Good seeds make a good crop

August 30, 2018 | Luxembourg’s business sectors | Emilie di Vincenzo

Farmer: A job that demands enthusiasm and versatility

The job of a farmer is by no means just suitable for sons and daughters of farmers. It still holds a special position. In particular, a future farmer must love nature and be prepared for irregular and long working hours.

Furthermore, in the 21st century, a farmer must have a sound knowledge of bookkeeping and legal regulations. They require technical competences to master modern processing methods in crop cultivation and animal breeding.

Even if agriculture’s share in the grand duchy’s overall employment is very low (less than 1%), the farmer’s profession is more valuable than ever today. They not only contribute to the development of plant production and animal breeding – as the basis of our food products. Regarding the country’s total area, more of half of which is tilled by farmers, individuals contributing to this field thereby also play an outstanding role in maintaining the natural balance.

They not only contribute to the development of plant production and animal breeding – as the basis of our food products.

From an economic perspective, the industry is continually changing. The number of agricultural businesses is declining. However, the average operational unit is now larger and more specialised. The number of employees is increasing (the share of workers who do not belong to the farmer’s family has nearly doubled over the last 30 years). Even though farmers’ revenue is seeing long-term increases, fluctuations can still be observed, since the changes in international markets have a negative effect. The person running an agricultural operation, who owns farmland, livestock, and machines, is by definition not an employee and is therefore categorised as self-employed. These people must prepare for considerable temporary income loss. During the milk crisis in 2016, the estimated hourly earnings of individuals working in this industry amounted to €11 per hour. A full-time employed technician in this industry can expect a starting salary of about €2,000.

Whether or not their family’s background lies in farming, agricultural workers should demonstrate a number of competences. Aside from knowledge of crop cultivation and animal breeding, they must be proficient in accounting, data processing, have knowledge of legal regulations, and – in terms of maintaining agricultural machines – possess a certain amount of mechanical engineering knowledge. In general, they frequently work outside in nature and should prepare for irregular working hours. A diploma can now also be obtained for the farming profession.

Vocational training and diplomas

Training takes place at the technical-agricultural secondary school in Ettelbruck. This is the only educational facility located in Luxembourg that offers programmes in the areas of agriculture, horticulture, natural environment, and agricultural machines.

Students receive their diploma at the end of the 9th grade. During the three-year school programme, training phases offered by the technical secondary school alternate with internships at companies (i.e. farming businesses). Thanks to this education, graduates are then proficient in technologies for cultivating fields and crops.

As part of their training, for which students receive a diploma, information on operating and maintaining agricultural machines and technological facilities is conveyed. The graduate is also familiar with accounting terms. In this industry, individuals can then become self-employed farmers or work as employees at an agricultural business.

It is also possible to take courses in the specialist area of natural environment and tilling grounds, which prepare students for acquiring a diploma in agricultural technology, or agricultural technology focused on horticulture.

Agricultural technician

Preparations for the diploma start in the 9th grade. The requirements stipulate that applicants have at least a basic knowledge in scientific subjects. The training takes four years.

At the end of their schooling, a certified agricultural technician has mastered operational planning of animal breeding and crop cultivation, monitoring and optimising production, warehousing or proper storage of products, monitoring and analysing the soil and products.

A certified agricultural technician can climb the ladder to become the head of an agricultural business, either self-employed or as an employee. They can also work their way up to a managing position at a company or a laboratory for animal or plant biology, a cooperative, or a company in the food sector.

It is also possible to take courses in the specialist area of natural environment and tilling grounds, which prepare students for acquiring a diploma in agricultural technology, or agricultural technology focused on horticulture.

Agronomics engineer: Some training programmes conclude with the title of agronomics engineer (or also agroforestry engineer) or as a head officer in the area of agriculture. To begin with, training takes place at a university. This is followed by study trips abroad. If a graduate with a biology specialisation is not interested in a position as a researcher or teacher, they can work as a consultant for companies in the food industry or in the veterinary sector.

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