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Woman at work, Gujarat.jpg
Woman working in a rice field near Junagadh, Gujarat, India, in 2013.
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Fields of
Farm, agribusiness
Related jobs
Rancher (U.S.), grazier (Australia) or stockman

A farmer is a person engaged in agriculture, raising living organisms for food or raw materials. [1] 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 farm land or might work as a laborer on land owned by others. In most developed economies, a "farmer" is usually a farm owner (landowner), 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 (as livestock or fish) by labor and attention.


Over half a billion farmers are smallholders, most of whom are in developing countries, and who economically support almost two billion people. [2] [3] Globally, women constitute more than 40% of agricultural employees. [4]


Farming dates back as far as the Neolithic, being one of the defining characteristics of that era. By the Bronze Age, the Sumerians had an agriculture specialized labor force by 5000–4000 BCE, and heavily depended on irrigation to grow crops. They relied on three-person teams when harvesting in the spring. [5] The Ancient Egypt farmers farmed and relied and irrigated their water from the Nile. [6]

Animal husbandry, the practice of rearing animals specifically for farming purposes, has existed for thousands of years. Dogs were domesticated in East Asia about 15,000 years ago. Goats and sheep were domesticated around 8000 BCE in Asia. Swine or pigs were domesticated by 7000 BCE in the Middle East and China. The earliest evidence of horse domestication dates to around 4000 BCE. [7]

Advancements in technology

Afghani farmers learning about greenhouses FFA greenhouse training 120813-A-PO167-151.jpg
Afghani farmers learning about greenhouses

In the U.S. of the 1930s, one farmer could only produce enough food to feed three other consumers. A modern-day farmer produces enough food to feed well over a hundred people. However, some authors consider this estimate to be flawed, as it does not take into account that farming requires energy and many other resources which have to be provided by additional workers, so that the ratio of people fed to farmers is actually smaller than 100 to 1. [8]


An American dairy farmer NRCSCT07047 - Connecticut (716026)(NRCS Photo Gallery).tif
An American dairy farmer

More distinct terms are commonly used to denote farmers who raise specific domesticated animals. For example, those who raise grazing livestock, such as cattle, sheep, goats and horses, are known as ranchers (U.S.), graziers (Australia & UK) or simply stockmen. Sheep, goat and cattle farmers might also be referred to, respectively, as shepherds , goatherds and cowherds . The term dairy farmer is applied to those engaged primarily in milk production, whether from cattle, goats, sheep, or other milk producing animals. A poultry farmer is one who concentrates on raising chickens, turkeys, ducks or geese, for either meat, egg or feather production, or commonly, all three. A person who raises a variety of vegetables for market may be called a truck farmer or market gardener. Dirt farmer is an American colloquial term for a practical farmer, or one who farms his own land. [9]

'Farming is a public service' shirt Farming is a public service shirt.jpg
'Farming is a public service' shirt

In developed nations, a farmer (as a profession) is usually defined as someone with an ownership interest in crops or livestock, and who provides land or management in their production. Those who provide only labor are most often called farmhands. Alternatively, growers who manage farmland for an absentee landowner, sharing the harvest (or its profits) are known as sharecroppers or sharefarmers. In the context of agribusiness, a farmer is defined broadly, and thus many individuals not necessarily engaged in full-time farming can nonetheless legally qualify under agricultural policy for various subsidies, incentives, and tax deductions.

A farmer in Nicaragua Farmer, Nicaragua (rotated).jpg
A farmer in Nicaragua


In the context of developing nations or other pre-industrial cultures, most farmers practice a meager subsistence agriculture—a simple organic-farming system employing crop rotation, seed saving, slash and burn, or other techniques to maximize efficiency while meeting the needs of the household or community. One subsisting in this way may become labelled as a peasant , often associated disparagingly with a "peasant mentality". [10]

Tanzanian tea farmers Tanzanian tea farmers.jpg
Tanzanian tea farmers

In developed nations, however, a person using such techniques on small patches of land might be called a gardener and be considered a hobbyist. Alternatively, one might be driven into such practices by poverty or, ironically—against the background of large-scale agribusiness—might become an organic farmer growing for discerning/faddish consumers in the local food market.

Farming organizations

Meeting of the Eastern Illinois Beekeepers Association, 1914 American bee journal (1914) (17930911149).jpg
Meeting of the Eastern Illinois Beekeepers Association, 1914

Farmers are often members of local, regional, or national farmers' unions or agricultural producers' organizations and can exert significant political influence. The Grange movement in the United States was effective in advancing farmers' agendas, especially against railroad and agribusiness interests early in the 20th century. The FNSEA is very politically active in France, especially pertaining to genetically modified food. Agricultural producers, both small and large, are represented globally by the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), representing over 600 million farmers through 120 national farmers' unions in 79 countries. [11]

Youth farming organizations

There are many organizations that are targeted at teaching young people how to farm and advancing the knowledge and benefits of sustainable agriculture.


Farmed products might be sold either to a market, in a farmers' market, or directly from a farm. In a subsistence economy, farm products might to some extent be either consumed by the farmer's family or pooled by the community.

Occupational hazards

A combine harvester on an English farm Claas Tucano 430 combine harvester.jpg
A combine harvester on an English farm

There are several occupational hazards for those in agriculture; farming is a particularly dangerous industry. [12] Farmers can encounter and be stung or bitten by dangerous insects and other arthropods, including scorpions, fire ants, bees, wasps and hornets. [13] Farmers also work around heavy machinery which can kill or injure them. Farmers can also establish muscle and joints pains from repeated work. [14]


The word 'farmer' originally meant a person collecting taxes from tenants working a field owned by a landlord. [15] [16] The word changed to refer to the person farming the field. Previous names for a farmer were churl and husbandman. [17]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agriculture</span> Cultivation of plants and animals to provide useful products

Agriculture encompasses crop and livestock production, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry for food and non-food products. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities. While humans started gathering grains at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers only began planting them around 11,500 years ago. Sheep, goats, pigs and cattle were domesticated around 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. In the twentieth century, industrial agriculture based on large-scale monocultures came to dominate agricultural output.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to agriculture:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Farm</span> Area of land for farming, or, for aquaculture, lake, river or sea, including various structures

A farm 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. 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Animal husbandry</span> 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, predating 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Subsistence agriculture</span> Farming to meet basic needs

Subsistence agriculture occurs when farmers grow food crops to meet the needs of themselves and their families on smallholdings. Subsistence agriculturalists target farm output for survival and for mostly local requirements, with little or no surplus. Planting decisions occur principally with an eye toward what the family will need during the coming year, and only secondarily toward market prices. Tony Waters, a professor of sociology, defines "subsistence peasants" as "people who grow what they eat, build their own houses, and live without regularly making purchases in the marketplace."

Agribusiness is the industry, enterprises, and the field of study of value chains in agriculture and in the bio-economy, in which case it is also called bio-business or bio-enterprise. The primary goal of agribusiness is to maximize profit while satisfying the needs of consumers for products related to natural resources such as biotechnology, farms, food, forestry, fisheries, fuel, and fiber.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pastoral farming</span> 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agriculture in Canada</span> 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agriculture in Saskatchewan</span> 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.

Mixed farming is a type of farming which involves both the growing of crops and the raising of livestock. Such agriculture occurs across Asia and in countries such as India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, South Africa, China, Central Europe, Canada, and Russia. Though at first it mainly served domestic consumption, countries such as the United States and Japan now use it for commercial purposes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture</span> Agriculture and educational organization in New York

Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture is a non-profit farm, education and research center located in Pocantico Hills, New York. The center was created on 80 acres (320,000 m2) formerly belonging to the Rockefeller estate. Stone Barns promotes sustainable agriculture, local food, and community-supported agriculture. Stone Barns is a four-season operation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agriculture in Ethiopia</span> Overview of 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 continued to be the mainstay of the economy of Haiti in the late 1980s; it employed approximately 66 percent of the labor force and accounted for about 35 percent of GDP and for 24 percent of exports in 1987. The role of agriculture in the economy has declined severely since the 1950s, when the sector employed 80 percent of the labor force, represented 50 percent of GDP, and contributed 90 percent of exports. Many factors have contributed to this decline. Some of the major ones included the continuing fragmentation of landholdings, low levels of agricultural technology, migration out of rural areas, insecure land tenure, a lack of capital investment, high commodity taxes, the low productivity of undernourished animals, plant diseases, and inadequate infrastructure. Neither the government nor the private sector invested much in rural ventures; in FY 1989 only 5 percent of the national budget went to the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development. As Haiti entered the 1990s, however, the main challenge to agriculture was not economic, but ecological. Extreme deforestation, soil erosion, droughts, flooding, and the ravages of other natural disasters had all led to a critical environmental situation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agriculture in Sudan</span> 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agriculture in the United Kingdom</span> Economic sector in the United Kingdom

Agriculture in the United Kingdom uses 71% of the country's land area, employs 1% of its workforce and contributes 0.5% of its gross value added. The UK currently produces about 60% of its domestic food consumption.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Livestock</span> Animals kept for production of meat, eggs, milk, wool, etc.

Livestock are the domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to provide labor and produce diversified products for consumption such as meat, eggs, milk, fur, leather, and wool. The term is sometimes used to refer solely to animals who are raised for consumption, and sometimes used to refer solely to farmed ruminants, such as cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. 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. The latter is likely due to the fact that fish products are not governed by the USDA, but by the FDA.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agriculture in Mexico</span>

Agriculture in Mexico has been an important sector of the country’s economy historically and politically even though it now accounts for a very small percentage of Mexico’s GDP. Mexico is one of the cradles of agriculture with the Mesoamericans developing domesticated plants such as maize, beans, tomatoes, squash, cotton, vanilla, avocados, cacao, various kinds of spices, and more. Domestic turkeys and Muscovy ducks were the only domesticated fowl in the pre-Hispanic period and small dogs were raised for food. There were no large domesticated animals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agriculture in Wales</span> 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.

This glossary of agriculture is a list of definitions of terms and concepts used in agriculture, its sub-disciplines, and related fields. For other glossaries relevant to agricultural science, see Glossary of biology, Glossary of ecology, Glossary of environmental science, and Glossary of botanical terms.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agriculture in North Macedonia</span>

Agriculture in the Republic of North Macedonia provides a livelihood for a fifth of the country's population, where half live in a rural area. Industrialisation of the country was very delayed, due to the long Ottoman domination, and then destruction from World War 1 and Serbian occupation. Massive agrarian reforms began under Socialist Federative Yugoslavia with its own communist rule. The continental and sub-Mediterranean climates in the country allows for a great diversity of output, but the pronounced terrain creates areas that are unexploitable for farmers. Macedonian agriculture is dominated by livestock farming, especially in its mountainous regions, viticulture, and the growing of fruit and vegetables, cereals, and tobacco. Agriculture in the country is characterised by numerous small-scale family farms, but also by large businesses, left over from the socialist era. Since its independence in 1991, the country has become a market economy. Today, agriculture accounts for 10% of North Macedonia's GDP.


  1. Dyer 2007 , p. 1: "The word 'farmer' was originally used to describe a tenant paying a leasehold rent (a farm), often for holding a lord's manorial demesne. The use of the word was eventually extended to mean any tenant or owner of a large holding, though when Gregory King estimated that there were 150,000 farmers in the late seventeenth century he evidently defined them by their tenures, as freeholders were counted separately."
  2. "Operating model –". Archived from the original on 2013-05-05. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  3. HLPE, Committee on World Food Security ,Rome (June 2013). "Investing in smallholder agriculture" (PDF). Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  4. "SOFA 2017 - The State of Food and Agriculture". Retrieved 2021-03-08.
  5. By the sweat of thy brow: Work in the Western world, Melvin Kranzberg, Joseph Gies, Putnam, 1975
  6. Nicholson (2000) p. 514
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  13. "Insects and Scorpions". NIOSH. February 24, 2012. Archived from the original on September 3, 2015.
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  15. "Farmer | Definition of Farmer by Lexico". Lexico Dictionaries | English. Oxford Dictionaries. Archived from the original on December 26, 2019. A person to whom the collection of taxes was contracted for a fee
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  17. "farmer | Origin and meaning of farmer by Online Etymology Dictionary".