Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
So I'm a little confused as to the difference between Farming and Homesteading.
Is it like if you are raising meat and vegetables to provide for your family then you are a farmer? But if you are raising vegetables and meat to provide for your family then you are homesteading?
If you are raising meat and vegitables solely to provide for your family then you are a homesteader, but if you are raising it for a larger group - either for sale or part of a CSA, etc. then you would be a farmer - at least IMHO. :-)
It's sort of like a square is a rectangle but a rectangle isn't necessarily a square.
You can easily be both a homesteader and a farmer.
For me a homesteader implies that you are attempting to produce most all of your needs yourself.
Farming does not imply that you are committed to this level of self sufficiency. A farmer can raise 1000 of acres of corn/beans or a farmer can raise vegetables on a small scale. Most all of the folks that I know who call themselves farmers are producing food to sell to others as their focus. Those that I know who call themselves homesteaders are working to be independent as much as possible of outside inputs.
I believe they are similar but different. I think a homesteader is a farmer who lives self sufficiently, growing and producing enough for his or her household. FARMING, is larger scale production with turning a profit as the primary goal. Hopefully someone with better definitions will reply.
I think the hybrid term that I hear thrown around also applies-- Farmstead -- That is a farm that is also committed to providing as much for itself as possible.
IMO, there are two big differences between the two. One is mindset and the other is purpose.
A farmer's purpose is commercial; grow and sell a crop for economic gain. If the maximum gain comes from a monoculture of wheat or soybeans then that's what he'll plant. He farms for a living.
Like a farmer, a homesteader grows crops but the purpose is different. The purpose is to feed his family. So, what's the purpose of that...why not just buy food at the store? That gets to the mindset of the homesteader, which revolves around independence. The homesteader wants to do as much as possible for herself from growing crops to using grapevine wreaths to weaving chairs from willow branches. She preserves food and knows how to take care of her family. A farmer with a field of soybeans is more than happy to run to the Piggly Wiggly for a can of ham whereas the homesteader, by contrast, raised the hog, slaughtered (or took to the processor) the hog and cured the ham herself. The farmer's mindset doesn't require that he do everything for himself and so he relies on modern convenience.
The purpose of the farmer is economic gain off the land. The purpose of the homesteader is self-sufficiency. And, from a mindset point of view, the homesteader would never, ever have a monoculture of anything.
I'd take brief issue with the idea that a farmer's purpose is economic gain off the land. That might be the end result of their actions, and for some farmers it may be the driving force behind farming (especially in the "developed world"), but I don't think it's necessarily the farmer's "purpose".
A farmer's base purpose is to feed him/herself and/or others. They may produce a monoculture, but the end result is food production (or fuel in some cases, but generally it's for food). Farmers are the result of a desire for a sedentary culture, not the desire to make money. In fact, the idea of "economic gain" largely exists because of farmers and not the other way around, agriculture being among the initial industries that drove the development of fiat currency.
So, what makes a farmer? In my mind it's someone who produces a crop (food, fiber, etc) for personal survival and/or trade with others. If trade happens to be another good/service or a big fat wad of cash that's up to the farmer and the community they live in.
A homesteader attempts to be self-sufficient. This makes homesteaders farmers, but not necessarily the other way around. In order to be self-sufficient you must farm (or hunt and gather I suppose). A farmer can produce one crop and not be self-sufficient, but still be a farmer.
If "a farmer's base purpose is to feed him/herself", explain how you think farmers growing a thousand acres of only #2 field corn in Iowa, or 200 acres of only cotton in Alabama, are doing that?
They choose and grow those crops for one reason; it's, in their view, the best CASH crop that year for them. They work for money and then use that money, as most do, to buy food. That's hardly growing food to feed themselves, and this is precisely the difference between homesteaders and farmers, in my view.
I do agree with you that farmers initial desire is for a sedentary/natural culture. They didn't come to the land to get rich, that's for sure. Still, Jeff asked how farming is different from homesteading and he's getting lots of views now...a great, lively discussion!
The farmer you mention would fall into the "feeding others" category. In their mind the corn is going to feed cattle, or make a processed food product, or something along those lines. Lots of conventional farmers view their role as food producers to feed our nation. Even feedlot owners don't typically think there's anything wrong with what they're doing. It's what the consumer demands and it's what they will provide. Cheap meat.
A monoculture cotton farmer produces fiber, which only exists because at one point cotton could be traded for food. Now it's traded for money to buy food. Producing a non-food crop has a higher propensity to be geared toward economic gain, but I still like to think that that's not the only reason!
I also didn't mention any concept of the scale required to be a farmer. I think that's highly subjective. By my definition our windowsill garden would classify us as farmers when that's clearly untrue. However, I don't think putting boundaries on the scale required to be a farmer makes much sense. Of course the government (and many others) would disagree, but I like to leave that up to the observer.
I am enjoying the discussion.
So if we take out "conventional" "farming" (using chemical means) and only focus on farming methods that give back to the earth as well as take away; then we are left with farming and homesteading being very similar things.
The delineating factors in my mind are 1.) the idea of self-sufficiency and 2.) a subjective view on the required scale to be a "farmer". Farmers are not in the business of being self-sufficient and they probably "farm" more land and most likely make some money (or lose some money) doing it, although I don't think that marketing a crop is a prerequisite to being considered a farmer. Homesteaders are in the business of being self-sufficient and they likely "farm" a smaller plot of land and don't seek to make (or lose) money doing it.
Anyway, that's the opinion of an outsider, I'm sure actual farmers and homesteaders have a different view.
To me it is about purpose and intent and is independent of "profit" -- although I don't think that is a bad word at all.
Farming is producing food for yourself and/or others. Homesteading is focused more on providing everything for yourself. "Farmsteading" is providing food for yourself and others while also trying to have as little off land input as possible in day to day living.
This is a good discussion. An exceptional group always starts by creating shared definitions of important terms/values.