Definitions

farming

farming

[fahr-ming]
farming, in agriculture: see agriculture.
farming, in the history of taxation, collection of taxes through private contractors. Usually, the tax farmer paid a lump sum to the public treasury; the difference between that sum and the sum actually collected represented his profit or loss. Although tax farming is no longer practiced, it was common in the cities of ancient Greece and in republican Rome, where the collection of direct taxes was farmed out to publicans; in the Roman Empire only indirect taxes were farmed. In the past, tax farming was practiced in most countries of Europe and Asia. In England the system was tried briefly but played no important part. It was most fully applied in France after 1681, when Jean Baptiste Colbert founded the general farms as an agency of royal administration. The collection of certain indirect taxes was leased by the king to the company of farmers general, a chartered body of 40 financiers (at one time they numbered 60) that guaranteed a fixed sum of revenue in advance. Popular hatred soon developed against the huge profits and extortionist practices of the farmers general, whose organization was abolished (1791) in the French Revolution; some 30 former members of the farm—Antoine Lavoisier among them—were guillotined in the Reign of Terror.

See G. T. Matthews, The Royal General Farms in Eighteenth-Century France (1958).

Agricultural system in which landowners rent their land to farmers and receive either cash or a share of the product in return. Landowners may also contribute operating capital and management. Under one arrangement, known as sharecropping, the landowner furnishes all the capital and sometimes the food, clothing, and medical expenses of the tenant and may also supervise the work. The sharecropper then pays the landowner with a portion of the output grown on the land. In other forms of tenant farming, the tenant may furnish all the equipment and have substantial autonomy in the farm's operation. Tenants and their families probably constitute two-fifths of the world's population engaged in agriculture. Tenant farming can be highly efficient, as has been shown in England and Wales. Abuses occur when landowners' power is excessive and the tenants are poor or of inferior social status.

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Form of farming in which nearly all the crops or livestock raised are used to maintain the farmer and his family, leaving little surplus for sale or trade. Preindustrial agricultural peoples throughout the world practiced subsistence farming. As urban centers grew, agricultural production became more specialized and commercial farming developed, with farmers producing a sizable surplus of certain crops, which they traded for manufactured goods or sold for cash. Subsistence farming persists today in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing areas.

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Raising birds commercially or domestically for meat, eggs, and feathers. Chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese are the birds of primary commercial importance. Guinea fowl and squabs are chiefly of local interest. Though chickens have been domesticated for at least 4,000 years, their meat and eggs have been mass-production commodities only since circa 1800.

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or organic gardening

System of crop cultivation that uses biological methods of fertilization and pest control as substitutes for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which are regarded by supporters of organic methods as harmful to health and the environment and unnecessary for successful cultivation. It was initiated as a conscious rejection of modern agri-chemical techniques in the 1930s by the British agronomist Sir Albert Howard. Miscellaneous organic materials, including animal manure, compost, grass turf, straw, and other crop residues, are applied to fields to improve both soil structure and moisture-holding capacity and to nourish soil life, which in turn nourishes plants. (Chemical fertilizers, by contrast, feed plants directly.) Biological pest control is achieved through preventive methods, including diversified farming, crop rotation, the planting of pest-deterrent species, and the use of integrated pest management techniques. Bioengineered strains are avoided. Since organic farming is time-consuming, organically grown produce tends to be expensive. Organic produce formerly accounted for a minuscule portion of total American farm output, but it has seen a huge proportional increase in sales in recent years.

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or till-less agriculture

Cultivation technique in which the soil is disturbed only along the slit or hole into which seeds are planted. Reserved detritus from previous crops covers and protects the seedbed. Primary benefits are a decreased rate of soil erosion; reduced need for equipment, fuel, and fertilizer; and significantly less time required for tending crops. The method also improves soil-aggregate formation, microbial activity in the soil, and water infiltration and storage. Conventional tillage controls weed growth by plowing and cultivating, but no-till farming selectively uses herbicides to kill weeds and the remains of the previous crop. No-till farming is one of several primitive farming methods revived as conservation measures in the 20th century.

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or fish farming or mariculture

Rearing of fish, shellfish, and some aquatic plants to supplement the natural supply. Fish are reared in controlled conditions worldwide. Though most aquaculture supplies the commercial food market, many governmental agencies engage in it to stock lakes and rivers for sport fishing. It also supplies goldfish and other decorative fish for home aquariums and bait fish for sport and commercial fishing. Carp, trout, catfish, tilapia, scallops, mussels, lobsters, and oysters are well-known species raised through aquaculture.

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Form of animal husbandry that uses mammals, primarily cows, for the production of milk and products processed from it (including butter, cheese, and ice cream). Though cattle, goats, and sheep have been kept for the production of dairy products since the earliest historical times, modern dairy farming resulted from the technological advances of the past hundred years: the factory system for processing; sterile storage; refrigeration, fast vehicles and paved roads; and pasteurization and the enforcement of food-safety laws. Outstanding dairy breeds include the Holstein, Guernsey, Jersey, Ayrshire, and Brown Swiss.

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Baby-farming was a term used in late-Victorian Era Britain (and, less commonly, in Australia and the United States) to mean the taking in of an infant or child for payment; if the infant was young, this usually included wet-nursing (breast-feeding by a woman not the mother). Some baby farmers "adopted" children for lump-sum payments, while others cared for infants for periodic payments. Though baby farmers were paid in the understanding that care would be provided, the term "baby farmer" was used as an insult, and improper treatment was usually implied. Illegitimacy and its attendant stigma were usually the impetus for a mother's decision to put her children "out to nurse" with a baby farmer, but baby-farming also encompassed foster care and adoption in the period before they were regulated by British law.

Richer women, ladies of the class known as gentry, would also put their babies out to be cared for in the homes of villagers. Claire Tomalin gives a detailed account of this in her biography of Jane Austen, who was fostered in this manner, as were all her siblings, from a few months old until they were toddlers. Tomalin emphasises the emotional distance this created.

Particularly in the case of lump-sum adoptions, it was more profitable for the baby farmer if the infant or child she adopted died, since the small payment could not cover the care of the child for long. Some baby farmers adopted numerous children and then neglected them or murdered them outright (see infanticide). Several were tried for murder, manslaughter, or criminal neglect and were hanged. Margaret Waters (executed 1870) and Amelia Dyer (executed 1896) were two infamous British baby farmers, as were Amelia Sach and Annie Walters (executed 1903). The last baby farmer to be executed in Britain was Rhoda Willis, who was hanged in Wales in 1907. The only woman to be executed in New Zealand, Minnie Dean, was a baby farmer.

Spurred by a series of articles that appeared in the British Medical Journal in 1867, Parliament began to regulate baby-farming in 1872 with the passage of the Infant Life Protection Act. A series of acts passed over the next seventy years, including the Children Act 1908 and the 1939 Adoption of Children (Regulation) Act, gradually placed adoption and foster care under the protection and regulation of the state.

The term has been used to describe the sale of eggs for use in assisted conception, particularly in vitro fertilization.

Baby farming in works of fiction

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