The term farmer usually applies to people who do some combination of raising field crops, orchards, vineyards, poultry, or other livestock. Their 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.
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.
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. 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 consumers in the local food market. Historically, one subsisting in this way may have been known as a peasant.
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.
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.
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