Despite the fact that traditional, conventional farming is on a slight decline, there are still plenty of opportunities for you to grow your bank account with a career as a farmer.
San Diego County has always been at the forefront of organic farming. The county has 317 growers registered as organic, more than any other county in the nation. Last year, San Diego organic growers produced over 140 different crops on 6,400 acres with gross sales topping $28.6 million dollars- that’s a lot of green for the farmers.
Farming isn’t just for old guys in overalls anymore- there’s a new generation of farmers in their 20s and 30s who have chosen farming as a career.
“I started my own business growing grapes when I got laid off in Fallbrook working at an Avocado packing house,” said David Parr of Jamul. “People want to know where their food comes from, I mean have you seen how many Farmer’s Markets we have in Southern California?”
But finding mentors and the money to lease land isn’t as easy as growing tomatoes on your windowsill. Many young farmers use the Internet to meet other farmers, search for YouTube videos on how to farm and buy old farm equipment on Craigslist.
Farming might not buy you a mansion on Mt Soledad, but it could eventually pay the bills and put (organic) food on the table.
If you were a 4-H kid in high school you’re ahead of the game, if not you can actually take courses on dirt and plants and milking cows.
Many colleges and universities have created organic agriculture degree programs to cultivate this niche. Potential organic farmers may earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in organic agriculture to learn food science, economics and farm marketing, as well as crop production, soil and pest management.
Bonnie Lewis and her husband Tom live in Escondido and are just starting to farm some land they bought with an inheritance. The couple both worked at Hewlett-Packard in Washington and were laid off in 2010.
“We tried to get jobs but no one was hiring. We finally found jobs were we could telecommute because we both hated working in a cubicle, but the pay was terrible. Tom quit his job and spends 12 hours a day working the land and planning our farm. I kept my job and make a little money, but it’s really for the health care. We can’t wait until we’re both out there in the fields picking tomatoes and selling them, tomatoes that we grew ourselves.”
It takes a special person to become a farmer. Waking up before dawn and tending to your crops might sound like back-breaking work to most of us, but to some it sounds like the perfect career.
Working for yourself is usually the goal of young farmers, but working for seasoned growers can give you insight into the career. Offer to pitch in on their farms, or at least invite them over for a beer, they’ll likely be able to pass along invaluable tips on climate, soil conditions, crop varieties, and more.
Wild Willow Farms and Education Canter in Escondido teaches courses on basics of organic farming – from composting to pest control to harvesting – showing the full season’s cycle for both novice and experienced gardener-farmers. http://www.sandiegoroots.org/farming_workshops.php
So if you love to work with your hands in the Southern California sunshine and want to make a career out of farming, check out this farming career guide and say goodbye to a cubical forever! http://www.greencareersguide.com/Organic-Farming.html