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Production Terms


Production Terms

Agricultural Diversification:  Agricultural diversification refers to growing or producing more than one crop or animal species on a farm.  Market diversification refers to selling through multiple market channels.  Enterprise diversification can refer to incorporating non-farming related enterprises into the farm operation such as teaching workshops, consulting, making value-added products, etc.

Artisan Grain:  Artisan grains are varieties of cereal crops that are differentiated from conventional grains because of a specific attribute that they possess (i.e. high nutritional value, regenerative cultivation practices, etc).  These grains are generally not grown for commodity markets and includes grain subsets such as landraces and ancient grains.

BioDynamic:  A "holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition" rooted in the work of Rudolf Steiner, a early 20th Century scientist and philosopher. 

Chemical Agriculture: Refers to standard farming practices in the agricultural industry that include use of  synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and other chemical approaches. 

Conventional/Industrial Agriculture:  Refers to standard farming practices in the agricultural industry. Can (but does not necessarily) include use of  synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and other chemical approaches. 

Economies of Scale:  Refers to the ability of a farm or ranch to lower its average production costs per unit by increasing production quantities.

Farm:  Defined by USDA as "any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the year."

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs):  GMOs are plants or animals whose genetic makeup has been altered by the addition of genes from another organism.  The process is done to promote more desirable traits, like longer shelf-life or resistance to certain pests.  Genes can be transferred between similar organisms (plant to plant) or between different types of organisms.  An example is the gene from a bacteria (Bt) that was transferred into crop plants.

Heirloom:  Heirloom crop varieties, also called traditional varieties, have been developed by farmers through years of cultivation, selection, and seed saving, and passed down through generations. Generally speaking, heirlooms are varieties that have been in existence for a minimum of fifty years.

Incubator Farm/Farm Incubator:  A place where beginning farmers are given temporary and affordable access to land and infrastructure to produce agricultural products.  Generally includes education and hands-on training program designed to equip learners with the knowledge and skills needed to launch a successful farm business.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM):  An environmentally sensitive and effective pest management approach that relies on a combination of pest management practices and understanding of the life cycle of pests.  The overall goal of IPM is to minimize pest damage by the most economical means and with the least hazard to people, property and the environment.

Land Tenure:  The means by which land is held, used, and transferred, most often through ownership and/or rent/lease.

Locally-Grown:  Food and other agricultural products that are produced, processed, and sold within a certain region, whether defined by distance, state border, or regional boundaries. The U.S .Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 says the total distance that a product can be transported and still be considered a “locally or regionally produced agricultural food product” is less than 400 miles from its origin, or within the State in which it is produced.  The term is not Federally regulated and each farmers market or retail outlet can define and regulate the term based on their own mission and circumstances. 

Market Garden:  Very small farm growing vegetables, fruits, herbs and/or flowers for sale direct to consumers.  Varies in size from a few community garden plots up to three acres.  Much, if not most, of the work is done by hand.

Market Farm:  Generally a farm producing fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers and/or poultry on more than one, but less than ten, acres using a mix of hand labor and small mechanized equipment.  Sales are primarily to direct and intermediated markets.

Mid-Sized Farm:  The USDA defines mid-sized farms as those with more than $250,000 and less tha
n $1 million in gross receipts annually.

No Spray/Pesticide-Free:  While a farm may not be organic, “no spray” or “pesticide-free” is often used to indicate that no chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides have been applied to the crop at any point in its production.  There is no outside verification of this label or claim and farms using this label may be applying pesticides, herbicides and/or fungicides approved for use in certified organic production.  Consumers are advised to ask the producer what they mean by no spray or pesticide-free.

No Chemicals:  Used to indicate products are produced without the use of chemical fertilizers and/or pesticides.  This label does not tell the consumer what production practices are used and there is no process to verify producer claims.  Ask the producer what they mean by the claim and who provides oversight to ensure the claim is valid.

No-Till:  A method of growing crops and pasture without tilling the soil.  Can reduce soil erosion and fuel use, increase soil organic matter and benefit soil organisms.                                                                   

Organic Agriculture:  A method of agricultural production that relies on biological and ecological processes to produce food.  Also referred to as ecological or biological farming, organic food is grown without using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Produce Safety Rule (PSR):  Part of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. 

Regenerative Agriculture:  A system of farming principles and practices that increase biodiversity, enrich soils, improve watersheds, and enhance ecosystem services.  Aims of regenerative agriculture include capturing carbon in soil and above ground biomass, reversing global climate change, increasing yields, increasing resilience to climate instability, improving health and increasing the viability of farming communities.  While certified organic farms and ranches may use regenerative agriculture practices, regenerative agriculture is not synonymous with certified organic.

Small Farm:  The USDA defines small farms as those with less than $250,000 in gross receipts annually and on which day-to-day labor and management are provided by the farmer and/or the farm family that owns the production, or owns or leases the productive assets. The USDA Economic Research Service uses a threshold of $350,000 in gross receipts.  However, at that level of gross sales  more than 70% of farms in Idaho are classified as small.   A more appropriate  concept might be  those grossing under $50,000 and that is also arbitrary.  Looking at small by acreage is even less meaningful.  Production acreage depends on the agricultural product for example: 150 acres under vegetable production would seem a large farm where 150 acres might not be large for raising pasture-based animals. 

Small-scale nano farm:  Very little market farm.  Includes very small indoor production systems for crops such as specialty mushrooms and microgreens.

Socially Disadvantaged Farmer or Rancher:  A group whose members have been subject to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities.  These groups consist of American Indians or Alaskan Natives, Asians, Blacks or African Americans, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and women. 

Stewardship:  Care for and conservation of the natural resources - water, soil, native plant communities, etc. - on lands where farming and ranching takes place.

Sustainable Agriculture:  The is no one approach to sustainable agriculture.  In general sustainable agriculture describes approaches to farming that are socially just, humane, economically viable, and environmentally sound. Practices that promote diversity,  build healthy soils, protect riparian waterways, recycle on farm inputs and bring farmers the opportunity to set their own prices promote sustainability.  To learn more visit 

Truck Farm:  An older term that refers to farms producing fruits and vegetables produced on farms that generally have 10-100 acres in production.  Often sell through a variety of direct, intermediated and wholesale markets.

Livestock Production


Free-Range:  Can be used on any poultry or meat product.  To obtain USDA's Labeling Program and Delivery Division's approval for labels claiming "free-range" producers must provide a description of housing conditions that show there is free access to the out-of-doors for 51% of the animal's life.  This term is not a certification with independent oversight and verification of practices. As a result, farm conditions vary widely across producers. 

Grain-Finished:  Cattle spend part of their lives eating grass and forage in pastures and then are transitioned to a grain-based diet for several months to finish growing.  Finishing on a grain-based diet may happen on-farm or in a feedyard.  Generally, it takes longer to finish cattle on grass than on grain.

Grass-Fed:  The diet of grass-fed animals consists entirely of freshly grazed pasture during the growing season and stored grasses (hay or grass silage) during the winter months or drought conditions. Grass feeding is used with cattle, sheep, goats, and bison.

Heritage-Bred:  A term applied to traditional breeds of livestock that were bred over time to be well-adapted to local environmental conditions, withstand disease, and survive in harsh environmental conditions. Heritage breeds generally have slow growth rates and long productive lifespans outdoors, making them well-suited for grazing and pasturing.

Humane/Humanely-Raised:  If an animal product is labeled “humane,” it implies that the animals were treated with compassion.  Not all “Humane” claims are regulated or verified by a third party. 

All Natural/Naturally Grown:  USDA guidelines state that all fresh meat qualify as natural.  Product labeled as "natural" meat and poultry can only undergo minimal processing and cannot contain artificial ingredients or added colors. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as no artificial colors, minimally processed). The claim “natural” is otherwise unregulated.

Pasture-Raised:  A claim asserting animals (meat, dairy, poultry, eggs) were raised, at least some portion of their lives, on grass grown in a pasture.   USDA approval for labels bearing the claims "pasture raised," "pasture grown," "free-roaming" and "meadow-raised" require producers meet the USDA requirements for "free-range" as well as livestock from which the products are derived had continuous, free access to the out-of-doors for a significant portion of their lives.  According to USDA, feedlot-raised livestock or any livestock that were confined and fed for any portion of their lives cannot use these terms.  These terms lack clear standards and are not a certification with independent oversight and verification of practices. As a result, farm conditions vary widely across producers. 

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