 11 to 13 learners, trades academies and the STAR and Gateway programmes are good ways to gain relevant experience and skills. 

These programmes may help you gain an apprenticeship, but do not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.

Personal requirements

Crop farmers/managers need to be:

  • good administrators, with business planning skills
  • good communicators and managers
  • able to work well in a team and under pressure.

Useful experience

Useful experience for crop farmers/managers includes:

  • farm or horticulture work
  • using specialist equipment or driving heavy vehicles
  • mechanical work
  • business management
  • working with harvesting contractors.

Physical requirements

Crop farmers/managers need to be reasonably fit and healthy.

Find out more about training

Horticulture New Zealand
(04) 472 3795 - info@hortnz.co.nz - www.hortnz.co.nz
Primary Industry Training Organisation
0800 208020 - info@primaryito.ac.nz - www.primaryito.ac.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

High demand for crop farmers/managers

Demand for crop farmers/managers is increasing as the horticulture industry continues to grow.

Crop farmers/managers are particularly in demand because:

  • there are not enough New Zealanders available to do the work
  • the horticulture industry is expected to grow and increase its export revenue to over $5 billion in 2023
  • farms are getting larger and more complex, and require advanced soil and crop management skills to achieve greater productivity.

Crop production/agronomist manager appears on Immigration New Zealand's regional skills shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled crop farmers/managers from overseas to work in New Zealand.

Types of employers varied

Crop farmers/managers may work for private farm owners, businesses or grower companies that may own one or more farms, including vineyards and nurseries.

Crop farmers/managers may also be self-employed and own their own farms.

Sources

  • Heywood, A, senior manager, Vegetables New Zealand, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2019. 
  • Horticulture NZ, 'Our Food Future: Annual Report 2019', accessed August 2019, (www.hortnz.co.nz).
  • Immigration NZ, 'Regional Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz). 
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘Farmers and Farm Managers', Occupation Outlook, accessed May 2019, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
  • vanBeek, J, national seasonal labour coordinator, Horticulture New Zealand, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2019. 

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Crop farmers/managers may progress into supervisory or management roles, or buy their own farms. They may also become agricultural/horticultural consultants.

Crop farmers/managers may specialise in:

Field Crop Growing
Field crop growers grow and sell grain, oilseed, wheat and other pasture crops.
Flower Growing
Flower growers grow and sell seeds, seedlings, bulbs, buds and flowers.
Grape Growing
Grape growers grow grapes for making wine.
Horticultural Contracting
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 Farming
Mixed crop farmers grow and sell a variety of crops.
Vegetable Growers
Vegetable growers grow and sell vegetables
A man and a woman spraying and weeding salad crops

Crop farmers/managers manage the production and harvest of horticulture crops

Last updated 6 December 2019