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What is a farmer?

By Jennifer Diehl
November 24, 2011

I have been thinking about farmers. In my travels and while speaking to people I have come to the conclusion that farming takes on many different faces, and the perception of farming, by some, is very different from the reality of others. I wonder why that is.

So, what is a farmer anyway? Turning, once again, to my trusty Miriam Webster, I wanted to first define it: “farm•er –n. ~ One who works on or operates a farm. ~ One who has paid for the right to collect and retain certain revenues or profits. ~A simple, unsophisticated person; a bumpkin.”

As you can see, farming has a broad definition. And now I see why some people have a different perception of farming. A bumpkin? What sort of image comes to your mind? A country bumpkin would probably live a simple, easy going life without too many cares in the world, and maybe with a hint of ignorance? As I read some magazines and peruse articles about farming, I am often amused at how some perceive farming, and especially those who haven’t or do not farm. Is there a disparity between what we actually do as farmers and what some might want to perceive us as doing? I was recently amused at an article I saw in a magazine, where the farmers were holding pitchforks, the mother in an apron, the kids with dirty faces and the father with ripped torn jeans. The photographer did a very good job at portraying the country bumpkin that some envision. I, however, know that they don’t really walk around with pitchforks in their hands and stand tall as if they are replaying an episode of hee-haw. I came to the conclusion that it may be hip or cool to some to put a face on the farmer that is simple, or to make their life seem disorganized, hap hazard or in disarray.

Going back to the original definition: a farmer operates a farm. They operate it, work on the land, live off the land and make it prosper. I also know that real farmers are those who use that knowledge not to benefit themselves alone, but to benefit their neighbors, their communities and, some, their country. Now, how many simple country bumpkins do you know that can do all of that?