Ed Seaman

We get this question so often from kids and adults alike that I thought I'd take a crack at explaining it. We have a lot of ranches and a lot of farms on the Central Coast, and there are a lot of farms on ranches as well. What's the difference between a ranch and a farm? Well, in a nutshell, farmers mostly raise plants, and ranchers mostly raise animals.

Having said that, don't get too hung up on simple definitions like this, they are like pirate rules. As my favorite pirate Captain Barbossa famously said about the Code of the Order of the Brethren (Pirates of the Caribbean):  "...the code is more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules...". A little bit more clarification:


Famers use their land to raise plants: corn, berries, asparagus, lettuce, wheat, etc. Farmers focus on maintaining the quality of their crops, water, soil, fertilizers and plant varieties. They will collaborate with agronomists (plant scientists) as they work the land. However, farms are often located on ranches, and many farmers raise animals as well as crops. Further, while cowboys that raise beef cattle are typically considered ranchers, folks that raise chickens, dairy cows and pigs are often called farmers. (Why don't we just keep it simple?)


Ranchers use their land to raise animals: horses, cattle, goats, sheep, etc. Ranchers focus on maintaining a healthy food supply and environment for their animals and keeping the animal's facilities up. Ranchers rotate their animals from field to field, focus on large animal husbandry, collaborate with large animal vets and spend time researching genetics and breeding for specific stock characteristics. Oh, and ranches do have farms located on their land. The ranchers will use barbed wire, electric fences, cattle grids and other methods to keep the cattle out of the farmer's fields.


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