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A farmer in Chad
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Activity sectors
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Farm, Agribusiness
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Rancher (U.S.), grazier (Australia) or stockman

A farmer [1] (also called an agriculturer[ citation needed ]) 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 advanced economies, a farmer is usually a farm owner, while employees of the farm are known as farm workers, or farmhands. However, in the not so distant past, a farmer was a person who promotes or improves the growth of (a plant, crop, etc.) by labor and attention, land or crops or raises animals (as livestock or fish).


Over 1/2 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 & U.K.), 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.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, ironicallyagainst the background of large-scale agribusinessmight 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]

Odessa Oldham, Casper College, Casper, Wyoming explained her knowledge and experience as a member of the Future Farmer's of America during the United States Department of Agriculture, Native American Indian Heritage Month celebration in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 20111116-OHRM-RBN-Nat.Am.Ind.Heritage - Flickr - USDAgov.jpg
Odessa Oldham, Casper College, Casper, Wyoming explained her knowledge and experience as a member of the Future Farmer’s of America during the United States Department of Agriculture, Native American Indian Heritage Month celebration in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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

Agriculture Cultivation of plants and animals to provide useful products

Agriculture is the science, art, and practice of cultivating crops, livestock, and other renewable resources. Professionals in the field of agriculture are called agriculturists, they provide advice to farmers and farm employees. Farms and agribusinesses are the core of the agriculture industry.

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

Farm 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 fibres, 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.

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, eggs, 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.


Pasture is land used for grazing. Pasture lands in the narrow sense are enclosed tracts of farmland, grazed by domesticated livestock, such as horses, cattle, sheep, or swine. The vegetation of tended pasture, forage, consists mainly of grasses, with an interspersion of legumes and other forbs. Pasture is typically grazed throughout the summer, in contrast to meadow which is ungrazed or used for grazing only after being mown to make hay for animal fodder. Pasture in a wider sense additionally includes rangelands, other unenclosed pastoral systems, and land types used by wild animals for grazing or browsing.

Subsistence agriculture Farming which meets the basic needs of the farmer and family

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 writes: "Subsistence peasants are people who grow what they eat, build their own houses, and live without regularly making purchases in the marketplace."

Landrace Infraspecific name

A landrace is a domesticated, locally adapted, traditional variety of a species of animal or plant that has developed over time, through adaptation to its natural and cultural environment of agriculture and pastoralism, and due to isolation from other populations of the species. Landraces are generally distinguished from cultivars, and from breeds in the standardized sense, although the term landrace breed is sometimes used as distinguished from the term standardized breed when referring to cattle.

Agriculture in ancient Rome

Roman Agriculture describes the farming practices of ancient Rome, during a period of over 1000 years. From humble beginnings, the Roman Republic and empire expanded to rule much of Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East and thus comprised many agricultural environments of which the Mediterranean climate of dry, hot summers and cool, rainy winters was the most common. Within the Mediterranean area, a triad of crops were most important: grains, olives, and grapes.

Agribusiness Agriculture-related 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 Farmington, 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 double 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 for 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 and GDP devoted to agriculture 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 Saskatchewan

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.

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 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 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.

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 as livestock and all livestock as red meat. Poultry and fish are not included in the category.

Agriculture in Mexico

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.

Agriculture 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 botany.

Agriculture in North Macedonia

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 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, Committe 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
  7. "Breeds of Livestock - Oklahoma State University". Archived from the original on 2011-12-24. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  8. Kirschenmann 2000.
  9. Oxford English Dictionary
  10. Bailey, Garrick; Peoples, James (11 January 2013). Essentials of Cultural Anthropology (3 ed.). Cengage Learning (published 2013). pp. 121–122. ISBN   9781133603566 . Retrieved 2019-10-10. Peasants [...] are looked down on by higher classes ("he has a peasant mentality”).
  11. "About the International Federation of Agricultural Producers". Archived from the original on August 7, 2008.
  12. "Agricultural Safety". NIOSH. December 15, 2014. Archived from the original on October 28, 2007.
  13. "Insects and Scorpions". NIOSH. February 24, 2012. Archived from the original on September 3, 2015.
  14. Kumaraveloo, K Sakthiaseelan; Lunner Kolstrup, Christina (2018-07-03). "Agriculture and musculoskeletal disorders in low- and middle-income countries". Journal of Agromedicine. 23 (3): 227–248. doi:10.1080/1059924x.2018.1458671. ISSN   1059-924X. PMID   30047854. S2CID   51719997.
  15. "Farmer | Definition of Farmer by Lexico". Lexico Dictionaries | English. Oxford Dictionaries. A person to whom the collection of taxes was contracted for a fee
  16. "The Lost Meanings of 'Farm' and 'Farmer'". Merriam–Webster's Dictionary of English Usage.
  17. "farmer | Origin and meaning of farmer by Online Etymology Dictionary".