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Farmland in the United States. The round fields are due to the use of center pivot irrigation Round farm 2007.jpg
Farmland in the United States. The round fields are due to the use of center pivot irrigation
Typical plan of a medieval English manor, showing the use of field strips Plan mediaeval manor.jpg
Typical plan of a medieval English manor, showing the use of field strips

A farm (also called an agricultural holding) is an area of land that is devoted primarily to agricultural processes with the primary objective of producing food and other crops; it is the basic facility in food production. [1] The name is used for specialized units such as arable farms, vegetable farms, fruit farms, dairy, pig and poultry farms, and land used for the production of natural fiber, biofuel and other commodities. It includes ranches, feedlots, orchards, plantations and estates, smallholdings and hobby farms, and includes the farmhouse and agricultural buildings as well as the land. In modern times the term has been extended so as to include such industrial operations as wind farms and fish farms, both of which can operate on land or sea.


There are about 570 million farms in the world, with most of which are small and family-operated. Small farms with land area of less than 2 hectares operate about 12% and family farms, comprising about 75% of the world's agricultural land. [2]

Modern farms in developed countries are highly mechanized. In the United States, livestock may be raised on rangeland and finished in feedlots and the mechanization of crop production has brought about a great decrease in the number of agricultural workers needed. In Europe, traditional family farms are giving way to larger production units. In Australia, some farms are very large because the land is unable to support a high stocking density of livestock because of climatic conditions. In less developed countries, small farms are the norm, and the majority of rural residents are subsistence farmers, feeding their families and selling any surplus products in the local market.


A farmer harvesting crops with mule-drawn wagon, 1920s, Iowa, USA Marion Cty, Iowa Farmer w mule drawn wagon, 1920s.jpg
A farmer harvesting crops with mule-drawn wagon, 1920s, Iowa, USA

The word in the sense of an agricultural land-holding derives from the verb "to farm" a revenue source, whether taxes, customs, rents of a group of manors or simply to hold an individual manor by the feudal land tenure of "fee farm". The word is from the medieval Latin noun firma, also the source of the French word ferme, meaning a fixed agreement, contract, [3] from the classical Latin adjective firmus meaning strong, stout, firm. [4] [5] As in the medieval age virtually all manors were engaged in the business of agriculture, which was their principal revenue source, so to hold a manor by the tenure of "fee farm" became synonymous with the practice of agriculture itself.


Map of the world showing approximate centers of origin of agriculture and its spread in prehistory: the Fertile Crescent (11,000 BP), the Yangtze and Yellow River basins (9,000 BP), and the New Guinea Highlands (9,000-6,000 BP), Central Mexico (5,000-4,000 BP), Northern South America (5,000-4,000 BP), sub-Saharan Africa (5,000-4,000 BP, exact location unknown), eastern North America (4,000-3,000 BP). Centres of origin and spread of agriculture.svg
Map of the world showing approximate centers of origin of agriculture and its spread in prehistory: the Fertile Crescent (11,000 BP), the Yangtze and Yellow River basins (9,000 BP), and the New Guinea Highlands (9,000–6,000 BP), Central Mexico (5,000–4,000 BP), Northern South America (5,000–4,000 BP), sub-Saharan Africa (5,000–4,000 BP, exact location unknown), eastern North America (4,000–3,000 BP).

Farming has been innovated at multiple different points and places in human history. The transition from hunter-gatherer to settled, agricultural societies is called the Neolithic Revolution and first began around 12,000 years ago, near the beginning of the geological epoch of the Holocene [7] around 12,000 years ago. [8] It was the world's first historically verifiable revolution in agriculture. Farming spread from the Middle East to Europe and by 4,000 BC people that lived in the central part of Europe were using oxen to pull plows and wagons. [9] Subsequent step-changes in human farming practices were provoked by the British Agricultural Revolution in the 18th century, and the Green Revolution of the second half of the 20th century.

Farming originated independently in different parts of the world, as hunter gatherer societies transitioned to food production rather than food capture. It may have started about 12,000 years ago with the domestication of livestock in the Fertile Crescent in western Asia, soon to be followed by the cultivation of crops. Modern units tend to specialize in the crops or livestock best suited to the region, with their finished products being sold for the retail market or for further processing, with farm products being traded around the world.

Types of farm

An aerial photo of the Borgboda farm in Saltvik, Aland Borgboda2006 web.jpg
An aerial photo of the Borgboda farm in Saltvik, Åland

A farm may be owned and operated by a single individual, family, community, corporation or a company, may produce one or many types of produce, and can be a holding of any size from a fraction of a hectare [10] to several thousand hectares. [11]

A farm may operate under a monoculture system or with a variety of cereal or arable crops, which may be separate from or combined with raising livestock. Specialist farms are often denoted as such, thus a dairy farm, fish farm, poultry farm or mink farm.

Some farms may not use the word at all, hence vineyard (grapes), orchard (nuts and other fruit), market garden or "truck farm" (vegetables and flowers). Some farms may be denoted by their topographical location, such as a hill farm, while large estates growing cash crops such as cotton or coffee may be called plantations.

Many other terms are used to describe farms to denote their methods of production, as in collective, corporate, intensive, organic or vertical.

Other farms may primarily exist for research or education, such as an ant farm, and since farming is synonymous with mass production, the word "farm" may be used to describe wind power generation or puppy farm.

Specialized farms

Dairy farm

A milking machine in action Cow milking machine in action DSC04132.jpg
A milking machine in action

Dairy farming is a class of agriculture, where female cattle, goats, or other mammals are raised for their milk, which may be either processed on-site or transported to a dairy for processing and eventual retail sale There are many breeds of cattle that can be milked some of the best producing ones include Holstein, Norwegian Red, Kostroma, Brown Swiss, and more. [12]

In most Western countries, a centralized dairy facility processes milk and dairy products, such as cream, butter, and cheese. In the United States, these dairies are usually local companies, while in the southern hemisphere facilities may be run by very large nationwide or trans-national corporations (such as Fonterra).

Dairy farms generally sell male calves for veal meat, as dairy breeds are not normally satisfactory for commercial beef production. Many dairy farms also grow their own feed, typically including corn, alfalfa, and hay. This is fed directly to the cows, or stored as silage for use during the winter season. Additional dietary supplements are added to the feed to improve milk production. [13]

Poultry farm

Poultry farming Poultry Farming in Nepal2.jpg
Poultry farming

Poultry farms are devoted to raising chickens (egg layers or broilers), turkeys, ducks, and other fowl, generally for meat or eggs. [14]

Pig farm

A pig farm is one that specializes in raising pigs or hogs for bacon, ham and other pork products. They may be free range, intensive, or both.


Farm control and ownership has traditionally been a key indicator of status and power, especially in Medieval European agrarian societies. The distribution of farm ownership has historically been closely linked to form of government. Medieval feudalism was essentially a system that centralized control of farmland, control of farm labor and political power, while the early American democracy, in which land ownership was a prerequisite for voting rights, was built on relatively easy paths to individual farm ownership. However, the gradual modernization and mechanization of farming, which greatly increases both the efficiency and capital requirements of farming, has led to increasingly large farms. This has usually been accompanied by the decoupling of political power from farm ownership.[ citation needed ]

Forms of ownership

In some societies (especially socialist and communist), collective farming is the norm, with either government ownership of the land or common ownership by a local group. Especially in societies without widespread industrialized farming, tenant farming and sharecropping are common; farmers either pay landowners for the right to use farmland or give up a portion of the crops.


Agribusiness (also called bio-business [15] [16] or bio-enterprise) refers to the enterprises, the industry, the system, and the field of study of the interrelated and interdependent [17] value chains in agriculture [18] and bio-economy. [19] The primary goal of agribusiness is to maximize profit while sustainably satisfying the needs of consumers for products related to natural resources such as biotechnology, farms, food, forestry, fisheries, fuel, and fiber — usually with the exclusion of non-renewable resources such as mining. [20] [21]

Agribusiness is not limited to farming. It encompasses a broader spectrum through the agribusiness system which includes input supplies, value-addition, marketing, entrepreneurship, microfinancing, agricultural extension, among others.

In some countries like the Philippines, creation and management of agribusiness enterprises require consultation with registered agriculturists if reached a certain level of operations, capitalization, land area, or number of animals in the farm.

Farms around the world


Farming near Klingerstown, Pennsylvania Farming near Klingerstown, Pennsylvania.jpg
Farming near Klingerstown, Pennsylvania
A typical North American grain farm with farmstead in Ontario, Canada Ontario farm.jpg
A typical North American grain farm with farmstead in Ontario, Canada

The land and buildings of a farm are called the "farmstead". [22] Enterprises where livestock are raised on rangeland are called ranches . Where livestock are raised in confinement on feed produced elsewhere, the term feedlot is usually used.

In the US, in 1910 there were 6,406,000 farms and 10,174,000 family workers; In 2000 there were only 2,172,000 farms and 2,062,300 family workers. [23] The share of U.S. farms operated by women has risen steadily over recent decades, from 5 percent in 1978 to 14 percent by 2007. [24]

In the United States, there are over three million migrant and seasonal farmworkers; 72% are foreign-born, 78% are male, they have an average age of 36 and average education of 8 years. [25] Farmworkers make an average hourly rate of $9–10 per hour, compared to an average of over $18 per hour for nonfarm labor. Their average family income is under $20,000 and 23% live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level. [26] One-half of all farmworker families earn less than $10,000 per year, [27] which is significantly below the 2005 U.S. poverty level of $19,874 for a family of four.

In 2007, corn acres are expected to increase by 15% because of the high demand for ethanol, both in and outside of the U.S. Producers are expecting to plant 90.5 million acres (366,000 km2) of corn, making it the largest corn crop since 1944. [28]


Farmlands in Hebei province, China Chinafarmland.jpg
Farmlands in Hebei province, China


According to the World Bank, "most empirical evidence indicates that land productivity on large farms in Pakistan is lower than that of small farms, holding other factors constant." Small farmers have "higher net returns per hectare" than large farms, according to farm household income data. [29]


Goat found in Nepal Jamnapari goat.jpg
Goat found in Nepal

Nepal is an agricultural country and about 80% of the total population are engaged in farming. Rice is mainly produced in Nepal along with fruits like apples. [30] Dairy farming and poultry farming are also growing in Nepal.


Cows grazing on a farm in Victoria, Australia Cows in green field - nullamunjie olive grove03.jpg
Cows grazing on a farm in Victoria, Australia
Goat found in Australia Goat at the Farm.jpg
Goat found in Australia

Farming is a significant economic sector in Australia. A farm is an area of land used for primary production which will include buildings.

According to the UN, "green agriculture directs a greater share of total farming input expenditures towards the purchase of locally sourced input?(e.g. labour and organic fertilisers) and a local multiplier effect is expected to kick in. Overall, green farming practices tend to require more labour inputs than conventional farming (e.g. from comparable levels to as much as 30 per cent more) (FAO 2007 and European Commission 2010), creating jobs in rural areas and a higher return on labour inputs." [31]

Where most of the income is from some other employment, and the farm is really an expanded residence, the term hobby farm is common. This will allow sufficient size for recreational use but be very unlikely to produce sufficient income to be self-sustaining. Hobby farms are commonly around 2 hectares (4.9 acres) but may be much larger depending upon land prices (which vary regionally).

Often very small farms used for intensive primary production are referred to by the specialization they are being used for, such as a dairy rather than a dairy farm, a piggery, a market garden, etc. This also applies to feedlots, which are specifically developed to a single purpose and are often not able to be used for more general purpose (mixed) farming practices.

In remote areas farms can become quite large. As with estates in England, there is no defined size or method of operation at which a large farm becomes a station.

Traditional Dutch farmhouse Rieten dak old farmhouse.jpg
Traditional Dutch farmhouse


In the UK, farm as an agricultural unit, always denotes the area of pasture and other fields together with its farmhouse, farmyard and outbuildings. Large farms, or groups of farms under the same ownership, may be called an estate. Conversely, a small farm surrounding the owner's dwelling is called a smallholding and is generally focused on self-sufficiency with only the surplus being sold.


A typical farm in Namibia Farm Langverwacht, Namibia (2017).jpg
A typical farm in Namibia

A farm in Africa includes various structures. Depending on climate-related areas primarily farming is the raising and breeding of grazing livestock, such as cattle, sheep, ostriches, horses or goats. Predominantly domestic animals are raised for their meat, milk, skin, leather or fiber (wool). You might even come across silk farms. [32]

Furthermore, there are plenty of hunting farms, guest farms and game farms. Arable or irrigated land is often used for raising crops such as feed grains and hay for animal feeding.

On some farms (Astro Farm) star-gazing became very popular because of the excellent optical quality in the desert. [33] The High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.) which investigates cosmic gamma rays is situated on Farm Göllschau in Namibia.

Farm equipment

Farm equipment has evolved over the centuries from simple hand tools such as the hoe, through ox- or horse-drawn equipment such as the plough and harrow, to the modern highly technical machinery such as the tractor, baler and combine harvester replacing what was a highly labour-intensive occupation before the Industrial revolution. Today much of the farm equipment used on both small [34] and large farms is automated (e.g. using satellite guided farming). [35]

As new types of high-tech farm equipment have become inaccessible to farmers that historically fixed their own equipment, Wired reports there is a growing backlash, [36] due mostly to companies using intellectual property law to prevent farmers from having the legal right to fix their equipment (or gain access to the information to allow them to do it). [37] This has encouraged groups such as Open Source Ecology and Farm Hack [38] to begin to make open source hardware for agricultural machinery. In addition on a smaller scale Farmbot [39] and the RepRap open source 3D printer community has begun to make open-source farm tools available of increasing levels of sophistication. [40]

See also

Related Research Articles

Farmer Person engaged in agriculture, raising living organisms for food or raw materials

A farmer is a person engaged in agriculture, raising living organisms for food or raw materials. The term usually applies to people who do some combination of raising field crops, orchards, vineyards, poultry, or other livestock. A farmer might own the farmed land or might work as a laborer on land owned by others, but in most developed economies, a farmer is usually a farm owner, while employees of the farm are known as farm workers, or farmhands. However, in other older definitions a farmer was a person who promotes or improves the growth of plants, land or crops or raises animals by labor and attention.

Animal husbandry Management, selective breeding, and care of farm animals by humans

Animal husbandry is the branch of agriculture concerned with animals that are raised for meat, fibre, milk, or other products. It includes day-to-day care, selective breeding and the raising of livestock. Husbandry has a long history, starting with the Neolithic revolution when animals were first domesticated, from around 13,000 BC onwards, antedating farming of the first crops. By the time of early civilisations such as ancient Egypt, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs were being raised on farms.

Agriculture in Australia Overview of agriculture in Australia

Although Australia is mostly arid, the nation is a major agricultural producer and exporter, with over 325,300 employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing as of February 2015. Agriculture and its closely related sectors earn $155 billion-a-year for a 12% share of GDP. Farmers and grazers own 135,997 farms, covering 61% of Australia's landmass. Across the country there is a mix of irrigation and dry-land farming. Australia leads the world with 35 million hectares certified organic, which is 8.8% of Australia's agricultural land and Australia now accounts for more than half (51%) of the world's certified organic agriculture hectares. The success of Australia to become a major agricultural power despite the odds is facilitated by its policies of long-term visions and promotion of agricultural reforms that greatly increased the country's agricultural industry.

Agribusiness refers to the enterprises, the industry, the system, and the field of study of the interrelated and interdependent value chains in agriculture and bio-economy. The primary goal of agribusiness is to maximize profit while sustainably satisfying the needs of consumers for products related to natural resources such as biotechnology, farms, food, forestry, fisheries, fuel, and fiber — usually with the exclusion of non-renewable resources such as mining.

Pastoral farming Method for producing livestock

Pastoral farming is aimed at producing livestock, rather than growing crops. Examples include dairy farming, raising beef cattle, and raising sheep for wool. In contrast, arable farming concentrates on crops rather than livestock. Finally, mixed farming incorporates livestock and crops on a single farm. Some mixed farmers grow crops purely as fodder for their livestock; some crop farmers grow fodder and sell it. In some cases pastoral farmers are known as graziers, and in some cases pastoralists. Pastoral farming is a non-nomadic form of pastoralism in which the livestock farmer has some form of ownership of the land used, giving the farmer more economic incentive to improve the land. Unlike other pastoral systems, pastoral farmers are sedentary and do not change locations in search of fresh resources. Rather, pastoral farmers adjust their pastures to fit the needs of their animals. Improvements include drainage, stock tanks, irrigation and sowing clover.

Agriculture in Canada Overview of agriculture in Canada

Canada is one of the largest agricultural producers and exporters in the world. As with other developed nations, the proportion of the population agriculture employed and agricultural GDP as a percentage of the national GDP fell dramatically over the 20th century, but it remains an important element of the Canadian economy. A wide range of agriculture is practised in Canada, from sprawling wheat fields of the prairies to summer produce of the Okanagan valley. In the federal government, overview of Canadian agriculture is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Agriculture in Mongolia

Agriculture in Mongolia constitutes over 10% of Mongolia's annual Gross domestic product and employs one-third of the labor force. However, the high altitude, extreme fluctuation in temperature, long winters, and low precipitation provides limited potential for agricultural development. The growing season is only 95 – 110 days. Because of Mongolia's harsh climate, it is unsuited to most cultivation. Only 1% of the arable land in Mongolia is cultivated with crops, amounting to 1,322,000 hectares in 1998. The agriculture sector therefore remains heavily focused on nomadic animal husbandry with 75% of the land allocated to pasture, and cropping only employing 3% of the population. Crops produced in Mongolia include corn, wheat, barley, and potatoes. Animals raised commercially in Mongolia include sheep, goats, cattle, horses, camels, and pigs. They are raised primarily for their meat, although goats are valued for their hair which can be used to produce cashmere.

Agriculture in Saskatchewan Agriculture of the Province Saskatchewan in Canada

Agriculture in Saskatchewan is the production of various food, feed, or fiber commodities to fulfill domestic and international human and animal sustenance needs. The newest agricultural economy to be developed in renewable biofuel production or agricultural biomass which is marketed as ethanol or biodiesel. Plant cultivation and livestock production have abandoned subsistence agricultural practices in favor of intensive technological farming resulting in cash crops which contribute to the economy of Saskatchewan. The particular commodity produced is dependent upon its particular biogeography or ecozone of Geography of Saskatchewan. Agricultural techniques and activities have evolved over the years. The first nation nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle and the early immigrant ox and plow farmer proving up on his quarter section of land in no way resemble the present farmer operating huge amounts of land or livestock with their attendant technological mechanization. Challenges to the future of Saskatchewan agriculture include developing sustainable water management strategies for a cyclical drought prone climate in south western Saskatchewan, updating dryland farming techniques, stabilizing organic definitions or protocols and the decision to grow, or not to grow genetically modified foods. Domestically and internationally, some commodities have faced increased scrutiny from disease and the ensuing marketing issues.

Intensive animal farming Type of animal husbandry using high inputs and stocking densities to increase production

Intensive animal farming or industrial livestock production, also known by its opponents as factory farming, is a type of intensive agriculture, specifically an approach to animal husbandry designed to maximize production, while minimizing costs. To achieve this, agribusinesses keep livestock such as cattle, poultry, and fish at high stocking densities, at large scale, and using modern machinery, biotechnology, and global trade. The main products of this industry are meat, milk and eggs for human consumption. There are issues regarding whether intensive animal farming is sustainable or ethical.

Agriculture in Ethiopia

Agriculture in Ethiopia is the foundation of the country's economy, accounting for half of gross domestic product (GDP), 83.9% of exports, and 80% of total employment.

Agriculture in Israel

Agriculture in Israel is a highly developed industry. Israel is a major exporter of fresh produce and a world-leader in agricultural technologies despite the fact that the geography of the country is not naturally conducive to agriculture. More than half of the land area is desert, and the climate and lack of water resources do not favor farming. Only 20% of the land area is naturally arable. In 2008 agriculture represented 2.5% of total GDP and 3.6% of exports. While farmworkers made up only 3.7% of the work force, Israel produced 95% of its own food requirements, supplementing this with imports of grain, oilseeds, meat, coffee, cocoa and sugar.

Agriculture in Sudan Economic sector in Sudan

Agriculture in Sudan plays an important role in that country's economy. Agriculture and livestock raising are the main sources of livelihood for most of the Sudanese population. It was estimated that, as of 2011, 80 percent of the labor force were employed in that sector, including 84 percent of the women and 64 percent of the men.

Agriculture in New Zealand Overview of agriculture in New Zealand

In New Zealand, agriculture is the largest sector of the tradable economy. The country exported NZ$46.4 billion worth of agricultural products in the 12 months to June 2019, 79.6% of the country's total exported goods. The agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector directly contributed $12.653 billion of the national GDP in the 12 months to September 2020, and employed 143,000 people, 5.9% of New Zealand's workforce, as of the 2018 census.

Agriculture in the United Kingdom Economic sector in the United Kingdom

Agriculture in the United Kingdom uses 69% of the country's land area, employs 1.5% of its workforce and contributes 0.6% of its gross value added. The UK produces less than 60% of the food it consumes. Agricultural activity occurs in most rural locations, it is concentrated in East Anglia and the South West (livestock). There are 212,000 farm holdings, which vary widely in size.

Agriculture in Paraguay Economic sector in Paraguay

Throughout its history, agriculture in Paraguay has been the mainstay of the economy. This trend has continued today and in the late 1980s the agricultural sector generally accounted for 48 percent of the nation's employment, 23 percent of GDP, and 98 percent of export earnings. The sector comprised a strong food and cash crop base, a large livestock subsector including cattle ranching and beef production, and a vibrant timber industry.

Agriculture in Bahrain

Despite the low rainfall and poor soil, agriculture in Bahrain historically was an important sector of the economy. Before the development of the oil industry, date palm cultivation dominated Bahrain's agriculture, producing sufficient dates for both domestic consumption and export. At least twenty-three varieties of dates are grown, and the leaves, branches, buds, and flowers of the date palm also are used extensively. From the 1950s through the 1970s, changing food consumption habits, as well as the increasing salinity of the aquifers that served as irrigation sources, led to a gradual decline in date cultivation. By the 1980s, a significant number of palm groves had been replaced by new kinds of agricultural activities, including vegetable gardens, nurseries for trees and flowers, poultry production, and dairy farms.

Agriculture in Saudi Arabia

Agriculture in Saudi Arabia is focused on the export of dates, dairy products, eggs, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and flowers to markets around the world as it has achieved self-sufficiency in the production of such products. The government of Saudi Arabia is heavily involved in the agriculture industry, and the ministry of agriculture is primarily responsible for the agricultural policies in the nation. The private sector also plays a role in the nation's agriculture, as the government offers long-term interest-free loans and low-cost water, fuel, electricity, and duty-free imports of raw materials and machinery.

Livestock Animals kept for production of meat, eggs, milk, wool, etc.

Livestock is commonly defined as domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce labor and commodities such as meat, eggs, milk, fur, leather, and wool. The term is sometimes used to refer solely to those that are bred for consumption, while other times it refers only to farmed ruminants, such as cattle, sheep and goats. Horses are considered livestock in the United States. The USDA classifies pork, veal, beef, and lamb (mutton) as livestock and all livestock as red meat. Poultry and fish are not included in the category.

Shonga Farms is made up of 13 commercial farmers invited by the government of Kwara State, Nigeria, to revolutionize agriculture in the state as well as promote job creation, improve productivity and enhance food security.

Agriculture in Wales Cultivation of plants and animals in Wales

Agriculture in Wales has in the past been a major part of the economy of Wales, a largely rural country that forms part of the United Kingdom. Wales is mountainous and has a mild, wet climate. This results in only a small proportion of the land area being suitable for arable cropping, but grass for the grazing of livestock is present in abundance. As a proportion of the national economy, the importance of agriculture has become much reduced; a high proportion of the population now live in the towns and cities in the south of the country and tourism has become an important form of income in the countryside and on the coast. Arable cropping is limited to the flatter parts and elsewhere dairying and livestock farming predominate.


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