Low salary makes farming a less attractive career

By Gus Bode

Farming is one of the less attractive careers due to salary

SIUC alumnus Trent Flexter of Cisne planned to return to his family farm after graduating with a degree in Agri-Mechanics in December 1999.

Instead, he works in Evansville, Ind., for Whayne Supply Corporation, one of the largest Caterpillar dealers nationwide.


“I wanted to work on the farm full-time, but there were not enough acres and the timing was not right,” Flexter said.

Approximately 5 percent of SIUC College of Agriculture graduates go into family farming after graduation, a career that was slated 243 out of 250 jobs ranked in the sixth edition of “Jobs Rated Almanac.”

Like Flexter, some graduates decide to work for agriculture companies as production managers and assistants. Working for a company usually offers benefits of housing, food, utilities and insurance and an average salary of $75,000.

Within each area of farming, the salary and benefit packages vary. In the swine industry, the average salary in 2002 is $45,416. Dairy farmers average $53,143, while beef farmers average $35,363 and crop farmers $38,416.

There are individual family farms that do not make as much on the average, bringing in approximately $20,000 in a good year.

Criteria for making the list in the “Jobs Rated Almanac” were income, physical demands, job security, potential growth, work environment and stress.

In farming weather, prices of equipment, competition and production values are a few stressors that affect production and the duration that someone may continue to work in the industry.


Flexter said the farm he grew up on produced corn, soybeans and wheat, and he knows the effect of stress first hand. He still works on his in-laws’ farm when he gets a chance, so he also has the stress of working a regular job.

“There are a lot of things that can stress you, like maintaining your family and dealing with the bank making sure your books are in order,” Flexter said.

Job security in farming is not as tight as some would like it to be. There are always times when acres are not available, and the weather does not always cooperate.

Associate Dean of Agriculture Robert Arthur said that because of the steady changing factors in farming, it is a difficult to tell how many students go into farming because the market changes from year to year.

Brett Hulmes, a 2001 SIUC alumnus from Dekalb, said one year depends on the previous year, whether or not someone will be able to continue operating.

One of the biggest factors in farming is the weather. In southern areas, farmers are able to prepare and plant as early as April, but in northern areas it varies because of the constant change.

Hulmes ended his college career wanting to go into farming but said he knew he would not be financially ready to start on his own. He instead took a job working for LaSalle County Farm Supply.

“I plan to go into farming after my father and uncle retire in about 10 to 15 years,” Hulmes said.

Like Hulmes and Flexter, many are considering the farming industry to be a future endeavor, so in the meantime, they work for supply companies offering machine rentals as well as seeds, chemicals and fertilizers.

“Farming is constantly changing,” Flexter said. “Everything is getting larger faster and more mechanical.”

Reporter Samantha Robinson can be reached at [email protected]