4 minute read

Tobacco Farmer—Cotton and Peanut Job Description, Career as a Tobacco Farmer—Cotton and Peanut, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Varies—see profile

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Cotton, tobacco, and peanuts are among the major agricultural crops produced in the United States. Farmers usually specialize in growing just one of these crops. Many cotton, tobacco, and peanut farmers own their land and equipment. Others are tenant farmers who rent the land they farm. Another system of farming is sharecropping. Sharecroppers receive seeds, tools, fertilizer, and living quarters from the landowner. When the crop is harvested, sharecroppers are entitled to a share of the earnings after the cost of seed, rent, and supplies is deducted.

Planting, cultivating, and harvesting the crops are the basic steps in cotton, tobacco, and peanut farming. Each crop, however, is grown in a different way. Cotton farmers use machines to prepare and fertilize the soil. They use hand tools to weed and thin the crops to get rid of weak plants and to give sturdier plants enough room to grow. Some cotton fields are irrigated. Farmers harvest the fields with cotton-picking machines or by hand. When farmers and farm laborers pick the cotton by hand, they walk or crawl along the rows and drop the cotton into sacks or buckets. Farmers may sell their cotton to local markets, brokers, or field representatives who buy for central markets. Central markets are generally located near ports or railroad terminals. Some farmers sell through growers' cooperatives that send sales representatives to these central markets.

Tobacco farmers sow the seeds in beds covered with cloth or glass to protect them from the weather. When the seeds grow into small plants, they are transplanted to the field. Farmers spread netting over the tobacco field to shield the plants from sun and insects. When they harvest the plants, the farmers cure the tobacco leaves. They sew the leaves to slats or place them on racks in curing sheds. When the curing is finished, farmers strip the leaves from the slats or racks and spray them with water. Finally they tie the leaves in bundles and pack them in ready-to-market containers.

A tobacco farmer checks his crops. Tobacco is a major U.S. agricultural crop. (© Terry Wild Studio. Reproduced by permission.)

Peanut farmers use a good deal of power equipment and some hand labor. They use machines to prepare and fertilize the soil, equipment to plant peanuts in rows, and hoes to weed the crop until its leaves shade the ground. After machines have harvested the crops, farmers stack, dry, and cure the plants in the field for several weeks. They use machines to separate the peanuts from the vines. The machines discharge the peanuts into a bag through a spout. The bags are then tied or sewed by hand, ready for market.

Education and Training Requirements

The demands of modern farming require some college education. Many two-year and four-year colleges offer courses in agriculture. Interested candidates should also take courses in business and marketing.

Getting the Job

To start a farm, prospective farmers must have or be able to borrow a great deal of money. Placement offices in agricultural colleges might offer job leads.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Farmers who grow cotton, tobacco, or peanuts may add more land to their farms in order to increase their profits. On very large farms, farm laborers or other helpers may advance to management positions with further education.

Farms are becoming larger in size and fewer in number. Also, the number of acres being farmed is decreasing because the land is being used for residential and industrial development. As a result, there will be a decrease in the number of new cotton, tobacco, and peanut farmers through the year 2012.

Working Conditions

Farmers need good health and physical strength. Much of their work is done outdoors. They may work long hours when weather conditions cause a change in scheduled planting or harvesting times. Many accidents that occur involve agricultural machinery. Because of changing market conditions and the risks of crop failure, farmers face economic uncertainty. Cotton, tobacco, and peanuts, however, are usually government-supported crops, so there may be less risk involved for these farmers than for others. Despite the possible hazards, farmers have great satisfaction in their love of the land and their ability to run their own business.

Where to Go for More Information

National Cotton Council of America
1918 N Pkwy.
Memphis, TN 38112-5000
(901) 274-9030

National Cottonseed Products Association
104 Timber Creek Dr., Ste. 200
Cordova, TN 38018
(901) 682-0800

National Farmers Organization
528 Billy Sunday Rd., Ste. 100
Ames, IA 50010
(800) 247-2422

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary widely depending on the size of the operation, the investment, and the crop. For example, during a bad year, the owners of some small cotton farms can earn less than is needed for basic sustenance. However, some cotton farmers with large farms earn more than $100,000 during a productive year. Farmers who are self-employed must provide their own benefits.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesAgribusiness, Environment, and Natural Resources