Vegetable farming is often referred to as market gardening. Cut flowers and herbs may also sometimes be called market gardening too; and some growers may grow all three types of produce. Vegetables can be grown in greenhouses or open fields; as row crops or broad acre.
Scope of Work
Some farms may only grow one type of vegetable whereas others may grow a wide range. Field crops have to suit the climate and soil whereas greenhouses and other structures can be used to grow crops out of season or those not suited to local conditions.
Many vegetables are grown as row crops in raised beds. Machinery is commonly used to prepare and form the soil. Planting seed or seedlings, spraying, weed control, watering, and even harvesting may be done manually or be automated by using machines. Large scale crops (e.g. potatoes) may be grown on acreage with most, if not all, tasks carried out by machines.
Much of the human work on a vegetable farm can involve manual labour. Everyday tasks include things like spraying for pests and diseases, weed control, feeding, watering and harvesting. The amount of manual work depends on the nature and scope of the vegetables being produced, the size of the facility and costs.
There is increasing use of machines and robots, however there may be a need for humans to operate the machinery e.g. to fly drones to inspect crops or spray them. Harvest and post harvest operations can also take a significant proportion of the manpower on a farm.
What You Need to Learn
- Vegetable knowledge - Knowledge of different types of vegetables, their names, and uses
- Harvest & post-harvest - Knowledge of harvesting methods & equipment, processing (if relevant e.g. pickling vegetables), storage
- Cultural techniques - Planting, pruning, watering frequency and duration, planting, transplanting, staking
- Health management - Plant pests, diseases and environmental disorders, biosecurity
- Environmental control - Ventilation, irrigation & misting, heating & cooling, lighting, carbon dioxide injection
- Soils - Potting media & soil structure, chemistry, management techniques e.g. improving soils, aeration, etc.
- Tools & equipment - Selection of the right tool for the job, cleaning tools, correct operation & use, maintenance & repair
- Communication skills - Dealing with clients, arranging appointments, giving advice
- Sales skills - Customers interaction, selling produce, earn repeat business, network with suppliers, place orders, keep inventories, marketing, advertising
- Health & safety - Assessment of risks & hazards, use of personal protective equipment, fire alarms & drills, location of first aid kits, basic first aid procedures
Starting a Career
Entry pathways include:
- Entry-level work in a vegetable growing business
- Working as a farm hand
- Growing your own vegetables
- Joining a community garden
- Joining a local association
- Taking courses
- Attending workshops and seminars in your community
You can also start out by setting up their own vegetable growing business, starting small like a backyard market garden, and then maybe building up to something larger if it is successful.
Voluntary work with gardening clubs or local horticultural enterprises is especially valuable for learning about plants, how they grow, how to prune them, and so forth.
Progressing a Career
Work in vegetable farms can be advanced to supervisory or managerial type positions through shear hard work and determination. This depends to some extent on the size of the operation.
There are also other roles which those working in this industry could aim for, such as:
- Product development (e.g. developing new vegetable cultivars)
- Becoming a rep of the business (e.g. visiting buyers, such as supermarkets, and establishing contracts)
- Working in marketing and advertising
- Establishing their own vegetable farm
- Good ways to keep up to date with current trends and technological advancements in the industry are:
- Joining trade associations or bodies
- Attending garden shows, agricultural shows and trade shows
- Attending workshops and seminars
- Undertaking further study - Any courses taken should be ones which help to reinforce what you learn rather than quick fix courses. They can be evening courses or courses provided by distance education, so long as the course providers have suitably qualified tutors who can provide adequate feedback.