Career offerings in the agricultural industry vary enormously. From engineering, science and finance to general agricultural jobs. Both hard and soft skills are important to stand out from others in the industry, whether it’s in an interview or in the actual workplace. The skills and attributes you’ll need will vary widely depending on the type of agriculture you’re thinking of.
An article in the Farmer’s Weekly once said that South Africa’s agricultural education sector is failing to produce a new wave of farmers and agriculturalists, with fewer young people being drawn to study agriculture as a career. They continued saying that colleges and universities are producing under-experienced job candidates, while a lack of training among unskilled and semi-skilled workers is preventing the sector from building from the bottom up.
Here are four notable skills all professionals in agriculture should have and practice regularly for their continued success.
For agriculture professionals working in supply chain management, interpersonal skills are very important. You’re required to interact with farmers who produce raw materials and deliver these goods to other companies. And these companies will either send the products to another location for further manufacturing or directly to its consumer. You should also be able to listen to the needs of your suppliers and consumers to make sure all needs and targets are met. With that you should be able to develop enduring business relationships.
The ability to negotiate is important in this industry. As an agricultural professional, you should be able to demonstrate interpersonal prowess when entering formal and informal dialogue with independent regulatory bodies, key stakeholders and the government. Strong interpersonal skills are necessary if you’re involved in public relations, sales, advertising or an area of expertise that relies heavily on effective communication.
Time management and organisation skills
This is a skill you’ll have to develop while still studying. Strong time management and organisation skills are a big asset when breaking into the agricultural industry. Or any other industry, for that matter. And if you work in logistics, organisation skills are a must. You’ll be tasked with ensuring that raw materials are properly transported, stored and delivered from producer to wholesaler and then to consumer. Strong organisational skills may be a strong determining factor in your success in this role.
Time management and organisation are also important for others in the field, including farmers and machine operators. With most products depending on the seasons, you should factor in things like weather conditions to ensure you can meet both consumer demands and sustain your farming businesses during the off season.
Adaptability is a skill that’s transferable from industry to industry, but it’s especially important for anyone considering a career in agriculture. What you learn while studying may differ from what you learn on the job. Being adaptable is important on the business side of agriculture. As a professional, you need to be able to learn and adapt quickly to meet changing consumer demands. The industry itself is also changing daily, with new challenges constantly presenting themselves. This means you should be able to adequately address these new obstacles by quickly adopting new methods advanced by technological innovation.
Being tech-savvy doesn’t mean you have to buy every new gadget that hits the market. Instead, you should have knowledge of where technology is going, especially in terms of agricultural practices. It includes a focus on things such as irrigation, pesticide use and improving methods and techniques of cultivation, harvest, storage and transport.
This also means you need to embrace technological development. More often than not, the early birds who embrace new technological advances usually benefit the most. This doesn’t mean you should jump on every tech bandwagon you hear of. But as a professional, especially a farm owner and operator, you should always be aware of what new technologies are on the market. From that you should determine whether adopting new techniques, instruments and advancements would be beneficial to your specific venture. Being tech-savvy will also enable you to apply for agricultural finance online if you need funds for your business.
No matter how crazy the industry gets, a cool head and the ability to think and work under pressure are important. This is true of any successful worker or business owner. And as an organic farmer, you’ll not only face changing climates and long days but pressure from both the conventional and organic sides of the industry.
If you can learn early on how to stay chill when things are getting rough, your mental and physical health will fare better in the long run.