General Farm Workers (NOC 8431) may also be called:
- farm hand / ranch hand / cow hand
- farm groom
- beef cattle farm worker,
- cattle ranch labourer
- dairy farm worker
- farm machinery operator
- grain farm worker
- harvester machine operator
- hatchery worker
- poultry farm worker
- vegetable farm worker
- fruit farm labourer, fruit farm worker
- mushroom farm worker
- egg candler / gatherer / grader / packer
What Would I Do?
General Farm Workers plant, cultivate and harvest crops, raise livestock and poultry, and maintain and repair farm equipment and buildings. Their duties may include:
- plant, fertilize, cultivate, spray, irrigate and harvest crops
- feed and tend livestock and poultry
- milk cows
- operate and maintain farm machinery and equipment
- detect disease and health problems in crops, livestock and poultry
- examine produce for quality and prepare for market
- set and monitor water lines, air flow and temperature in barns, pens and chicken coops
- clean stables, barns, barnyards and pens
Am I Suited For This Job?
Farm Workers should be:
- physically fit & have good physical stamina – work is physically demanding and you are on your feet most of the time
- quick learner
Farm Workers should:
- enjoy working outdoors
- enjoy working with machines
- work well as part of a team
Farm Workers work long hours and the workload often varies with the seasons. Work takes place both indoors and outdoors, so workers may be exposed to various weather conditions. Workers use machinery, tools and heavy farm equipment, such as tractors, which can pose the risk of injury. Farmers may be exposed to chemicals, such as pesticides, and dust and sand in the workplace.
What Are The Wages And Benefits?
WorkBC reports that the median annual salary for General Farm Workers in British Columbia is approximately $31,284 with a $15.00 median hourly wage rate across the province. JobBank Canada lists hourly wages for BC’s regions where farm workers can expect to make:
Table from Job Bank Wage Report
Farm workers’ earnings fluctuate from year to year depending on weather conditions (which affect crop yields), the type of farm, and the market prices of their products. Some work full-time all year round, while others are employed only for part of the year. Seasonal workers may have to find other work during their off-season. Farmers & farm workers usually have to provide their own benefits. Some join farm organizations that offer group discounts on benefit packages.
What Is The Job Outlook In BC?
WorkBC reports that for the period 2015-2025, the expected annual demand growth rate for general farm workers will be -0.1% (negative growth) across the province.
Actual growth will be in Lower Mainland & Southwest (0.2%), Cariboo (0.3%) and Thompson Okanagan (0.3%) regions. There will be negative growth in the Kootenays and Vancouver Island Coast (both -1.6% negative growth)
JobBank Canada reports that across B.C. for the 2015-2017 period, the employment outlook is expected to be limited for farm workers. Also due to the seasonal nature of this occupation, employment opportunities will vary depending on the time of the year. Employment opportunities tend to be more favourable during the summer months.
How Do I Become a Farm Worker?
In B.C. there is no certification required to be a farm worker. Many farmers learn their skills on the job, or by growing up on a family farm. It is possible to enter farm work as a labourer without training. However, those who wish to go further with their careers will need a diploma or degree, in plant sciences, or related subjects such as horticulture, agriculture, farm management, or crop science.
For information on Education/Training programs, see:
- Agricultural Labour Pool: Industry Links
- Food Secure Vancouver: Educational Programs and Resources
- Kwantlen Polytechnic University: Farm Schools (Richmond & Tsawwassen)
- UBC Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture (Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm)
For information on education/training for organic farming, see:
- Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada Noncredit courses in organic farming
- Gaia College, organic land care
Some farmers and fruit & vegetable growers spray their crops with pesticides to protect them from damage. In B.C., you must first obtain approved training and pass the requirements for Pesticide Certification before you can purchase or apply restricted class pesticides.
How Do I Find A Job?
Where would I work?
- General farm workers are employed on crop, livestock, fruit, vegetable and specialty farms
Finding Advertised Jobs
Jobs are advertised in a variety of sources including newspapers, magazines and online job sites.
You can look at the Vancouver Sun & The Province at Vancouver Public Library for free. Check the job postings daily, the careers section in the Vancouver Sun on Wednesdays and Saturdays and, in The Province on Sundays.
Online Job Postings
Finding “Hidden Jobs”
Many job vacancies are not advertised. The resources below help you with finding jobs in this “hidden” job market.
Using Directories to Create a List of Potential Employers
You can use company directories to produce lists of employers who are in this industry. Contact them directly to find out if they’re hiring.
- BC Agriculture Council (BCAC) – List of Member Associations
approximately 30 member organizations listed from blueberry producers to egg producers, to turkey growers. Click links for each association’s website to see if individual producers are listed.
- BC Vegetable Marketing Commission
BC producers of vegetables
- Reference Canada
Click on “Start Search” beside Canadian Businesses, then select the “Advanced Search” button.
Select both “Keyword/SIC/NAICS” under Business Type and “City” under Geography.
In the top search box enter “farming”, “vegetable farms”, “fruits and vegetables” and click LOOKUP.
Select the appropriate headings.
Lower down, select the Province, choose the cities, and click the “View Results” button.
NOTE: You can access this database from a Library computer. If you are using a computer from outside the Library, you will need a Vancouver Public Library card to login to this database. After clicking on the database name, you will be asked to enter your library card number and PIN (usually last four digits of your telephone number).
Networking, Volunteering and Temporary Agencies
Many positions are filled by people who have been recommended by someone they know. Networking, working as a volunteer or registering with a temporary employment agency are good ways of helping you find jobs and meet people in your industry.
Networking and the Hidden Job Market:
When looking for work, be sure to talk to friends, relatives and neighbours. They may know someone who is hiring! Working as a volunteer, attending events, and joining clubs and associations are good ways to gain “Canadian experience.” They are also good ways to meet people to learn about the local job market.
- Foodwork.ca (local & sustainable food volunteer jobs)
- Maplewood Farm (North Vancouver)
- Sharing Farm Society (Richmond)
- UBC Farm (Centre for Sustainable Food Systems)
- 4-H British Columbia – agriculture based youth development program
For additional tips see:
Applying for a Job
In Canada, employers usually expect to receive a resume and a cover letter that identifies the position you are applying for and summarizes your experience. Use the library catalogue to find books on writing resumes and cover letters specific to your industry.
For more information see:
Where Can This Job Lead?
Progression to supervisory positions or to farm manager is possible with experience.
Where Can I Find More Information?
- Farmfolk Cityfolk
nonprofit society that works to cultivate a local, sustainable food system
BC Agriculture Council represents over 14,000 BC farmers and ranchers and close to thirty farm sector associations from all regions of the province
- Canadian Horticultural Council
nonprofit national association that represents producers from across Canada involved in the production and packing of over 120 fruit and vegetable crops
- Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC)
Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia (COABC) is an umbrella association representing organic certifying agencies in BC
- Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA)
supporting agricultural workers’ rights