Becoming a Certified Seed Grower
Certified seed growers ensure that seeds sold for growing different crops are healthy, high quality, and free of impurities. They grow, monitor, and harvest seeds contracted to seed companies. These seeds are later sold to consumers, such as farmers or gardeners.
Certified seed growers get to spend a great deal of time outdoors, but this means working in all kinds of weather conditions. They might also have to do intense physical labor. Although related workers, like farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers, make a median annual income that's above the national average, the number of job opportunities in these fields was expected to drop by 2% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Working as a certified seed grower does not require a degree, but a degree in agronomy or horticulture may be helpful. Another degree field that may be helpful to those interested in a career as a seed grower is business with a concentration in agriculture. Certified seed growers will need licensing via the state or an independent agency. Individuals will likely need experience in basic horticultural practices to be successful in this field of work.
Some of the key skills that are needed for this type of career include attention to detail, analytical skills, critical thinking, machinery operation, interpersonal communication, basic computer skills, and advanced understanding of plant science and seed harvesting processes. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers as of May 2015 was $64,170.
Step 1: Get a College Education
Generally, becoming a certified seed grower has no educational requirements. However, a college education may be helpful in understanding the basics of plant growth and development. Choosing a major in agriculture, agronomy, horticulture, genetics, or biology may be helpful. Classes may include crop production, soil fertility, botany, seed science, and natural resources.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Agricultural Machinery Operation
- Agricultural Mechanics Tech
- Crop Production
Step 2: The Land and the Seed
Becoming a licensed seed grower also means ensuring that the land used to grow certified seeds is maintained according to standards and inspections established by a state's licensing agency. In most states, the land must be clean, meaning that the land has not grown a like crop in the past year. This ensures that there will be no contamination from other varieties of seed grown in the previous year.
Producing certified seed begins with the planting of foundation or registered seed, which are types of seed that are respectively one and two generations away from breeder seed, or seed that is directly produced by the original plant breeder. Growers can obtain information from their state's department of agriculture or the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) on where to purchase foundation or registered seeds. After purchasing seed and proof of the seed stock retained, growers ensure that all equipment and soil used for planting is clean. Contamination of equipment or soil with other crops or other varieties of the same crop may be cause for rejection of certification.
Step 3: Certification and Licensing
After growers plant the pure seed, they complete a certification application process, including submission of proof of seed stock. The state certifying agency inspects the grower's field. Once growers pass the field inspection, the seed is conditioned to remove unwanted debris and contaminants. Growers submit a sample of the final seed to the state seed certifying agency for analysis. Seed is certified after the seed passes both the field and laboratory inspection process.
In many states, a license is required to sell any type of seed, including certified seed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but generally include an application and a fee.
Step 4: Get a Business Education
Once growers are certified and licensed, they are allowed to sell their seeds labeled as certified. Seed growers need business skills to market their products. Obtaining some level of education in business or marketing may be necessary for advancement. Having a solid business understanding is a good way to enhance one's career in the field.
Individuals considering an agricultural career, such as a certified seed grower, would not be required to have a degree. However, a business education may help create a successful business for those who already have a seed or horticulture background that requires knowledge of seed production and harvesting processes in order to pass inspections of both seed and land so that the final seed product can be sold as certified.