Farm Maintenance Worker

Farm maintenance workers work under the supervision of farmers or farm managers or foremen. The nature of the work of farm workers differs according to the type of farming.

Farming is seasonal, and some times of the year are busier than others.  On crop farms, farm workers are responsible for ploughing, planting, cultivation, pruning, irrigation, fertilising and spraying of crops.  They dig and plant seeds, or transplant seedlings by hand, identify plants, pests and weeds to determine the selection and application of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers, apply these to the crops, and inform the farmers or farm managers of the progress of the crop.  Fruits and vegetables are harvested by hand, and these agricultural products loaded into trucks, which are driven to market or storage facilities. Information about the crops is recorded, such as pesticides used, yields and costs. They are also involved in the inspection, grading, sorting, storage and post-harvest treatment of the crops.

They may need to direct and monitor the work of casual and seasonal help during planting and harvesting, clear and maintain irrigation ditches and set up and operate irrigation equipment.  They need to be able to operate tractors, tractor-drawn machinery and self-propelled machinery to plough, harrow and fertilise the soil, or to plant, cultivate, spray and harvest crops. 

On livestock farms, farm workers care for, mark or brand and dip animals.  They are responsible for their feeding, cleaning their stalls, caring for sick or newborn livestock and using milking machines for dairy work.  They may be involved with the processing of meat, dairy products and wool. Some farm workers’ duties include maintenance of tractors and other farming implements, and/or the construction and maintenance of farm buildings and fences.

Most jobs involve working outdoors in all weather conditions, in the early morning, evenings and weekends.  Farm work can by dirty and dusty.

Personal Requirements

  • enjoy working outdoors
  • like working with plants, animals and/or machinery
  • practical and hard-working
  • good health, physical strength and stamina
  • responsible and self-disciplined

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory subjects: None  

What to Study

Agricultural colleges offer basic courses, which cover the following three categories:

  • Agricultural and Horticultural Training
  • Mechanical and Building Training
  • Business and Informal Training
At agricultural colleges, emphasis is placed on the agricultural situation prevalent in the area served by the specific college. Agricultural colleges include:
  • Elsenburg Agricultural Development Institute - Stellenbosch
  • Glen Agricultural Development Institute - Bloemfontein
  • Grootfontein Agricultural College - Middelburg
  • Cedara Agricultural Development Institute - Pietermaritzburg
  • Lowveld Agricultural College - Nelspruit
  • Owen Sitole College of Agriculture - Empangeni
Farm workers may receive in-service training under supervision of farmers, farm managers or foremen.


  • owners of farms
  • tenant farmers
  • large farming corporations
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Health
  • Department of Land Affairs

Further Information

Agricultural Research Council
1134 Park street
Hatfield, Pretoria 
Tel: (012) 427-9700

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work as a farm hand
  • grow vegetables in your own garden
  • arrange to visit different farms and speak to farm workers about their work

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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