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Yeah, farming is easy. Just become an expert in these 7 disciplines.

Farming Misconceptions

There’s an ongoing misconception that farming is easy work that doesn’t require much intelligence: “Just plant seeds in the ground and the corn comes up.” In reality, farming is a lot more complicated and demanding than most people believe.

The comments below by Michael Bloomberg are an example of the misconceptions that many people have about farming.

Bloomberg will no doubt become the latest poster child for all of the stuffed-suit bureaucrats who comment about farming, but don’t know anything about it.

Increasing in Difficulty

In reality, farming has always been difficult. We imagine that new technologies like self-driving GPS-guided tractors will make farming easier. While some tasks have become automated, the competitive and high risk nature of farming requires that each farmer be able to gather big data, with analysis that can lead to actionable conclusions. Farming is more demanding than ever.

Seven Disciplines

Here are some of the disciplines you’ll need to master to be a successful farmer.

1 – Technologist

Today’s farmers need to have proficiency in computer programs, tablet apps, smartphone apps, GPS guidance systems, real-time data gathering mobile software. There is proprietary on-board software used to guide and monitor tractors, combines, planters and other farming equipment. Software needs to be installed, updated, and maintained.

2 – Data Analyst

Farmers must be able to intelligently analyze data, imcluding:

  • market data
  • soil quality data
  • field soil moisture mapping
  • specialty seed yield comparisons
  • geotagged harvest yield evaluation
  • planting expenses
  • harvest expenses
  • cost benefit analysis of crop enhancement and farming products

There is a lot of data that needs to be gathered. This data needs to be converted into meaningful and actionable reports.

3 – Financial Analysts

Farmers need to be skilled financial analysts to evaluate the overall operating costs and financial returns for their farm. These expenses and financial returns can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. There are numerous expenses to track and continuously evaluate. Cost benefit analysis needs to be done for numerous expenses.

  • Cost of seed
  • Cost of herbicide
  • Cost of pesticide
  • Cost of fuel
  • Cost of rented land (if any)
  • Cost of rented equipment (if any)
  • Employee costs and responsibilities (if any)
  • Depreciation on equipment
  • Taxes owed on land
  • Selection and management of independently purchased healthcare insurance
  • Farm insurance costs
  • Ongoing equipment cost of maintenance and operation
  • Planting costs
  • Harvesting costs
  • Soil management expenses
  • Utility expenses for maintaining various grain handling and drying systems.
  • Ongoing price of planting seed
  • Ongoing local price and market prices of harvested product

In addition to being a financial analyst, farmers need to work with accountants and provide the financial data needed to complete tax returns.

4 – Safety Manager

Farming involves many potentially deadly situations. It’s imperative that farmers stay informed about the latest safety procedures and precautions. There is an increased danger because often farmers are working alone. It’s not like a road construction crew where five people are watching one person use a front loader. With farming, you don’t have people spotting you, and often nobody is around to call 911. So a situation that might not normally be deadly can become lethal. When first responders are requested, in rural areas response times aren’t as prompt as in urban areas. So, farmers need to be especially alert and highly educated about safety precautions.

5 – Personnel Manager

Larger farming operations may have employees that need to be supervised. This requires a special set of skills. There are also laws and regulations governing employee safety which need to be complied with. Even if your farming operation doesn’t have employees, you’ll undoubtedly need to supervise or coordinate with various service providers. All of this requires good people skills.

6 – Compliance Manager

There are numerous laws and guidelines that today’s farmers need to know about and comply with. Mistakes or oversights can result in fines and other financial losses. Laws and guidelines can change from one year to the next, so it’s important to stay informed.

7 – Risk Management

Based on all of the above variables, there are many risks that need to be considered with farming. Farmers need to plan strategically at planting and harvest time and work within sometimes very limited windows of opportunity. Mistakes in timing can result in significant losses.


There are future trends in farming such as regenerative agriculture which require new training and skills that farmers must acquire. Not mentioned above are all the additional complexities and variables involved with livestock farming. Farming can be physically demanding. There can be long hours. For many reason, farming can be one of the most challenging careers around. We need to appreciate, support, and value farmers for all they do.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com

1 comment

  1. If we listen to the context of what Bloomfield was saying, his message is a little deeper. He’s talking about 3,000 years of traditional farming and agrarian life that was a dominant vocation for many people. He’s talking about the history of farming that preceded self-driving tractors and GPS mapping of soil quality and harvest yields. Bloomfield is talking about a kind of farming that Amish communities still succeed at today. Traditional farming knowledge and skills passed down to the next generation even if the next generation has barely a high school education. There are millions of farmers in countries where low-tech is the norm. Bloomfield is simply saying that today’s jobs are more high tech than jobs over the past 3,000 years. Even so, the dominant political news narrative is going to be “Bloomberg thinks today’s farming is easy. He says anyone can be a farmer.” It’s too tempting in politics to take an opponent’s words out of context, over simplify what they said, and spin it in a negative way with a short quote or soundbite. This seems to be what happened with Bloomberg. So, at his expense, we’ve seen a renewed discussion about farming and agriculture – something that’s actually a good thing for farmers.

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