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Market Gardener

Market gardeners grow fresh produce, such as vegetables, fruits, and herbs. They may grow potted and cut flowers to sell directly to consumers. They also create value-added, processed products such as jams or jellies, pickles, and other finished, ready-to-eat items.

Also Known As

Farmer, Producer

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used.

Here is how this occupation has been classified over time.

2006 NOC

  • 8251: Farmers and Farm Managers

2006 NOC-S

  • I011: Farmers and Farm Managers

2011 NOC

  • 0821: Managers in agriculture

2016 NOC

  • 0821: Managers in agriculture

2021 NOC

  • 80020: Managers in agriculture

2023 OaSIS

  • 80020.00: Managers in agriculture
Duties
Updated Mar 22, 2023

Market gardeners’ duties vary with the seasons. In winter and early spring, they:

  • Determine which crops to grow based on opportunities in the market and on local climate and soil conditions
  • Select seed varieties and cultivars
  • Develop plans for planting schedules, crop rotation, crop yields, and pest management
  • Hire and train staff for the coming season
  • Order and purchase seeds or plants, fertilizer, and other production materials, supplies, and equipment
  • Plant seeds and transplants
  • Grow seedlings in greenhouses / protected culture for transplanting in the spring
  • Prepare fields and seed beds
  • Till, fertilize, and irrigate soil

From spring to fall they:

  • Irrigate and fertilize crops
  • Perform maintenance tasks related to growing specific crops, such as pruning
  • Manage weeds, diseases, and insects

Harvest activities vary with the type of crop. Market gardeners may:

  • Harvest crops manually
  • Use specialized harvesters or harvesting aids
  • Create and maintain a market for crops by continuous advertising
  • Promote their products by maintaining a regular presence at local markets
  • Clean, trim, cool, grade, package, store, and transport crops to market
  • Prepare value-added products, such as pickled, frozen, dried, or other processed products
  • Sell produce to customers at farmers’ markets or through pick-your-own (PYO) operations
  • Offer community supported agriculture (CSA) shares as either farm pickup or urban pickup

On a year-round basis, market gardeners:

  • Order, install, and repair machinery and equipment
  • Hire and supervise staff
  • Keep detailed records regarding crops and operational schedules
  • Sell products at outdoor and indoor markets
  • Establish and develop marketing techniques and market outlets
  • Expand and improve their production and marketing knowledge and supervisory skills by attending trade shows and conferences / workshops, joining trade associations, and reading related information

Because most market gardeners are business owners, they usually also have administrative duties related to running a business. They also may produce value-added products such as preserves or fresh bouquets for sale at farmers’ markets.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 22, 2023
  • Strength Required Lift over 20 kg

Market gardeners are independent businesspeople. They may deal directly with the public at various venues. They may also sell to other retailers, such as farmers, producers, and public markets. They work indoors and outdoors in all kinds of weather. The work can be dirty, repetitive, and physically demanding. Some heavy lifting may be required.

There is no quiet period in the working life of market gardeners. They are an important part of the strong trend to buy local. This makes it essential to grow a quality product and maintain quality throughout the marketing process.

This is the best way to maintain and increase sales from year to year. During harvest season, the earliest, highest-quality, most durable, and freshest fruits and vegetables command the best prices. Speed and organization are crucial in getting crops from field to market. Working hours may be long and irregular.

The number of possible customers within reasonable travelling distance determines sales potentials. Because of this, market gardens are most often located relatively close to major population centres.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Farmers and Farm Managers

2006 NOC: 8251

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group
DIRECTIVE

Interest in supervising and hiring farm workers; and in determining amounts and kinds of crops to be grown and livestock to be raised, and in purchasing farm machinery, livestock, seed, feed and other supplies

METHODICAL

Interest in co-ordinating information to plant, cultivate and harvest crops; and in raising and breeding livestock and poultry

OBJECTIVE

Interest in driving - operating and maintaining farm machinery, equipment and buildings

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests

Abilities

Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 22, 2023

Market gardeners need:

  • Physical health and stamina
  • An interest in working with the land, plants, and people
  • Communication skills to deal with the public
  • Marketing skills to ensure sale of products
  • Observation skills
  • The ability to supervise and motivate others
  • Adaptability
  • An entrepreneurial attitude
  • To be comfortable with taking risks

They should enjoy taking responsibility for their operations. They should like being methodical in their work. They should be comfortable operating machinery and equipment. They should be committed to lifelong learning and continuous refinement of how they grow their crops.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Managers in agriculture

2016 NOC: 0821

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 28 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Nov 04, 2021 and May 18, 2024.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Equipment and Machinery Experience: Truck
Equipment and Machinery Experience: Tractor
Construction Specialization: Team player
Personal Suitability: Initiative
Personal Suitability: Organized
Personal Suitability: Flexibility
Perform general farm duties
Maintain farm machinery, equipment and buildings
Construction Specialization: Organized
Computer Systems: Valid driver's licence
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 22, 2023
  • Minimum Education Varies

Market gardeners need to know about:

  • Local soil and climate conditions
  • Weed, disease, weather, and insect problems and their management. This can include pesticide use or alternative pest management, such as organic and permaculture methods
  • Selection of appropriate plants and plant cultivars, including seeds, cuttings, and transplants, that fit a specific environment and marketing niche
  • Planting and harvesting techniques
  • Selling and marketing
  • How to operate a business

A farm background is helpful. Those without it may gain practical experience by working on a market farm. They may also take horticulture- or agriculture-related courses or training.

Horticulture information is available from the following organizations:

  • Government of Alberta provides production and marketing information.
  • Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association provides marketing and production information through print materials, workshops, field days, and an annual conference.
  • Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association provides newsletters, conferences, trade shows, and workshops related to horticulture production.
  • Organic Alberta provides seminars and workshops on alternatives to conventional production methods.
  • Local school boards, agriculture, and horticulture societies and clubs, as well as some colleges and universities often offer short horticultural and gardening courses. These courses may be in-person or online.

The Government of Alberta offers the Green Certificate Program. The program provides apprenticeship-style training. It combines hands-on farm mentorship with formal education.

The program is free and available to students at all Alberta high schools. Various specialties, such as field crop production and irrigated crop production, are offered at each level. Graduates of the Level I Green Certificate Program are certified as farm production technicians. They may earn credits toward their high school diploma for each specialty they complete. Level II (farm production supervisor) and III (agribusiness manager) Green Certificates are also available. They are meant for people interested in a career in agriculture.

To participate in the Green Certificate Program, trainees must be at least 15 years of age and in grade 10, 11, or 12. The training takes about a year. That allows trainees to experience all 4 seasons on a farm.

For more information, students may visit the Green Certificate Program website or ask their guidance counsellor.


To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 22, 2023
  • Certification Provincially Regulated

To use some pesticides, market gardeners must hold a valid pesticide applicator certificate.

Certain professional titles or duties within this occupation are protected by provincial legislation. Requirements vary if you use these titles or perform these duties.

The related legislation is shown below. If there are multiple related legislations, select a certification heading to learn about each one.

Pesticide Applicator and Dispenser

Pesticide applicators use pesticides (chemicals) as part of their paid employment to control pests such as weeds, diseases, or destructive insects or animals.

Pesticide dispensers sell and store pesticides as part of their paid employment.

Legislation

Under Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act [pdf] and Pesticide (Ministerial) Regulation [pdf], to apply a commercial-class pesticide such as insecticide, herbicide, or fungicide, you must be one of the following:

  • A commercial agriculturalist (farmer)
  • A certified pesticide applicator
  • Supervised by someone who is certified

To sell pesticides, you must be a certified dispenser. There are 2 types of dispensers in Alberta:

  • Lawn and garden pesticide dispensers, who sell domestic-class pesticides
  • Commercial dispensers, who sell domestic, commercial, and restricted-class pesticides

For information on what you need and other details, visit the certification profile Pesticide Applicator and Dispenser.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 22, 2023

Most market gardeners are self-employed small business owners. They sell produce directly to consumers through several venues. These include farmers’ markets, farm gate sales, and pick-your-own operations. Large market garden operations may hire retail and farm workers. They mostly do this on a seasonal basis. These positions can provide valuable experience for people interested in becoming market gardeners themselves. Some market gardens employ seasonal, temporary foreign workers each year.

New gardeners are advised to start with small operations. They should grow crops that are relatively easy to cultivate and suited to local growing conditions. As they gain experience and learn customer preferences, they can expand to more diverse and demanding crops. They can also add novelty items to round out their operations.

Advancement in this occupation most often takes the form of building a larger business.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 0821: Managers in agriculture occupational group, 95.7% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 0821: Managers in agriculture occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 3.1% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 778 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Note
NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Related Alberta Job Postings
Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 22, 2023

Gardeners can reap a lot of income from a small amount of intensively farmed land. Moreover, input costs for machinery often are minimal. This makes overhead costs lower than for other types of farming. Costly specialty equipment may be required to support larger scale operations. However, much depends on the weather, market demand, and grower management and experience. In general, market garden crops are more weather sensitive than traditional crops.

Market gardeners often supplement their income through other means. Creativity is an asset. With ongoing improvements to storage techniques, growers can keep storable crops and sell them during the winter months. This is a good way to provide year-round income. Some smaller operations earn a secondary income from the sale of related goods. For example, they may sell bedding plants or value-added products such as preserves.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Managers in agriculture

2016 NOC: 0821
Average Wage
$33.59
Per Hour
Average Salary
$73,729.00
Per Year
Average Hours
42.9
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
12
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

Source
2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 0821 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.23 $48.08 $26.81 $25.64
Overall $19.38 $57.69 $33.59 $28.00
Top $23.08 $63.46 $37.90 $32.00

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

ALL INDUSTRIES
Agriculture
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
18%
18%)
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
37%
37%
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
4%
4%
Vacancy Rate
3%
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Agriculture and Related Technologies
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 22, 2023

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry website: www.alberta.ca/agriculture-and-irrigation

Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association Facebook page: facebook.com/AFFPA

Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association website: agga.ca

Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) website: cnla.ca

Organic Alberta website: organicalberta.org

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 22, 2023. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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