CAREER GUIDES

Here's how to become a farm maintenance worker

Image: 123RF/neydt.

Farming is seasonal, and some times of the year are busier than others. On crop farms, farm workers are responsible for ploughing, planting, cultivation, pruning, irrigation, fertilising and spraying of crops. 

They dig and plant seeds, or transplant seedlings by hand, identify plants, pests and weeds to determine the selection and application of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers, apply these to the crops, and inform the farmers or farm managers of the progress of the crop. 

Fruits and vegetables are harvested by hand, and these agricultural products loaded into trucks, which are driven to market or storage facilities. Information about the crops is recorded, such as pesticides used, yields and costs. They are also involved in the inspection, grading, sorting, storage and post-harvest treatment of the crops.

They may need to direct and monitor the work of casual and seasonal help during planting and harvesting, clear and maintain irrigation ditches and set up and operate irrigation equipment. They need to be able to operate tractors, tractor-drawn machinery and self-propelled machinery to plough, harrow and fertilise the soil, or to plant, cultivate, spray and harvest crops. 

On livestock farms, farm workers care for, mark or brand and dip animals. They are responsible for their feeding, cleaning their stalls, caring for sick or newborn livestock and using milking machines for dairy work. They may be involved in the processing of meat, dairy products and wool. Some farm workers’ duties include maintenance of tractors and other farming implements, and/or the construction and maintenance of farm buildings and fences.

Most jobs involve working outdoors in all weather conditions, in the early morning, evenings and weekends.  Farm work can be dirty and dusty.

How to enter

Schooling & school subjects compulsory subjects: None

What to study

Agricultural colleges offer basic courses, which cover the following three categories:

  • Agricultural and Horticultural Training
  • Mechanical and Building Training
  • Business and Informal Training
  • Elsenburg Agricultural Development Institute - Stellenbosch
  • Glen Agricultural Development Institute - Bloemfontein
  • Grootfontein Agricultural College - Middelburg
  • Cedara Agricultural Development Institute - Pietermaritzburg
  • Lowveld Agricultural College - Nelspruit
  • Owen Sitole College of Agriculture - Empangeni

Employment

  • Owners of farms
  • Tenant farmers
  • Large farming corporations
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Health
  • Department of Land Affairs

Getting started

  • Try to obtain vacation work as a farm hand
  • Grow vegetables in your own garden
  • Arrange to visit different farms and speak to farm workers about their work
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