Skip to the main content
This website uses cookies to give you a better online experience. By using this website or closing this message, you are agreeing to our cookie policy. More information
Alberta Supports Contact Centre

Toll Free 1-877-644-9992

Alert

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted legislation and services. Information on this website may not reflect the current situation in Alberta. Please visit alberta.ca for up-to-date information about these impacts.

Market Gardener

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

  • Avg. Salary $70,992.00
  • Avg. Wage $31.36
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed 29,900
  • In Demand Medium
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: Farmers and Farm Managers (8251) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Farmers and Farm Managers (I011) 
  • 2011 NOC: Managers in agriculture (0821) 
  • 2016 NOC: Managers in agriculture (0821) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

17%
17%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Provincially Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift over 20 kg
Interest Codes
The Market Gardener is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Farmers and Farm Managers
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

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 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 More

Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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 local climate and soil conditions
  • Select seed varieties and cultivars
  • Develop plans for planting schedules, crop rotation, crop yields, and pest management
  • Order and purchase seeds or plants, fertilizer, and other production materials, supplies, and equipment
  • Plant seeds and plants
  • Grow seedlings in greenhouses for transplanting in the spring
  • Prepare fields and seed beds
  • Till and fertilize soil

From spring to fall they:

  • Irrigate and fertilize crops
  • 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 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 and frozen or other processed products
  • Sell produce to customers at farmers’ markets or through pick-your-own 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 operation 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
    • Joining trade associations
    • Reading related information

Because most market gardeners are business owners, they usually 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 31, 2019

Market gardeners are independent business people. They deal directly with the public at a variety of different venues. These can include farmer, producer, and public markets. They work indoors and outdoors in all kinds of weather. The work can be repetitive and physically demanding. Some heavy lifting may be required.

There is no quiet period in the work life of market gardeners. They are a part of the increasing 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, and freshest fruits and vegetables command the best prices. Speed and organization are therefore crucial in getting crops off the field and 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 centres.

  • Strength Required Lift over 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Market gardeners need:

  • Physical health and stamina
  • An interest in working with the land, plants, and people
  • Communication skills to deal with the public
  • Observation skills
  • The ability to supervise and motivate others

They should enjoy taking responsibility for their operations. They should like being methodical in their work. They should be comfortable operating machinery and equipment.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Market gardeners need to know about:

  • Local soil and climate conditions
  • Weed, disease, and insect problems and their control. This can include pesticide use or alternative pest management, such as organic and permaculture methods
  • 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.

Horticulture information is available from the following organizations:

  • The Government of Alberta provides production and marketing information through its fruit and vegetable and agri-tourism programs.
  • The Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association provides marketing and production information through print materials, workshops, and an annual Horticultural Congress and Trade Show.
  • The 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 often offer short horticultural and gardening courses.

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 specializations, such as field crop production and irrigated field 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 specialization 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 four seasons on a farm.

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


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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

Pesticide Applicator and Dispenser

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

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. The 2 types of dispensers in Alberta are:

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

What You Need

Certification for applicators and dispensers require successful completion of an exam. A preparatory course is available through home study materials or classroom tutorials.

Individuals may become certified in one or more applicator classes. For detailed official information, read about the pesticide applicator and dispenser certification requirements on the Government of Alberta website.

Working in Alberta

Pesticide applicator and dispensers who are certified by and in good standing with a regulatory organization elsewhere in Canada may be eligible for certification in Alberta if certified pesticide applicators and dispensers in the two jurisdictions have similar responsibilities and competencies. For more information, see What if I am already certified in another province or territory in Canada? and the Government of Alberta website.

Contact Details

Alberta Environment and Parks
Government of Alberta
9th Floor, South Petroleum Plaza 9920 108 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2G8
Canada

Call: 780-538-6460
Toll-free within Alberta: 310-3773, then 780-538-6460
Toll-free outside Alberta: 780-944-0313
Website: www.alberta.ca/environment-and-parks.aspx

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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.

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.

Market gardeners are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 0821: Managers in agriculture. In Alberta, 97% of people employed in this classification work in the Agricultural (pdf) industry.

The employment outlook (pdf) in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Agriculture industry)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • Size of the occupation.

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

In Alberta, the I011: Farmers and Farm Managers occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 0.9% from 2016 to 2020. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 338 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Substantial profits are one of the most appealing features of market gardening. Gardeners can reap a lot from a small amount of land. Moreover, input costs for machinery often are minimal. This makes overhead costs lower than for other types of farming. 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 some 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.

Managers in agriculture

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.00 $50.00 $25.98 $23.00
Overall $19.04 $57.69 $31.36 $28.85
Top $20.81 $61.20 $34.45 $31.67

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.

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.


Industry Information
Public Administration
ALL INDUSTRIES
Agriculture

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

17%
17%)

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

73%
73%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

0%
0%

Vacancy Rate

N/A
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Agriculture and Related Technologies
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry website: www.alberta.ca/ministry-agriculture-forestry.aspx

Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association website: albertafarmfresh.com

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 31, 2019. 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.

Was this page useful?
Top