How Many Hours Do Farmers Work?

Farm work is a full-time job. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook: Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers, farmers work a minimum of 40 hours a week. In fact, most farmers work far longer than 40 hours a week.

The number of hours a farmer may work varies from season to season. During the harvest, a farmer may work as many as 80 hours a week (including some night work). In the winter, he or she may work fewer than 40 hours in a week, but the annual average for the vast majority of farmers is about 60 hours a week.

Read on to learn more on the daily life on a farm and how many hours do farmers work.

Multiple Factors Affect Farmers’ Hours

daily life on a farm

As stated, the number of hours a farmer must work per week does vary from one season to another, but what other factors might cause the overall average to be so different from polling evidence?

A couple of factors that may cause this difference is the type of farming being conducted and the size of farm being considered. Daily life on a farm could differ greatly based on these factors and the location of the farm.

For example:

In this video, we catch a glimpse of life on a small Appalachian family farm and homestead. The work on the farm is done entirely by the family, and the fruits of the labor are for the family.

On this small Appalachian farm, farm chores are integrated into all aspects of everyday life. It would be hard to keep track of the number of hours spent specifically on farm work, and the impact of that work on the family would be quite different than the impact of farm work on a large, commercial farm such as the British cattle farm shown in the next video.

The young British farmer apparently lives off-site. When he arrives at the farm, he is expected to care for great many cattle, and it is apparently a full-time job. The use of heavy machinery makes it possible for him to conduct his tasks quickly and efficiently.

Clearly, the amount of time, effort and energy expended to care for a small family homestead differs greatly from that expended to care for large commercial cattle farm.

The medium sized organic produce and dairy farm in Vermont featured in the next video demonstrates a combination of the family daily frugal life approach and the commercial approach to farming.

In this instance, as with the small Appalachian homestead, farming chores are so interwoven into daily life that it might be hard to keep track of the number of hours family members spend working on the farm.

Simultaneously, because this family farm is a commercial concern, there are employees and interns involved. The owners of the farm speak of keeping close track of these peoples’ hours.

Farmers’ Hours Are A Topic Of Intense Study And Discussion

Agriland, a farming information website based in Ireland conducted a survey which verified the findings of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 1500 farmers participated in the Agriland survey.

Nearly 100% of them said that they work more than 40 hours every week. Over 70% said that they worked more than 60 hours a week. This finding further clarified Ireland’s Central Statistics Office report which claimed that farmers worked an average of 49 hours per week.

How do farmers hours compare with those of other business owners?

The information presented by the CSO indicated that people who own their own businesses usually work about 44 hours a week. People who are employed by others usually work a little under 35 hours a week. Part-time workers typically work around 20 hours a week.

Conversely, about three quarters of farmers reported that they devote about 10 hours every day specifically to farm work.

Another poll conducted by the agricultural website, Farm Journal Pulse found that about 50% of the 1600 farmers and ranchers polled said that they typically worked between 10 and 14 hours daily. Nearly 20% said that they worked about 15 hours a day. The remainder reported conducting farm work between 1 and 9 hours daily.

Why the difference?

As we’ve discussed, differences in the amount of time a farmer might spend on farm work can be found in the size, type and location of the farm. Additionally, personal habits may have some effect on time consumed.

The adage “work smarter not harder” is applicable across the board in any type of work. Good time management can greatly reduce the amount of time you must spend on your daily chores.

One good way to get control of the time you spend on farm work is to divide that work into 3 separate categories:

  1. Cost of production
  2. Yield levels
  3. Marketing

Honestly evaluate the amount of time you spend on each of these areas of farm management. You may find that you are spending a lot of time focusing on your production costs and yield levels and very little time focusing on marketing. The fact is, focusing on marketing may be a smarter time management strategy.

It’s important that you invest your time evenly across these 3 categories. Good marketing can ultimately help you meet your cost of production more effectively and efficiently. Having more capital to work with helps you increase your yield levels.

Once you’ve established how much time you are spending on each of these categories, identify ways that you can reorganize your time and your effort to give each category equal attention.

Decide what you want to accomplish in each of these 3 important categories. Establish goals and identify the steps you’ll need to take to attain them.

Farm Tasks Are Many And Varied

farm tasks are many and varied

In addition to planting and caring for crops, tending livestock and getting produce to market, most farmers must take care of a number of administrative and commercial tasks as well as supervising employees, interns and apprentices. This calls for an eclectic collection of knowledge, skills and abilities, along with intricate time management.

Some surprising time management tips for farming include:

1. Be your best self

Just as with any other type of work, if you wear yourself to a frazzle you won’t be worth much. It’s very important that you manage your health and your energy. Be sure to get adequate rest and to delegate tasks to others. Don’t carry all of the responsibility of your farm on your own shoulders.

Take time for recreation to keep your mental and emotional energy stable and positive.

2. Schedule your tasks to suit your energy levels

Don’t allow the tasks that need to be done to write your schedule for you. When you do this, you’ll end up spending your day running around putting out fires.

Instead, schedule tasks that require your sharp attention (e.g. paperwork) for early in the day when you are fresh. Schedule a break and then move on to accomplish less focus intensive tasks for later in the day.

3. Learn to delegate

If it’s your farm and you started it on your own, you may feel that your hand is necessary in every task. Let go of that idea.

As you gain more success, learn to delegate tasks that don’t absolutely require your attention. This will enable you to give more attention and energy to more complex tasks that do need the point of view that only you can provide.

4. Establish an overall guideline

Set a regular schedule for tasks that need to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly basis. Mark it all on your calendar and follow your guidelines as closely as you can. This will help you to stay on track and get things done.

When unexpected tasks appear, don’t allow them to drag you around by the nose. Schedule if you can. Avoid just dropping everything to deal with the unexpected.

5. Re-evaluate and readjust your routines frequently

It’s good to have efficient routines, but it is not good to become a slave to them. Anytime your daily routines are challenged by unexpected events, use it as an opportunity to look at your routines from a fresh perspective and adjust them accordingly.

Don’t waste time being upset that your routines have been disrupted. Adjust and move on.

6. Maintain focus

Avoid multitasking when you can. For example, if you’re doing paperwork let others know that you need a specific amount of time to focus and get the task completed. Move from one task to another with brief breaks between to allow you to adjust and give your undivided attention to every task at hand.

7. Schedule realistically

As you determine your goals and how you will reach them, be realistic. Estimate how much time it will take you to complete each step and also keep track of how much time it actually does take you. Make adjustments as needed to avoid putting unrealistic pressure on yourself and your farm hands.

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