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10 Agriculture Jobs That Didn’t Exist 25 Years Ago

October 21, 2014 |

Mark Winchel tends to his aquaponics system. Photo courtesy of Aquaponics North.

Mark Winchel tends to his aquaponics system. Photo courtesy of Aquaponics North.

What we as a nation define as “agriculture” is morphing and expanding to reflect the changing landscape of American industry.  In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics referred to organic food production as a “growth industry,” denoting a turning point between the farming of the past and the forward-looking, sustainable farming and food economy of the future.

Here are 10 new agriculture and food-sector jobs that didn’t exist 25 years ago. 

Aquaponics Farmer

An aquaponics farmer raises fish in tanks and uses the fish waste water to grow plants and vegetables. Operations can be as small as a backyard tank to a full scale commercial operation.  The recently released 2013 Aquaculture Census states there are now 71 aquaponic farms in the United States with 650 commercial tanks in operation. In the 2005 data, updated in 2007, aquaponics isn’t even mentioned. Aquaponics farming as a measurable commercial American industry is still in its infancy, but looks looks like a growth industry.

Farm-to-School Coordinator

A farm-to-school coordinator works with local farmers to get their products into local school districts. Coordinators build a network of farmers, organize food deliveries, negotiate contracts and set the foundation for a regional food system. Depending on the school district, coordinators may set policy and initiate food system programs as well as help schools design lunch menus and educate students on food production. Not all school districts require a college degree for their farm to school coordinator but a love of local food systems and local children is a must.

Food Hub Manager

As food hubs spring up or expand across the country, the need for experienced and proactive managers is essential to their success.  A liaison between the farmers and their diverse urban markets, the food hub manager not only acts as a local food coordinator they are often instrumental in the revitalization of America’s downtowns. The food hub manager helps the city or nonprofit turn empty downtown buildings into local food aggregators, setting the capstone for a main street of local food service related businesses. Improving urban access to healthy food, eliminating food desserts and creating local employment are just a few of the roles played by the food hub manager.

Honey Extraction Services Owner

As enthusiasm for backyard beekeeping increases, the need for professional extraction services increases. Extraction companies offer the urban beekeeper a sanitary place and the equipment to extract their honey from the hive frames without a large monetary investment. Many places offer cleanup and bottling services as well as workshops and classes for would-be beekeepers. An exciting urban startup, the honey extraction service is a growing sustainable niche.

Edible Landscaper

Creating decorative landscapes in the urban setting is nothing new but ensuring that the landscape does double duty as a backyard local food system is. Edible landscapes from backyard gardens to urban fruit orchards are the latest trend in city based agriculture. Some companies offer design and implementation as well as harvesting and education to their customers. Like any landscape company seasonal maintenance provides a steady line of income with clients enjoying custom compost, drip irrigation in their backyards and an educational project for friends and family.

Vertical Farmer

Vertical farming is a burgeoning agricultural niche that may soon become the norm in cities and towns across the globe. Utilizing vertical urban space such as abandoned megastore shells and the exteriors of skyscrapers, vertical farming uses the vertical rather than the horizontal space to grow the world’s food supply. From conveyer belt rows of hydroponic nutrient pods inside abandoned big box store structures to greenhouses built into the sides of skyscrapers, vertical farming has the potential to change the way the world looks at and grows its food.

Food Truck Driver

According to Forbes, there are over three million food trucks in operation around the country ensuring plenty of work for the food truck driver. Farm trucks owned by farmers that take produce to the city and sell at farmer’s markets are growing in popularity. No longer must the professional driver set their sights on long distance hauling jobs. The urban food truck driver can have their pick of the local sustainable businesses and enjoy a free lunch on the job.

Hydroponic Farmer

Soiless growing uses one to 10 percent of the water of traditional in-ground growing techniques offering hydroponic farmers the change to produce more with less. As water issues plague many communities, hydroponic farming is a viable alternative farming method. Growing in greenhouses year round ensures a local supply of leafy greens as well as a steady local customer base.  Many traditional farms house hydroponic greenhouses and much urban agriculture zoning is given over to hydroponic food production. This is an established market experiencing growth.

Urban Farmer

City farms look set to play a key role in urban economies across the nation. The urban farmer often sets up production on abandoned city lots, leasing land from the city and working in partnership with local governments, community organizations and nonprofits. Often existing on grant money and CSA shares, the urban farm aids in the eradication of food desserts while increasing urban access to sustainable food.

Pod Farmer

Call it a pod, call it a secondhand shipping container, it boils down to the same thing. Pod farming is a very new agricultural niche with lots of potential for growth. Some pod farmers purchase new shipping containers and create vertical pod farms. Others take a single shipping container, bury it in the ground and create self-contained mushroom farms. With lower overhead and upkeep costs than most commercial farming operations, the pod farm offers new farmers and sustainable startup investors a chance to explore yet another new way of thinking about agriculture.

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