Commercial horticulturist: job description

Last updated: 25 Jan 2023, 13:39

Commercial horticulturists are responsible for overseeing the growth, harvesting, packaging, selling and distribution of crops.

Assortment of outdoor plants

Commercial horticulturists are employed by organisations such as farms, pick-your-own establishments and nurseries.

What does a commercial horticulturist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Commercial horticulturists are involved with cultivating, packaging and selling crops ranging from food and vegetables to decorative plants. At the top levels, they are business-minded managers who monitor all aspects of the production process, helping to make sure that crops go smoothly from seedbed to market. Typical responsibilities include:

  • overseeing the cultivation and maintenance of plants and crops
  • managing weed/pest/disease control programmes
  • ensuring compliance with UK and European community regulations and legislation, eg organic cultivation requirements
  • organising horticultural trials
  • analysing horticultural yields, operational costs and financial returns
  • maintaining financial and administrative records
  • writing and modifying business plans
  • supervising and training staff
  • developing new products
  • negotiating contracts with buyers and suppliers
  • liaising with colleagues, local officials, customers, professional groups etc
  • ensuring that deadlines and quality standards are met within set budgets
  • organising/giving presentations and demonstrations
  • marketing and selling produce
  • attending conferences

Typical employers

Commercial horticulturists are typically employed by food and produce companies, farms, plant nurseries and garden centres.

Jobs are advertised online, in local/national newspapers and in publications including Opportunities , Horticulture Week , New Scientist , Nature , Farmers Weekly , The Scottish Farmer , The Grower and their online equivalents.

  • The recruitment process is likely to involve a technical interview. Read our article on technical interviews to find out what these involve and how you can tackle them.
  • If you'd like to find out what your salary might look like, take a look at our article on how much you might earn in science on our TARGETcareers website.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into a commercial horticulture career for both university graduates and school leavers. Degrees or higher national diplomas (HNDs) in horticulture, agriculture, soil/earth sciences, environmental science or crop/plant science will aid entry into the profession. A relevant postgraduate qualification may also be helpful for some opportunities. Read our article on scientific postgraduate study to explore your different options.

Practical paid or voluntary work experience (such as crop growing, retail etc) is essential. This can be gained via work shadowing, vacation jobs, placements and short-term contracts.

Key skills for commercial horticulturists

In addition to horticultural skills and knowledge, employers look for evidence of initiative, commercial awareness and good problem-solving, communication, teamworking and organisational skills.

All candidates must be physically fit and capable of working well under the pressure of meeting tight deadlines. A full driving licence is also normally required.

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