Land - Farms - Ranches

A Farm Can be From
One to Several Thousand Acres

A farm is an area of land, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food (produce, grains, or livestock), fibers and, increasingly, fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production. Farms may be owned and operated by a single individual, family, community, corporation or a company. A farm can be a holding of any size from an acre to several thousand acres.

A business producing tree fruits (Cherry trees in Linden California) or nuts (Ripon California has Almonds) are called orchards; Lodi vineyards produce grapes. The stable is used for operations principally involved in the training of horses. Stud and commercial farms breed and produce other animals and livestock. A farm that is primarily used for the production of milk and dairy is a dairy farm. A market garden or truck farm is a farm that grows vegetables, but little or no grain. Additional specialty farms include fish farms, which raise fish in captivity as a food source, and tree farms, which grow trees for sale for transplant, lumber, or decorative use. A plantation is usually a large farm or estate, on which cotton, tobacco, coffee or sugar cane, are cultivated, usually by resident laborers.

The development of farming and farms was an important component in establishing towns. Once people have moved from hunting and/or gathering and from simple horticulture to active farming, social arrangements of roads, distribution, collection, and marketing can evolve. With the exception of plantations and colonial farms, farm sizes tend to be small in newly-settled lands and expand as transportation and markets become sophisticated. Farming rights have been the central tenet of a number of revolutions, wars of liberation, and post-colonial economics.

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Agriculture remains the primary industry in most of San Joaquin County in the Central Valley. A notable exception to the predominance of agriculture has been the Sacramento area, where the large and stable workforce of government employees helped steer the economy away from agriculture. Despite state hiring cutbacks and the closure of several military bases, Sacramento's economy has continued to expand and diversify and now more closely resembles that of the nearby San Francisco Bay Area. Primary sources of population growth are people migrating from the San Francisco Bay Area seeking lower housing costs, as well as immigration from Asia, Central America, Mexico, Ukraine and the rest of the former Soviet Union.

A typical North American grain farm with farmstead in Ontario, Canada

The Central Valley in late August.

Central Valley farm land in late August.

Farm produce on display at an agricultural show, NSW.

Etymology

The word came via French ferme from Late Latin firma = "fixed payment" from Latin firmus = "firm, solid", and originally referred to a big landowner farming out his land among other men to run it, rather than running it all himself. As times have changed fewer people are needed to assist in running the farm because of the increase of mechanization.

Farming

Further information: Agriculture The term farming covers a wide spectrum of agricultural production work. At one end of this spectrum is the subsistence farmer, who farms a small area with limited resource inputs, and produces only enough food to meet the needs of his/her family. At the other end is commercial intensive agriculture, including industrial agriculture. Such farming involves large fields and/or numbers of animals, large resource inputs (pesticides, fertilizers, etc.), and a high level of mechanization. These operations generally attempt to maximize financial income from grain, produce, or livestock.

Traditionally, the goal of farming was to work collectively as a community to grow and harvest crops that could be grown in mass such as wheat, corn, squash, and other cash crops. Centuries later these same farmers took charge of livestock, and began growing food exclusively for the feeding of livestock as well as for the community. With the growth of actual civilization the farmer's focus changed from basic survival to that of financial gain. In smaller towns on the outset of civilization the farmer did retain the need to grow their own food, but the financially minded farmer was largely spreading. With the Renaissance came the plantation, a "Farm" primarily worked by others primarily for the gain of the plantation's owner. Then came a new age of industry where the farm could be manned by fewer men and big machines. This meant a complete revolution for farming which will be discussed below.

Types of farming

  • Collective farming
  • Factory farming
  • Intensive farming
  • Organic farming
  • Vertical farming
  • Fell farming

Specialized farms

Dairy farms

Main article: Dairy farming A milking machine in action

In San Joaquin County, located in the central valley of California, 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. 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 the male calves borne by their mothers 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.

Poultry farms

Poultry farms are devoted to raising chickens, turkeys, ducks, and other fowl, generally for meat or eggs.

Ownership

Typical cattle yard in Northern Iowa, USA
Farm control and ownership has traditionally been a key indicator of status and power, especially in 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 owned by individuals or corporations. This has usually been accompanied by the decoupling of political power from farm ownership.

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.

Ranch

View of the Grant-Kohrs Ranch near Deer Lodge, Montana
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though there are ranches in other areas. People who own or operate a ranch are called stock growers or ranchers. Ranching is also a method used to raise less common livestock such as elk, American Bison or even ostrich and emu.

Ranches generally consist of large areas, but may be of nearly any size. In the western United States, many ranches are a combination of privately owned land supplemented by grazing leases on land under the control of the federal Bureau of Land Management. If the ranch includes arable or irrigated land, the ranch may also engage in a limited amount of farming, raising crops for feeding the animals, such as hay and feed grains.

Ranches that cater exclusively to tourists are called guest ranches or, colloquially, "dude ranches." Most working ranches do not cater to guests, though they may allow private hunters or outfitters onto their property to hunt native wildlife. However, in recent years, a few struggling smaller operations have added some dude ranch features, such as horseback rides, cattle drives or guided hunting, in an attempt to bring in additional income. Ranching is part of the iconography of the "Wild West" as seen in Western movies and rodeos.

Origins of ranching

Ranching and the cowboy tradition originated in Spain, out of the necessity to handle large herds of grazing animals on dry land from horseback. During the Reconquista, members of the Spanish nobility and various military orders received large land grants that the Kingdom of Castile had conquered from the Moors. These landowners were to defend the lands put into their control and could use them for earning revenue. In the process it was found that open-range breeding of sheep and cattle (under the Mesta system) was the most suitable use for vast tracts, particularly in the parts of Spain now known as Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura and Andalusia.

History in North America

The historic 101 Ranch in Oklahoma showing the ranchhouse, corrals, and out-buildings.

Spanish North America

When the Conquistadors came to the Americas in the 16th century, followed by settlers, they brought their cattle and cattle-raising techniques with them. Huge land grants by the Spanish (and later Mexican) government, part of the hacienda system, allowed large numbers of animals to roam freely over vast areas. A number of different traditions developed, often related to the original location in Spain from which a settlement originated. For example, many of the traditions of the Jalisco charros in central Mexico come from the Salamanca charros of Castile. The Vaquero tradition of Northern Mexico was more organic, developed to adapt to the characteristics of the region from Spanish sources by cultural interaction between the Spanish elites and the native and mestizo peoples.

United States

Cattle drive in New Mexico, USA
As settlers from the United States moved west, they brought cattle breeds developed on the east coast and in Europe along with them, and adapted their management to the drier lands of the west by borrowing key elements of the Spanish vaquero culture.

However, there were cattle on the eastern seaboard. Deep Hollow Ranch, 110 miles (180 km) east of New York City in Montauk, New York, claims to be the first ranch in the United States, having continuously operated since 1658. The ranch makes the somewhat debatable claim of having the oldest cattle operation in what today is the United States, though cattle had been run in the area since European settlers purchased land from the Indian people of the area in 1643. Although there were substantial numbers of cattle on Long Island, as well as the need to herd them to and from common grazing lands on a seasonal basis, the cattle handlers actually lived in houses built on the pasture grounds, and cattle were ear-marked for identification, rather than being branded. The only actual "cattle drives" held on Long Island consisted of one drive in 1776, when the Island's cattle were moved in a failed attempt to prevent them from being captured by the British during the American Revolution, and three or four drives in the late 1930s, when area cattle were herded down Montauk Highway to pasture ground near Deep Hollow Ranch.

The Open Range

The prairie and desert lands of what today is Mexico and the western United States were well-suited to "open range" grazing. For example, American bison had been a mainstay of the diet for the Native Americans in the Great Plains for centuries. Likewise, cattle and sheep, descended from animals brought over from Europe, were simply turned loose in the spring after their young were born and allowed to roam with little supervision and no fences, then rounded up in the fall, with the mature animals driven to market and the breeding stock brought close to the ranch headquarters for greater protection in the winter. The use of livestock branding allowed the cattle owned by different ranchers to be identified and sorted. Beginning with the settlement of Texas in the 1840s, and expansion both north and west from that time, through the Civil War and into the 1880s, ranching dominated western economic activity.

Along with ranchers came the need for agricultural crops to feed both humans and livestock, and hence many farmers also came west along with ranchers. Many operations were "diversified," with both ranching and farming activities taking place. With the Homestead Act of 1862, more settlers came west to set up farms. This created some conflict, as increasing numbers of farmers needed to fence off fields to prevent cattle and sheep from eating their crops. Barbed wire, invented in 1874, gradually made inroads in fencing off privately owned land, especially for homesteads. There was some reduction of land on the Great Plains open to grazing.

End of the Open Range

The severe winter of 1886-1887 brought an end to the open range. Waiting for a Chinook, by C.M. Russell.
The end of the open range was not brought about by a reduction in land due to arable farming, but by overgrazing. Cattle stocked on the open range created a tragedy of the commons as each rancher sought increased economic benefit by grazing too many animals on public lands that "nobody" owned. However, being a non-native species, the grazing patterns of ever-increasing numbers of cattle slowly reduced the quality of the rangeland, in spite of the simultaneous massive slaughter of American bison that occurred. The winter of 1886-1887 was one of the most severe on record, and livestock that were already stressed by reduced grazing died by the thousands. Many large cattle operations went bankrupt, and others suffered severe financial losses. Thus, after this time, ranchers also began to fence off their land and negotiated individual grazing leases with the American government so that they could keep better control of the pasture land available to their own animals.

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