The term “farm manager” is broadly used to describe a range of jobs. Those who look after family land but do not actively farm sometimes call themselves farm managers. Politicians are sure to add this to their resumes if possible. Or the good neighbor who oversees a few farms may be a “farm manager.” Although there is nothing wrong with these titles, there is another category you should know: the “professional farm manager.”
A professional farm manager dedicates his or her career to managing farmland, most often for “absentee” landowners, which can be another misnomer. Although many landowners do not live nearby, their interest in their land is usually not absent, nor are they absent-minded.
Relationships between landowners and farm managers are often long-term. Many last decades or even generations. Selecting a professional farm manager may be a critical step in the future of farmland ownership. A good farm manager will immediately want to understand the goals for a piece of farmland today and into the future.
Assuming landowners have ethical goals—and most are—they will want to hire a farm manager who has high ethical standards. How can they ensure they hire an ethical manager? After the usual questions about background, education and experience, a defining question may be whether the manager holds active membership in a professional organization.
For professional farm managers, the choice is the American Society of Farm Managers & Rural Appraisers. ASFMRA members run the gamut from one-man shops to the largest firms. What they share is dedication to the highest level of professional service to clients, tenants, vendors and other farm managers.
Many ASFMRA members choose to pursue accredited farm manager (AFM) designation. To achieve accreditation, members must hold a four-year degree; demonstrate a minimum of four years of qualifying work experience; pass numerous ASFMRA peer-reviewed classes; produce an approved demonstration report; and maintain a solid work history including background check. Last, all accredited members are taught high ethical standards throughout the duration of their ASFMRA membership, including completing a required ethics course periodically and fulfilling continuing education requirements.