Tips for Finding Sustainable Agriculture Jobs

This article from Green Jobs Network is designed to provide job seekers with tips on locating jobs in the sustainable agriculture sector.  If you have any feedback on this article, feel free to contact us.

First, a definition. For purposes of this article, we will use the following definition of sustainable agriculture (from the 1990 Farm Bill):

the term sustainable agriculture means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:

  • satisfy human food and fiber needs
  • enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends
  • make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls
  • sustain the economic viability of farm operations
  • enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole

Part 1: Job Boards

One method to identify sustainable agriculture jobs is to review a popular source of job postings – online job boards.  In reviewing job boards, it may be helpful to think about them in three categories:

1.) General job boards

These are broad-based boards that cover many industries and sectors. These include well-known sites including CareerBuilder, Craigslist, Indeed, Monster, Simply Hired, and Yahoo HotJobs.  Examples of jobs in the sustainable agriculture sector that have recently been posted on these boards include:

2.) Green job boards

A number of job boards now focus on opportunities related to environmental or social responsibility.  These include job boards such as, TreeHugger's Job Board, and (from Green Jobs Network).  Jobs in sustainable agriculture can be found on such boards, such as this posting for a Program Director, Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops at the Ag Innovations Network.

You can view a comprehensive list of green job boards on Green Collar Blog.

3.) Sustainable agriculture job sites

In addition to green job boards, there are sites that list jobs specifically in the sustainable agriculture sector.  These include the Sustainble Food Jobs Blog and the classifieds section of the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) website, which features employment and Employment and Apprenticeships/Internships in California and other states.  These sites are included on Green Collar Blog's list of green job boards.

As job seekers know, job boards aren't the only source for identifying jobs. The next section of this article series will examine the Hidden Sustainable Agriculture Job Market.

Part 2: The Hidden Sustainable Agriculture Job Market

Sustainable agriculture jobs can be found in a number of areas in addition to online job boards.  In some instances employers may not publicize a job opportunity via a traditional online job board for reasons such as time (for example, the company may not be able to invest the internal human resources needed to review a large number of applicants that could arise with a broad-based posting) or capacity (for example, a young company may not have a complete human resources department). Some of the other sources and strategies to locate jobs in sustainable agriculture include:

1.) Go Direct

Some organizations may publish job listings on their website, but not necessarily conduct additional external recruitment for candidates.  To access these opportunities job seekers should identify organizations they would be interested in working for and review the Jobs or Careers section of their website for potential jobs. Strategies to identify employers include:

By going direct, you may be able to identify jobs such as these current openings:

2.) Networking

Networking can enable job seekers to learn about job opportunities.  There are a vast number of approaches and strategies for networking, including attending events by organizations such as EcoTuesday and GreenDrinks, participating in the local chapter of a national organization such as Slow Food USA, or attending programs or conferences such as the Green Festival.  There are also internet-based approaches to networking (see point #4). Due to the importance of networking to a successful job search it will be the focus of a future article on Green Collar Blog.

3.) Academic Institutions

There are a number of academic institutions in the sustainable agriculture and food sectors.  These institutions offer a range of job-related resources for their students and graduates, including job fairs.  Some of these resources may be publicly accessible and beneficial to others. For example, Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has an informative Finding a Job section. 

List of such institutions are available from sources including the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service and Sustainable Agriculture: Information Access Tools.

4.) Online Social Media

There are an increasing number of job opportunities posted via online social media channels.  For example, all groups on the professional networking site LinkedIn include a "Jobs" tab where job opportunities can be posted.  Company representatives (including hiring managers) may use social media to conduct their own outreach for potential candidates.  For example, the Green Jobs and Career Network group on LinkedIn currently contains more than 80 job postings in various locations. 

In addition, as with other types of jobs, some sustainable agriculture opportunities can now also be found on Twitter (for example, see this tweet regarding an internship at the Stewardship Council).

5.) E-mail Lists

There are a number of specialized e-mail lists that distribute job postings.  A number of these list are free for job seekers to join, including EnviJobs, Green Job List, and YNPN.

6.) Recruiters

As with job boards, there are an increasing number of recruiters that focus on careers pertaining to sustainability.  A number of these organizations will post positions for which they are currently seeking candidates (for an example, see Commongood Careers).  A list of some green recruiters is available on Green Collar Blog.

7.) Membership Organizations

Industry associations and other membership-based organizations can offer job postings among their member services.  For example, Net Impact, a national organization that focuses on harnessing the power of business for social good, has an extensive set of career services (including a job board and resume tips) as well as an annual career expo.

In addition to finding current job opportunities, there are some approaches for identifying future sustainable agriculture jobs.  This will be the focus of the next part.

Part 3: Future Jobs in Sustainable Agriculture

1.) Follow the Money

One method to identify potential future jobs is to identify where investments are being made today.  This can be a productive strategy as these investments may lead to the development of new enterprises that have jobs. Specific approaches include:

  • Identifying private sector investment.  Venture capital firms, private equity firms, and corporations are all making significant investments in existing or new enterprises in the green sector.  The recipients of these investment may be sources of future (or even current) job opportunities.  Sources to learn about these investments include GreenBeat, Greentech Media, and Green VC.  An example of  a recent investment is the $2 million received by Alter Eco, a maker of ethically sourced foods from around the world.
  • Identify public sector investment.  As with the private sector, the public sector is investing in the green sector and the recipients of these investment may also be sources of current or future job opportunities.  Sources to learn about these investments include the ones mentioned above as well as directly reviewing government websites such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

2.) Follow the Law

A second method to identify potential future jobs is to identify federal, state, or local legislative, judicial, or regulatory changes that impact this sector.  Government action can include providing funds for new initiatives that can lead to new employment opportunities or rules that may lead to new business opportunities.

3.) Follow the Startups

New enterprises can be a source for potential future job opportunities.  Some strategies for identifying these are:

  • Green and Social Venture Business Plan Competitions.  These programs are organized by business schools and other organizations and are generally geared to ventures that are at an early stage in their development. These include programs such as the Global Social Venture Competition.  Job seekers can review the list of entrants and winners of these competitions as potential future sources of jobs.  In addition, job seekers may consider entering a competition or joining the team of an entrant (some of these competitions offer mixers to facilitate team recruitment).  A list of some of these competitions is available on Green VC.
  • Green and Social Entreprenuership Awards and Fellowships.  These program vary and include cash prizes for one-time contests, seed funding for new ventures, and later-stage funding for existing organizations.  These include programs such as Echoing Green and the Skoll Award for Social Entreprenuership.  As with business plan competitions, job seekers can review the list of winners of these programs as potential future sources of jobs.  A list of some of these programs is available on Green VC.

This concludes the Tips for Finding Sustainable Agriculture Jobs article.  We hope this information is useful in your job search and we welcome your feedback.