Programs in farm and ranch management prepare people to produce food crops and animals for market. Students learn to manage crops and animals, accounts, and facilities. They also learn to manage labor contracts and budgets.
It's easy to think of farm life as easy and peaceful. You're out in the country, breathing clean air and eating fresh vegetables from the garden every night. Best of all, there are no cell phones or e-mail waiting to be returned.
Or are there? While farm life is certainly different from life in the urban world, it is just as complex. (And yes, cell phones and e-mail are used regularly!) Records and money must be managed, often by sophisticated computer software. And of course, the farm or ranch itself has to be run. The crops and animals must be fed and grown for harvest and processing. In order to make money, yields must be high, and the final product must be sold and shipped. In fact, life on the farm or ranch is often so busy that owners and managers rarely take a vacation! But most will tell you it's all worth it.
Whether you want to manage your own operation or work for someone else, farm and ranch management takes a special set of skills. You may gain skills by living and working on a ranch or farm. To that, you must add knowledge of agricultural science, management, purchasing, and computer technology. The size and type of farm or ranch may determine how much formal training you need.
In farm and ranch management programs, your course work teaches you management and business skills. You learn marketing and economics principles. You also learn ways to maximize sales and profits. In addition, you learn advanced farming and ranching techniques. You learn ways to use technology to increase yields and efficiency. You also study plant and animal physiology and the latest breeding techniques. Overall, farm and ranch management programs teach you how to make better business decisions.
About 65 schools offer programs specifically in this field. In addition, every state has a land grant college that offers agricultural science programs. Many other colleges and universities also offer degrees or courses in agriculture. Certificate and associate's degree programs are available in farm and ranch management from some two-year colleges. They typically include a period of work experience.
After completing a one- or two-year program, students often choose whether to enter the work force or continue in college. You may be able to transfer credits to a four-year school. If you wish to pursue graduate study, look to agriculture business and management programs.