Careers Outside the Kitchen: Growing & Cultivating Food

In our last post on careers in food, we talked food photographers, food stylists, tasters and food writers.

This week we focus on people in the food industry who are involved in growing and cultivating food.

Agriculturalists – It’s only fair to start this post with farmers. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S. has around 2.2 million farms, with one in three farms being planted solely for export. About 97 percent of U.S. farms are operated by families – individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. These farmers grow crop and raise livestock. 

Average Salary: The median annual wage for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers was $69,300 in May 2012. As you can imagine, profits vary widely based on location, size of land, crops grown etc. 

 Photo Credit:  Justin Sewell  ,  License

Photo Credit: Justin Sewell , License

Beekeepers Beekeepers or apiarists are people who raise honeybees for honey, beeswax, pollen and royal jelly. Some beekeepers provide pollination services to farmers. Beekeepers assess the health of the hive, check for mite infestations, treat the hive when health problems arise, and maintain detailed records of health and honey production.

Here's a fun fact: Bees tend to attack dark moving objects because their natural predators in the wild are bears and skunks. So beekeepers wear light-colored protective clothing to avoid stings. 

Average Salary: $52,000 as of 2011. 

Mushroom Growers  Mushroom growers produce mushrooms for the food market. In order to maintain a sterile environment, the cultivating process begins in the laboratory. Mushroom spores are so tiny that lab technicians inoculate sterile cereal grains with the spores. These grains become 'spawn' which can then be sown like seed in organic compost at a farm. Temperature and humidity are carefully controlled for the growing period. Mushrooms mature at varying times, so picking by hand is continuous for six to ten weeks. Mushrooms are difficult commodities to grow and intensive labor is required to produce a consistent, high-quality crop.

Average Salary: $43,230

 Photo Credit:  Rae Allen ,  License

Photo Credit: Rae Allen, License

Cheesemakers – Yes, it may be a smelly job, but if you love cheese, it could be the career for you. The art of making cheese is an ancient one, with archeological evidence dating back to the Ancient Egyptians.

Cheesemakers convert milk into cheese. Individual cheesemakers operate on a small scale and sell handmade products. In this case, the taste and texture of a particular cheese may vary with each batch. Cheesemaking factories, however, use scientific means and the end product tends to be more predictable (though perhaps less interesting).

Average Salary: It's clear that most cheesemakers work in the profession for the love of the craft, rather than the monetary compensation. As of November 2010, the average salary of a cheesemaker in the U.S. ranged between $28,896 and $45,440. 

 Photo Credit:  Tama Leaver ,   License

Photo Credit: Tama Leaver,  License

Winemakers Winemakers hire and direct the staff in a wine cellar, develop blends, and evaluate the grape supply needs of the winery. Winemakers often travel and promote the winery. They often have degrees or experience in business or viticulture.

Winemakers are also responsible for deciding what type of grapes from the vineyards should be bought by the winery for the process of fermentation. (For red wine, the pulp and skins of red or black grapes are fermented, whereas for white wine, skins are removed and grapes are crushed to extract a juice that is fermented.) Red wine is often transferred to oak barrels to mature for a period of weeks or months to release oak aromas to the wine. The winemaker then oversees the clarification, filtration and bottling of the wine.

Average Salary: As of 2011, Wine Business Monthly reports that senior winemakers earned average annual salaries ranging from $115,000 to $130,000, depending on the size of the winery.

 Photo Credit:  Don Hankins  ,  License

Photo Credit: Don Hankins , License