After being cooped up in jail or prison for months, if not years, you may long for fresh air, open spaces and a life outdoors. And you may want to consider a job on a farm or a ranch.
This type of work on farms and ranches might be especially appealing in the days of Covid-19, when restrictions in many urban areas have hampered our collective freedom and prevented people from doing many of the social activities they engaged in before being incarcerated. The freedom of farm life may appeal to certain people in reentry.
And we’re not primarily talking about huge factory farms. Rather, a lot of these jobs are on small family-owned farms. These are places where you will have a chance to eat fresh, often organic, produce, become a part of a community and maybe learn enough skills that you could start a farm of your own. And with spring just around the corner, it’s the right time to start looking for this type of work.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, farmworkers don’t necessarily need a high school diploma. And they’re generally given on-the-job training. They do, however, need physical strength and stamina to deal with tools and be active all day. The work also requires good eye-hand coordination to successfully harvest the crops. In addition, they must be able to listen to and follow instructions, and communicate well with others. In some cases, farmworkers will need a driver’s license.
The median wage for farmworkers is $25,840 per year or $12.42 per hour, but this relatively low wage may be skewed by including low wage agricultural laborer jobs on large factory farms, which is not the type of work we’re suggesting.
Small farms may pay higher wages and come with housing and occasionally meals as well. Sometimes these jobs are classified as internships, however, and only include a stipend. But most pay a salary. Either way, it might be a chance to experience a new way of life and gradually ease yourself back into life on the outside through a supportive community. Since you’ll probably be working on a team with the owner, it will give you a chance to learn the business of farming.
Work on farms and ranches could lead to higher paying jobs
And once you get some experience with work on farms and ranches, there are opportunities to move on to better paying positions. Learning farming and how farms operate might be a stepping stone to becoming:
A farmer, rancher or other agricultural manager, which comes with a higher salary and more responsibilities. You might own your own farm or ranch or work as a manager for someone else. Farm managers hire, train and supervise farm laborers, and manage budgets and machinery. The median pay for this type of work is $71,160 per year or $34.21 per hour, and experience as an agricultural worker is what matters here, not necessarily level of education.
An agricultural equipment and supplies sales rep, who may sell anything from fertilizer and fencing to tractors and seeds. While some people who do this work have college degrees in business, others gain employment through their practical experience of using the equipment and supplies while working on a farm or a ranch.
A buyer or purchasing agent of agricultural products may purchase grain, tobacco or other crops from large farms or work for a broker or wholesaler buying produce from small- and medium-sized family farms.
Finding work on farms and ranches
If you’d like to get some experience in agriculture, check out these places to look for work on family – and sometimes larger – farms.
- EcoFarm (Ecologicaly Farming Association) – This Soquel, Calif. based nonprofit has been working to “nurture safe, healthy, just, and ecologically sustainable farms, food systems, and communities” since 1981. Its website incorporates a job search engine listing a variety of opportunities, ranging from interns to managers on mostly small family farms. Some require previous agricultural experience.
- Jooble.org – A website that offers seasonal farm jobs across the U.S.
- U.S. Dept. of Labor Seasonal Jobs – This government agency maintains a database of scores of seasonal farm jobs that include fruit orchard workers, general farmworkers and tobacco plantation workers.
- Ranchwork.com – In operation since 1988, this site has lots of jobs at cattle ranches, dude ranches, horse ranches, llama ranches, hunting ranches and other ranch-related places.
- Farm and Ranch Jobs – This resource has apprenticeship jobs, as well as other positions, but not as many as most of the sites included here. It’s still worth a look, however.