Farms are idyllic. They remind us of a simpler - some would argue better - time. Without them, we’d have some very sparse produce and butcher sections at the grocery store. Farming may not be considered a glamorous profession, but it is noble, necessary, and as important today as it’s been through its 10,000 year history. Farmers feed cities.
We tend to think of farmers in one of two ways: the crop farmers with their fields of wheat, corn, rye, and various fruits and vegetable, or the livestock farmer with his chickens, cows, and pigs. They provide the fruit, vegetables, grains, and animal products that end up on our plates.
But farming doesn’t stop there, especially in the modern world. There are farms for every conceivable product that grows - cash crops like cotton, tobacco, hemp - or walks, swims, or flies, such as ostriches, alligators, or geese. If there’s demand for something, there’s probably a farm for it somewhere on this big blue marble.
You may not think a llama farm is all that weird. The animal provides natural fibers for spinning, knitting, and clothing, and the meat is apparently well flavoured and nutritious. But what about a rat farm (for science labs or pets)? Is that weird? Or a silk worm farm? Worm farm, tiger farm, or moose milk farm (yes, that’s a thing). Wind “farms” contain dozens or hundreds of wind turbines for power generation. A spider goat (it’s exactly what you think it is) produces silk proteins that are used in research.
Yes, there are some weird farms out there, answering a need, satisfying a demand, or filling a void. These are just a small sample of the weird farming jobs around the world. If you’re considering a career change, perhaps there’s something here that speaks to you on some level.
See Also: Top 10 Weirdest Jobs
1. Poo Coffee
While that may be a bit of a “clickbait” headline, poo coffee is, well, coffee that’s been recovered from poo. So what would you call it?
More specifically, it’s the raw, green coffee beans that have passed through the digestive system of an animal, and then been excreted. Farmers then sift through the feces and set aside the intact beans. Why in the hell would anyone want to do that? Good question.
The whole process apparently gives the coffee a delicate, nuanced flavour and aroma (pleasant aroma, mind you) that is not possible otherwise. The digestive system, juices, and enzymes chemically change the beans. While it may all sound like some sick, twisted dare, aficionados swear that it’s the best coffee on the planet. And they’re not afraid to pay an exorbitant price for it, either. So to return to your question of why anyone would want to be a poo coffee farmer, it’s one reason and one reason only: cash. Money. It can be very lucrative.
The two most famous brands at the moment are Kopi Luwak and Black Ivory. Kopi Luwak is coffee made from beans that have passed through the gut of a civet cat. A single cup of it can fetch anywhere from $35-100, and the beans can go for up to $600 for a single pound. That’s a lot of cash. Black Ivory coffee, on the other hand, is made from beans that have gone from one end of an elephant to the other. It currently sells for about $50 per cup, and averages $500 per pound on the market.
The animals, whether civet or elephant, are fed red coffee berries, and the beans (which are actually seeds and not beans at all) generally pass through their system without being digested. The farmers check every day for fresh piles of dung, pop a squat, and go digging for the feces equivalent of gold.
It takes a lot of time and berries to produce the beans, and the production of kopi luwak and Black Ivory is a tiny fraction of traditional coffee (kopi luwak is limited to between 500-1000 pounds annually while Black Ivory states that it takes 33kg of cherries to make 1kg of the coffee). Supply and demand at work.
2. Body Farms
They may not be growing any bodies there, but body farms are filling a need nonetheless. It’s a training and research area for crime scene investigators, forensic scientists, and other police or medical examiner personnel. What exactly do they do there? Well, it’s something out of your nightmares.
A body farm does, in fact, have a lot of human bodies. Individuals that have donated their corpse to science or medical training could very well end up there. The “farmers” (the facility managers and attendants) place the bodies in various conditions and allow them to rot and decompose. Some are left exposed to the elements, others are submerged in ponds, lakes, and rivers, and some are buried. The corpses are observed, examined, and studied to determine how a human body will decompose in that particular environment. They can study which insects and other creepy crawlies show up at what time to gather insight on that. The data can then be used to help solve murders and suspicious deaths. It’s definitely weird, and more than a little icky.
3. Vertical Farming
Vertical Farming is not so much a product or crop, but a new trend in the manner and method of farming. Eventually, our planet will run out of farmland for growing crops in the traditional way. It’s unsustainable...the more people we get, the more space we need, but the more food that’s required will demand more land as well. Something has to give.
Research into vertical farming as an alternative way to grow food is ongoing. It takes place indoors, it’s hydroponic (it uses no soil, as the plant roots are submerged in a nutritious water solution), sunlight is provided by artificial lighting, and as the name suggests, trays are stacked vertically, sometimes reaching several storeys high. Could it be the future of farming as available farmland falls below our requirements? The researchers believe so.
Growing food in stacking trays, without soil or sunlight, inside giant airplane-hangar-like facilities, is about as far away from “real” farming as you can get. Weird, but intriguing. It seems like science fiction, more at home in some dystopian movie, but it’s real, and it could very well end up saving the world.
4. Bug Farms
Insects are a vital source of protein for millions of humans. In the west, we consider meat (beef, pork, poultry) to be the best and only source, but insects are actually a better, more efficient choice. In fact, pound for pound, insects are a cheaper, less environmentally damaging product than any animal. They require less space, use fewer resources like feed and water, and are easier to kill and transport.
Edible insects like crickets, mealworm, grasshoppers, and ants can be very tasty, and there are bug farms popping up in North America and Europe. Bug Bistro in Canada and Bug Grub in the UK are two recent examples that allow you to order a snack-sized pack of flavoured crawlies.
We may eventually get to a point on this planet where bugs for protein becomes a necessity and not a novelty. In the meantime, it’s an out-of-the-ordinary snack choice. Are you brave enough?
5. Snake Farms
Many countries see snakes as a source of food, medicine, and fashion (their skin can be used like leather). Snake Farms exist in many places, with tens or hundreds of thousands of snakes - both venomous and harmless varieties (even though any snake can still administer a nasty bite) - within the property. The farmers can sell the snakes for consumption or as pets. They can milk the venom to be sold to research and medical facilities for the production of antivenom. They can collect and sell the skins as they’re shedded. They can even offer paid tours and lectures to tourists and school groups. Snakes can be big - albeit dangerous - business. And every snake farmer has at least one (or 27) story about being bitten and rushed to the hospital. Cows are so much easier...
See Also: How to Become a Farm Manager
Farms are no longer simple operations. Even the ones still growing traditional crops or keeping traditional livestock have been forced to upgrade and expand in order to compete. But farms go beyond traditional these days. We keep every animal and insect. We grow every plant. We even watch dead things decay and return to the earth.
If you can stomach sifting through poop, or watching a dead body get slowly consumed by maggots, or don’t mind being surrounded by 45,000 rattlesnakes or 5,000,000 crickets, then there just might be a new career for you on this list. The demand is there, and it’s growing.
Have we missed any weird and wonderful farms? Leave your additions in the comments below…