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Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by seahealth, Nov 1, 2004.
is there a difference, or are the terms interchangeable? I am just curious.
In my opinion they are different. Homesteading is more a philosophy. Farming is about raising xxxx to make a profit/living. That is not to say that all farmers are about $$$. But for the most part modern day "farmers" are really agri-CEO's. They will grow inferior products if it means a higher profit, use chemicals indiscriminantly, become highly specialized (one product only), and don't seek a balance on their land. Crop rotation is pretty much a thing of the past, so is letting ground sit fallow for a time (unless the govt. is paying you to do it) to rest and rebuild it. And let's not even get into the discussion of GM foods.
As crazy as this sounds I think that you could say there are farmers who homestead, but not really homesteaders that "farm".
Of course that is just my opinion, and not really worth much!
What say ye all?
OUCH. I think most farmers would have a real problem with that description. It is just plain bad husbandry. However, I think we need to make a note of scale. What Zeal seems to be referring to is large scale agribusinesss. You can be large scale, you can be in business.... but the combination of words "Large Scale Agribusiness" has become something of an epithet used to describe short term management practices designed to extract as much from the land as possible irrespective of long term damage and short term energy use.
I think the difference between "homesteading" and "farming" is that one is run as a business (be it herbs, goat cheese, apple orchards, or a dairy farm) and expects to sell to the public, and the other is primarily concerned with home consumption. While a farmer might reserve part of his crop for his own use, his intent is to sell the bulk. A homesteader might sell part of his crop, but his intent is to use the bulk for his own household.
Which isn't to say the two don't collide from time to time... a orchardist could also have a large garden, chickens, and goats. The orchard is run as a business, but the gardens and animals are run for his own consumption, and would be considered his "homestead."
In Vermont we actually have tax allowances for this, a two acre "homestead exemption" with overlays the farmland's lower tax burden, which overlays general use property. So the state recognizes that at least 2 acres of anyone's property (farmer or non-farmer) might be turned to the production of food and certainly contains living quarters, and so grants it special tax status if your income falls below a certain level.
I posted that knowing that some people who are in love with the idea that they are "farmers" might not like that example. And I think that the old family farms of the past are the exception to the rule and not norm for todays standard of "farming". I guess I look at it like the verb that it is being used as. I can't say that I think just because you are selling something that you are "farming". For the most part my definition is probably aimed at the mega farms. But how many of the smaller "farms" use the same practices and follow the business models that are more concerned with squeezing the land for all it's worth?
I sure don't mean this as an indictment on people who farm and are concerned with leaving a heritage to their families. In Ohio, I just know too many autoworker-farmers, that will spray anything on a field and grow anything if their is a profit margin. Of course, most of those are now selling their land to developers to make new subdivisions. And it's their land and they can do what they want, but I can tell it is more about the $ than the lifestyle because then they sell off and move to their new big house and retire!
Ok, sorry if it sounds trite, not intending to, just hoping to illustrate what is wrong in modern farming.
If you grow and sell ag products and show a profit at least two years out of five you are a farmer. If not you are a hobby farmer. A homesteader is a title people give themselves because they like the sound of the word. Many "Homesteaders" are "Hobby Farmers"
The members of this forum cover the full range of agriculture from a container garden on their deck to large cattle ranches.
The main attraction to the forum is a common desire for country style living. That also means different things to each one here.
To have a common ground, we all are all HOMESTEADERS.
Well said, Uncle Will !
I would call myself a farmer rather than a homesteader. I raise livestock and crops, for a living.
I eat what I produce, but am not interested in producing all I eat.
I like to save money by making stuff myself, but I have no desire to make everything I need. I don't can, I don't sew, I don't have a vegetable garden.
With that said...I raise my livestock naturally. We rotate crops and so does everyone else I know. We use fertilizers, but haven't used a pesticide on a crop since the 70's. We did have to spray pastures a few years ago to stop armyworms. Trust me, that stuff is expensive, especially when it has to be applied from an airplane! Using chemicals indiscriminately does not make anyone any money!
I married into a fifth generation farm family (at least....no one knows how many farmers were back further). The ground is going on three generations. My "old-time" husband is losing ground financially because he won't keep up with the times. It's not about chemicals and GMO's, but about good management, particularly marketing those crops. He still hauls it all in to the elevator right out of the field. That is just plain stupid, but he doesn't see that. His son's are bit wiser and hopefully they will pull this place back up to a better level of profit. My husband's father left him with enough equity that it will take him a fair number of years to really go bankrupt, but his inability to "get smart" would eventually be the ruin of this farm family.
The growing successful famers that I know are very shrewd business people. They do what any business does....lowers their inputs and increases their profits. That is not usually about chemicals, but about finance and investment.
I hate all that finance stuff, so I just peddle my meat on street corners. I could probably make the same amount of money for a lot less work by studying up on crop marketing, but this is more fun. I am, however, a farmer who bound and determined to survive. If I have to sell meat on the street corner to do it, I will. Why should Excel or Tyson get all the profits from my hard work?
People use the terms differently. To me, homesteading is more of a lifestyle, while farming is an occupation. A person can do both, or not. Homesteading does not preclude turning a profit; farming does not mean that is all you are out for. When I use the terms though, it is more intended that the first purpose is to provide a lifestyle for family, and myself second to provide a product to share with others. This goes along with the family farm ideals. Farming with a capital "F" brings to mind the commercial agribusiness that Zeal is referring to. In my mind a Homestead is a place with a house, a garden, some animals, fruit trees, and maybe some crops to share via barter or sale, and farm tends toward a single crop for profit, quite possible with a homestead attached, while a Farm likely has no hose, has a single crop or product and is worked intensively for a profit according to the prevailing markets. Others use the terms differently or even interchangeably though.
I basically agree with most of what's said... but in thinking about it deeper,
and how we use the word farmer, I think that homesteading is farming + other
stuff, the other stuff being for example canning and preserving food,
cheesemaking, sewing, spinning, knitting, soapmaking, chopping wood, house
building etc. etc - people who do those things aren't called farmers, though
maybe farmers do these things.
Farming is producing plant and animal products from the land, but homesteading
is a lot more; and farming is a common (but not necessary) activity for
so in order it would look like this.....?
1. Agribusiness (shops at combines-R-us)
2. Hobby Farmer (shops at lehmans)
3. Farmer (shops at wal-mart)
4. Homesteader (shops on ebay)
5. Cave dweller (makes all tools from a stick)
(sorry ya'll, am goofing off...too many hours at work and school today...)
We farmed our land and didn't make a profit. We like the idea of being homesteaders instead. To me they are one in the same but guess according to the law they are not the same. The profit thing has me confused. If we paid ourselves a minimum wage and counted all our expenses, we would never have made a profit.
Wow....I have been lurking here for a few weeks, but I couldn't let this pass....I couldn't disagree more with your discription of "Farmers". Most of my family farms. I can honestly say I don't know ANYONE, family or friend, who doesn't rotate thier crops. Crop rotation is profitable, why would anyone NOT do it? My father and uncle no till about 1000 acres in central KY. Mega Agribusiness? I don't think so. Family farm? ...No on that count as well. Its a business. They are larger than many in their neck of the woods, but certainly not some sort of evil mega corp.
As for the question....My opinion has always been that Homesteading is complete independance. Doing it all yourself. Once that was attractive to me. Over the years I have come to realize that isn't what I want. If it came right down to it, I could live off this little patch of land I have until the bank kicked me off. I manage a quite bit of independance today though, but I think a community is key. Ex: I like honey, but I don't want to raise bees. So I trade eggs to a guy down the road for honey. That sort of cooperation would help all of us I think, it just a matter of finding folks around you who are interested. (Now if I could just convince the guy at the gas station to trade gas for eggs!)
Wow... according to your self-discovery chart: I'm really a farmer that only wanted to be a homesteader, but feels like a cave dweller! Hhhmmm.
Well, if nothing else I can take pride in drawing out a lurker!!!! Welcome to the board, I am a recent "non-lurker" too! BTW, I agree about the community thing, and I think that a true homesteader would always be interested in trading for their needs!
Interesting read on some of the Mega Farms I am talking about. Here.
I doubt, from what you said, that your relatives would fit in with this crowd or ideology. And just so you don't think that I hate farmers, this same crowd accounts for the largest portion of Farm Aid use, because farm aid is based on acreage. That's just not right.
[gets off soapbox]
Very interesting opinions so far, and I am sure there are more to come. I have SO much to learn, but I am so glad I found this message board because I feel I have found a resource of knowledge & lots of friendly people here. My biggest surprise is when I shared with my husband that I thought we might buy our next property in an area where we could have some animals to provide for our needs - he loved the idea. I thought he was going to tell me I was crazy (he grew up in the city & I didn't). I have no experience with gardening or "farming", but have been exposed to enough information to lead me in that direction. So as I shared with him, he started adding more to it, like that we should have a garden, etc. I have been all about everything organic and it gets so expensive, and now I just learned a few days ago that it is against the law to sell raw milk. I don't know when that happened, but it really makes me mad that the government can dictate what we as consumers can buy. I grew up on raw milk. Anyway, I am quickly learning that if we want to truly get back to basics, that we need to be more active in making it happen on a personal level. I look forward to learning more and sharing here on this board.
I have heard of people being able to sell raw milk if it is labled "for pet food only"
Farming is an occupation.
Homesteading is a lifestyle.
They can be one and the same for some but for most I believe they are not.
REALLY???!!! Of all the info I've read on farming in VT, I haven't read that! All the info I've read has been toward commercial farming, and all the assistance, info and help I've looked for has been toward commercial farming, not much for personal, "family" farming or homesteading.
:no: And you don't want to be downwind of those cows or the hogs either which we have here in Texas! Yeeks!!! It's bad to drive by them. They are speed traps waiting to happen as people floor their gas pedals to get away from them as fast as possible!
Mega Farming is Mega Bad News. Family Farms are being overran by Mega Farms in some areas of Texas and the whole thing is begging to bring on health and safety issues. I'm waiting with lurching stomach for our first case of Mad Cow Disease to break out in such a situation.
(Dang soapboxes are contagious!)
Preach it brother!!!