Gardening vs. farming

IMG_1403Had a great talk with a guy at the farmers market the other day.  He has been gardening for a couple of years, and wants to sell at farmers market. It got me thinking about how we got started, what we do, and why we do it.

One of the things I realized is the that there is a big difference between gardening and farming.  Although we often use the terms interchangeably, there is both a philosophical and practical distinction between the two.  I’m not sure I can really articulate the difference, but it’s there.

To my mind, gardening is more intimate; more time and attention is given to each plant, each row, and the emphasis is on pleasure; that is, the experience of being in the garden.  I guess we have a natural desire to return to Eden.

Farming, on the other hand, has an emphasis on production.  Unlike gardening, where the journey is just as important as the destination, farming must be productive.  If at the end of the season the farm is not profitable, there might not be a next season.  Individual plants are sacrificed for the efficiency of the row; rows are sometimes sacrificed for the sake of vehicle paths or irrigation lines.  The economy of scale often dominates.

Part of having a small farm is trying not to lose that connection to the soil and systems we enjoyed as gardeners while still growing enough to have a profitable enterprise.  A big problem with our current agricultural economy is the emphasis on “big”.  Thus the idea of the small farm.   It is our hope that by living simply, working harder and smarter, and staying within our means, we can have our small farm and make a go of it.

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