So you've been bitten by the farming bug and are looking to start a new career out on the land. Dreams of working in the fresh air, far from the choking city under an endless blue sky and a chance to do a rewarding job working with your hands appeal to you. Or perhaps you're thinking of starting a farm yourself and want to get some experience in what agricultural work is really like before making the expensive commitment of buying some land and planting some crops. Whatever you decide, the first question becomes "Where do I start?"
Agricultural businesses such as farms come in many shapes or sizes. From pig farms to Christmas tree plantations, there's a huge range of potential opportunities to suit all desires for living and working in the outdoors. Better yet, given that most farms are owned by independent farmers and are thus small businesses it is comparatively easier to get work by getting access to employer i.e. owner directly, rather than you might at a traditional firm where asking to speak to the owner is more likely to get you filtered out by the HR department than filtered in.
Working outdoors is as varied as the farms themselves. You might be working directly with animals, or operating farm equipment such as tractors and harvesters. Farm buildings require maintenance and stables mucking out. The quintessential hedges that mark the boundaries of fields all need trimming. Things need to be moved, picked up and put away in a job that will demand the best from you both physically and mentally.
Given the hands on nature of the work, farming traditionally did not require significant amounts of prior experience or qualifications. However in the EU, competition from seasonal workers migrating from outside the UK and similar countries has meant that workers resident in them increasingly need to be able to have reasons to stand above the competition be it experience or formal qualification. Achieved via an agricultural college or alternatively through an ADL distance course you can get the training and skills you need in order to make yourself the better choice for a farmer looking for extra hands.
Another important thing to bear in mind about getting work as a farmer is the seasonal nature of the work. If you like to go on holiday in August then working on a farm isn't for you – the summer months and the lead up to the harvest season are some of the busiest times on the farm. Elsewhere spring tends to bring an abundance of baby animals on those farms that focus on livestock.
This makes the harvest season an ideal time to seek out work on a short notice as many farmers will be eager to solicit extra help to cope with peak demand. However unless you are able to come to a longer term arrangement with the farmer for employment it is essential to have a plan lined up for when the busy season ends.