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Who’s a ‘Real Farmer’?

March 03, 2011 This question has popped up on occasion when trying to define certain subjects in the past such as ‘backyard gardening’ or ‘urban farming’. Is it farming or is it gardening? What defines the difference?

Representative Nancy Smith (Maine) is a farmer, in the traditional sense of the word, and she has something to say about this question. As a State Representative and one who has attended numerous agriculture-related conferences throughout the United States, she has heard her fair share of discourse on who is and who isn’t a farmer.

“For all that divides us, we farmers need to come together because we face common threats. Where do we draw the line between humane treatment of animals and animal rights? How do we stand up for best farming practices when neighbors in newly created subdivisions attempt to shut down well-established farms because the sights, smells, and sounds of agriculture offend them? Can we develop markets where we can earn a fair price for our products?

I have advocated for eight years in the legislature that farms are small businesses, and that if farmers don’t treat them that way, and if neighbors don’t see them that way, they are doomed to fail. It is a constant struggle and one that we don’t always win.”

Ultimately, says Smith, “Farmers spend too much time arguing about who qualifies to speak for agriculture. This doesn’t help anybody.”

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2 Comments

  1. Kevin says:

    My initial reaction was: when the agricultural product is being sold, gardening shifts to farming.

    Just don’t call it urban homesteading or you might get in legal trouble…[hah]

    • I’m pretty broadminded about the definition and think what you say is a part of it too. The USDA has a definition of what is a ‘farm’ (click on ‘farming’ hyperlink in post), is there something similar in Canada?

      Boy, quite the stir about using the words ‘urban homesteading’ – and understandably so, too!