Not all agricultural and livestock enterprises have the same recruitment goals - though some universal skill needs can help them to face their business challenges. One of the most significant specialist areas of farming is organic.
This blog will explore the possibility that organic farming requires a different skill emphasis, to match business needs, to relevant prospective employees.
How big is organic farming in the UK?
Organic farming has become a substantial fixture in the UK’s agricultural landscape in the past decade, accounting for 474 thousand hectares of farmland in 2018, and supporting over 6,000 solely organic operators.
This represents a decline when compared to its peak period of demand back in 2008. However, since 2014 the amount of fully converted land for organic farming has been steadily rising and the sector is gaining ground in general.
One area of growth in organic farming is poultry, showing a 10% increase in 2018 over the previous year’s figures (reaching around 3.4 million birds). However, organic poultry farming is still only 1.8% of the UK sector.
The significant uplift in agriculture and livestock operations committed to organic production methods shows that this sector is “coming of age”, and finding its niche amongst consumers.
To establish and grow a farm with organic credentials, do owners and managers need to recruit from specific skills sets?
Are organic farms more physical and “hands-on”?
Clearly, the type of organic enterprise you run – and the farming posts you seek to fill – dictate the skills and experience that you need to seek from job candidates.
However, there does appear to be a specific type of candidate profile that organic farm managers look for, to meet specialist needs and improve their market share.
For example, it could be safely argued that as organic ventures tend to rely on more traditional, labour-intensive methodology, they need to set more stringent physical targets for some job roles. Not relying on chemical plant regulators and controls, or technology-rich animal husbandry systems mean that some organic farm jobs are more strenuous and “hands-on” than mainstream counterparts.
On the other hand, relying on more traditional and “natural” farming techniques requires staff with a good level of critical analysis and observational skills, as well as physical strength. Organic farm workers will be required to stay constantly alert to crop and livestock status, without relying on many of the tools and systems that mainstream farms employ to control output.
They will also have to be ever ready and able to think quickly to problem solve, gathering information and taking action “outside the box” that conventional farming now uses to frame its working systems.
Organic agronomy jobs
Another area of farming recruitment that could have a different degree of importance for employers committed to organic principles, is soil and crop management roles.
This is, of course, a vital skill set for any farm that wants to maximise yield and maintain the quality of its output.
However, does the limited access to artificial aids mean that organic farming recruits need to have even greater acuity in some key attributes? This could include, for example, soil chemistry and fertility insights, propagation abilities, understanding of transplanting and seed management, and abilities to read and interpret soil test reports.
Having less chemical support means having a very close working relationship with "Mother Nature"!
A different breed of farming managers?
The need for agricultural recruitment to focus on management and IT skills is universal and imperative.
Modern farming can only survive and thrive, if it embraces the best in emerging tech and business control principles, to become more sustainable, leaner and more profitable.
There is merit in the argument that organic farms need all of this, but also an additional “edge”. These ventures need recruits with the vision and determination to find opportunities in niche markets, appealing to specific groups of consumers rather than the wider population as a whole.
Organic farm marketing roles, in particular, may need the assurance that candidates have authentic interests and insights. These would enable them to not simply just connect with existing “converts”. They will also have the ability and ideas needed to attract new generations of consumers to embrace organic products.
Having a genuine affinity to the organic cause can also ensure that recruits stay true to the principles, and are ready to help farm owners and managers protect the integrity of their operations.
A shared vision amongst all staff can be an important way to unlock commitment, a strong work ethic and attention to quality control.
Do organic farming business recruits need to be more “pushy”?
Organic farming job roles could potentially also require candidates with business and financial skills that can open more doors for the sector.
All agricultural enterprises are in a “fight to survive” these days.
Organic farms are no exception. Growing public awareness of product credentials and purity is not a “magic bullet”. Organic farms are equally reliant on lenders and other funders to keep cash flow healthy for example.
In fact, it could be argued that they have less short cuts to productivity savings, a more restricted consumer base, and a more limited supermarket supply chain to integrate.
Meaning that business roles in organic farming may require candidates to be even more focused and systematic in the way they approach innovation and development. They may also need more interpersonal and negotiation skills, to present a convincing argument to all stakeholders that organic enterprises are viable, and products at higher price points are worth the investment.
Studying organic farming
There are now a range of educational bodies in the UK offering specialist training in organic farming, including both undergraduate and Masters’ degrees.
If it is something people are passionate about, they also have the opportunity to develop organic farming skills and insights through the Worldwide Workers on Organic Farms organisation, which provides work experience placements (with food and accommodation provided free) within farms and smallholdings in the UK and overseas
Contact the team at Agricultural Recruitment Specialists to discuss the sector as a whole, and to match organic farming jobs to candidates who tick all the right boxes.
See our full range of job vacancies, take a look at our listings today.
Agricultural Recruitment Specialists are worldwide recruitment experts in agricultural, food, farming and rural recruitment and have a variety of executive and management positions available within agriculture, horticulture and the food and rural sectors throughout the UK and the rest of the world. To find out more about our agricultural job vacancies and discuss your future career, contact our team of agricultural recruitment professionals. You can visit our website here: www.agriRS.co.uk or call our team on: 01905 345 155 or email us at: info@agriRS.co.uk
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