Job: Organic farmer
Salary: Organic farmers and farm managers make about $11,000 to $33,000 a year, but the pay can be higher depending on yield, demand and the pricing of products. “As a farmer, you usually work for yourself and the first couple of years you may not be making anything as you are putting all your earnings back into the farm,” says Kevin Klippenstein of Klippers Organics in Cawston, B.C. , about 50 kilometres south of Penticton.
Education: No formal education is required, but farmers learn either in school or are taught by others about soil health, fertility and other factors to help grow and manage their crops. More farmers are also getting training in social media and marketing as their products gain popularity among consumers, Mr. Klippenstein says.
The role: They grow food for consumers either on fertile land or in greenhouses. The job is more than just planting and harvesting, though: Crops need to be nurtured and eventually sold. That’s requires some business acumen as well as marketing and customer service skills. It’s not a 9-to-5 job, and there’s no time to sit around and watch the plants grow. “You have to be a driven, determined and passionate individual to make farming work,” Mr. Klippenstein says.
By the numbers: The number of certified organic operations increased 4.4 per cent to 3,713 in 2011 compared with 2006, according to Statistics Canada. The agency reports that organic farmers represented 1.8 per cent of all farms in Canada in 2011, compared with 1.5 per cent in 2006 and 0.9 per cent in 2001.
Job prospects: Consumers are becoming more aware of what they eat, which includes searching out organic-labelled products. That’s good news for the organic farming industry. “With the growth for local and sustainable food, the demand for organic food is on the rise and there needs to be more organic farmers to fill the demand,” Mr. Klippenstein says.
Challenges: It’s backbreaking work and your results are dependent on the weather. “You can lose your crops with hail, frost, flooding, drought, heavy winds, pests or disease at any time,” Mr. Klippenstein says. “It is best to be diversified.”
Why they do it: Farmers like to get their hands dirty, literally, and have a love for the outdoors. They’re also interested in what they eat. “People choose organic farming as a job [or] career usually because they are passionate about where their food comes from,” Mr. Klippenstein says.
Misconceptions: It’s not the romantic lifestyle that some perceive. It is hard work and requires long hours, “and you are usually a jack of all trades and master of none,” Mr. Klippenstein says.
Give us the scoop: Are you an organic farmer in Canada? Write a note in the comments area of this story or e-mail your comment to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you would tell others who are interested in the profession.
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