Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What's in a Name?

While chatting with the Masters of Softness recently the question of Farm vs. Ranch came up and really what's the difference?

As I understand it, Farm and Ranch mean basically the same thing.  Although the words conjure up different images.

In my head, farms have rows of veggies such as corn and wheat.  Ranches have wide open spaces with herds of livestock such as cows and buffalo.

Farms are neat and orderly.  Ranches are more wild and free form.

Ranches are western.  Ranches have cowboys and cattle drives.  There is sleeping under the stars after driving little doggies all day, eating cowboy beans and singing songs around a camp fire.

I think of the South Dakota Cowgirl as living on a ranch and Monty of Los Poblanos as living on a farm.

But Thoroughbred's are raised on horse farms in Kentucky and farms can have pigs, cows and chickens.  You know, Old MacDonald had a farm, EIEIO.

So really, what's the difference?  Size?  Location?

Kathleen of Zena Suri Alpacas lives on 78 acres in Oklahoma and raises alpacas.  It's western, it's large, she's raising livestock... I would call it a ranch.

Susie at Juniper Moon Farm lives on 11 acres in Virginia and raises goats, sheep, chickens and bees.  It's eastern, it's smaller, she's raising livestock and calls it a farm.

Then there's us.  We're raising alpacas in Colorado on three acres.  It's western.  It's small.  We're raising livestock.  Hmmm.

When I think about harvesting or selling fiber, I think of us a farmers.  But when I think about Alpacamundo in the future, I call it a ranch.  Today though, I have a hard time calling our three acres a ranch.  So I had to resort to Merriam-Webster...

farm: \ˈfärm\ noun 14th century, Middle English/Anglo-French: (a) a tract of land devoted to agricultural purposes (b) plot of land devoted to the raising of animals and especially domestic livestock (c) a tract of water reserved for the artificial cultivation of some aquatic life form

ranch: \ˈranch\ noun 1831, Mexican Spanish: (a) a large farm for raising horses, beef cattle, or sheep (b) a farm or area devoted to a particular specialty

This feels like they mean about the same thing, with ranches being larger and specifically about animals.

The second definition listed for farm has me comfortable with identifying us as farmers.  Which means, Alpacamundo is a fiber farm.


Lynda said...

Hi Kathryn:

I like the idea of referring to the fibre as your crop. In that sense, being identified as a farm makes sense.

Kristi aka Fiber Fool said...

I'm with you, 3 acres is hard to consider as a ranch. Perhaps it is because I come from a dairy "farm," but I think of ranches as grazing their lifestock.