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Market Gardener

Market gardeners grow fresh produce (vegetables, fruit, herbs) and flowers for sale directly to consumers.

  • Avg. Salary $74,215.00
  • Avg. Wage $33.00
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook below avg
Also Known As

Farmer

NOC & Interest Codes
The Market Gardener is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Farmers and Farm Managers
NOC code: 8251
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 Dec 16, 2016

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
  • 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.

From spring to harvest time, market gardeners:

  • prepare fields and seed beds
  • plant crops
  • irrigate and fertilize crops
  • till and fertilize soil
  • manage weeds, diseases and insects.

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

  • use specialized harvesters or harvesting aids
  • create and maintain a market for crops by advertising and maintaining a regular presence at local markets
  • clean, trim, cool, grade, package, store and transport crops to market
  • sell produce to customers at farmers' markets or at the farm on pick-your-own operations.

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
  • establish and develop marketing techniques and market outlets
  • expand and improve their production and marketing knowledge and supervisory skills (for example, 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 dried arrangements for sale at farmers' markets.

Working Conditions
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Market gardeners work indoors and outdoors in all kinds of weather. The work can be repetitive and physically demanding (lifting loads weighing up to 20 kilograms may be required).

There is no quiet period in the work life of market gardeners. Growing a quality product and maintaining quality throughout the marketing process is essential to maintaining and increasing sales from year to year. During harvest season, speed is essential in getting crops off the field and to market because the earliest, highest quality and freshest fruits and vegetables to reach the market command the highest prices. Working hours may be long and irregular.

Market gardens usually are located close to major centres because sales potentials are determined by the number of potential customers within reasonable travelling distance.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Market gardeners need the following characteristics:

  • good physical health and stamina
  • an interest in working with the land, plants and people
  • good observation skills
  • the ability to supervise and motivate others.

They should enjoy taking responsibility for their operations, taking a methodical approach to their work and operating machinery and equipment.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Market gardeners need a working knowledge of:

  • local soil and climate conditions
  • weed, disease and insect problems and their control (for example, pesticide application or alternative pest management methods, such as organic and permaculture)
  • appropriate plants and plant cultivars (for example, seeds) 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 but those who do not have it may gain practical experience by working on a market farm and taking horticulture or agriculture related courses.

To use some pesticides, market gardeners must hold a pesticide applicator certificate. Completion of the Farmer Pesticide Certificate program through Alberta Agriculture and Forestry is recommended.

Horticulture information is available from the following organizations:


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.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Below-average occupational growth is expected in Alberta for 2016 to 2020. Job openings are a result of employment turnover and newly created positions.

Most market gardeners are self-employed small business owners who sell produce directly to consumers at farmers' markets and through farm gate sales or pick-your-own operations. Large garden market operations may hire retail and farm workers year round or on a seasonal basis. These positions can provide valuable experience for people interested in becoming market gardeners.

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

Advancement in this occupation generally 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 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.

Over 37,500 Albertans are employed in the Farmers and farm managers occupational group. This group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 0.9% from 2016 to 2020. As a result, 338 new positions are forecast to be created each year, in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. Note: As market gardeners form only a part of this larger occupational group, only some of these newly created positions will be for market gardeners.

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

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 16, 2016

One of the most appealing features of market gardening is that substantial profits can be reaped from a small amount of land. Input costs for machinery often are minimal so overhead costs are lower than for other types of farming. Much, however, depends on the weather, market demand and grower management. In general, market garden crops are more weather sensitive than traditional crops.

Market gardeners often supplement their income through other means. With the introduction of improved storage techniques, growers are able to keep storable crops and sell them during the winter months, providing year-round income. Some smaller operations earn a secondary income from the sale of goods such as bedding plants or value-added products such as preserves.

Market gardeners are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 0821: Managers in agriculture.

According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Managers in agriculture occupational group earned on average from $24.87 to $43.59 an hour. The overall average wage was $33.00 an hour. For more information, see the Managers in agriculture wage profile.

 

Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Science
    • Biology
  • Business, Administration, Finance and IT
    • Management and Marketing
  • Natural Resources
    • Agriculture
    • Environmental Stewardship
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Agriculture and Related Technologies
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry website: www.agric.gov.ab.ca

Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association website: www.albertafarmfresh.com

Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association website: agga.ca

Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) website: www.canadanursery.com

Organic Alberta website: organicalberta.org

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 23, 2015. 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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