There are many jobs within the agricultural sector. With our recurring Farmer in Focus segment, we hope to showcase the variety of work that different people do in the field! This week we profiled Andrew, a Crop Consultant from Arkansas!
Andrew got his start in agriculture almost a decade ago, working in processing at a chemical company. After three years in his initial role, he switched to the crop consulting side of business!Starting in a crew, Andrew learned how to look out for pests and crop discrepancies such as weed issues, fertilizer issues, and nutrient problems to help farmers make better decisions with their crops.
He explains how he fell into agricultural work! “Within that learning process of working at the chemical company, I fell in love with the business itself. I fell in love with the ever-changing ways of agriculture. The fact that you’re learning something new every day is what did it for me. That’s what got me.” Andrew started with no experience in agriculture, “I was just a kid riding in the passenger seat of a truck learning from my crew.” He had never really looked into jobs in the sector before. He soon realized, “This is what I want to go to college for. This is what I want to do for a career.” Andrew then went on to study a double major of Ag Business with Plant & Soil Science at Southeast Missouri State University.
Andrew now works for another company, and they are running crop consulting for around 20,000 acres of cotton, with a five-person crew.He says that Crop Consulting is a massive business with farms spending hundreds of thousands on the service per year!
We asked Andrew how farmers justify spending so much money for a service like crop consulting, and Andrew explained, “They justify this with testimonials and referrals... Say Joe down the road was making 45 bushels of beans four years ago, and now, he’s running 90 bushels a year ever since he’s hired us.” With their help, increased yield adds up over a 10,000-acre field, and farmers double their output on their crop. That is why they see it as a worthwhile investment, especially in the long run.
The job of a farming consultant is not easy! They have to show the added value of their service and how much extra farmers can make if they increase their yields over a long period. This requires farmers to put a lot of trust in the consultants’ knowledge to see increases in output based on predictions that were made a year in advance! This includes things like fixing the field’s nutrient deficiencies, using the best seeds, sprays and using practices such as cover crops.We asked Andrew what the job looks like on a day-to-day basis, and he told us how it changes every day. You’re always learning to stay ahead of the curve—trying out new farming practices, using seeds with more resistance, chemicals for specific bugs or pests that show up, or testing out new technology on the market such as the CropSafe app.
A typical day would be driving around several fields with a crew in the truck. Andrew tells us, “The crew would take you to a field and drop you off. An example, drop-off, you’d have two 40 acre fields and an 80-acre field. You get out of the truck at one end of the field, and the driver will pick you up on the other end. This is also where the logistics of it came into play... let’s say you’ve got three guys; you drop each person off at a different spot. How can you do that in the most efficient way possible to save time and cover the right amount of ground to understand crop health. So you couldn’t just walk straight through. If you were to walk straight through, you wouldn’t get a good look at the entire overlay of the field. So you’d have to walk corner to corner and make sure you’re coving each point of the field, or if there weren’t a road on the south end of one field, and it was a ditch, and they couldn’t get to you’d have to make a U in it and time it, so the driver isn’t sitting waiting for you. I find it interesting how you took geography into account when scouting a field to find the optimal track through.”
Crop Consultants like Andrew are highly knowledgeable in their field, mainly because they specialize in one crop, cotton, in Andrew’s case. This knowledge comes from their educational background and their experience in various farms. They have a larger scope of what works and what doesn’t because of their exposure to multiple farms in the area. Farmers are relying on this knowledge and experience to help them bring higher yields and return more significant profits than before.
Crop Consultants are a valuable service for farmers, and we want to enable Consultants like Andrew to do more with tools like CropSafe at their disposal.