Thursday, March 3, 2016

In Search of a Better Term

Photo: Little Seed Garden | Jason Houston
Last week, in the aftermath of the CEDC Strategic Planning Public Session, Gossips suggested that we needed a term other than agribusiness for the farming and farming related enterprises that exist in Columbia County. A reader agreed and consulted a friend who is a nationally known consultant on just such things. (Gossips readers are so informed and well connected.) She offered the following terms, which it seems are already being used to define the confluence of farming, artisanal production, and culinary and agro-tourism.
  • Local Agriculture and Food Economy
  • Local Food Sector
  • Food Cluster 
  • Agriculture and Food Cluster
None seems quite right, and Gossips invites other suggestions, but any one of them would be preferable to agribusiness, which conjures up images like this.

Photo: Clean Food Earth

For those curious about the CEDC strategic plan and the process for developing it, the PowerPoint presentations for both the board session and the public session can be viewed at the ColumbiaEDC website.


  1. What's wrong with "farming"? I mean, we don't change the names of things to suit their user profiles or product distribution models -- or do we? A farm is a wonderful thing.

    1. Peter, Exactly what I was thinking. Farming is pretty descriptive of what it is.

  2. Future Farming

    Green Farming

    Return to the Roots

  3. Rural Cottage Industries
    Farm & Cottage Industries

  4. I don't understand why some have to invent new terms for things that have existed for many years. When I was a kid in Claverack and working many farms making hay, cutting alfafa, milking cows, planting corn etc, it was farming period. In this passage from >>>> "In 1955, a former assistant secretary of agriculture at the USDA may have coined the term "agribusiness" for the first time. He defined the word as "the sum total of all operations involved in the production and distribution of food and fiber."

    So do we really need to make new names or labels to state something that already exist? The word Agribusiness covers the whole gamete. As a farmer, you are not only a farmer, you are a businessman and have do know many things such as book keeping and operating a business, veterinary science with animals, horticulture in regards to raising crops, fruits and vegetables. The implement dealer who sells equipment, the silo manufacturer, etc. I personally would expend more time and energy in how to stimulate agricultural growth in the county then to think of fancy names, labels or terms just for the feel good effect because it sounds nice and make it not sound so corporate. Most every farm I know of even the small guys are incorporated.

  5. But I think agribusiness incorporates much more than just farming. It’s also the entities that sell to and buy from farmers. Farmers need seed, fuel, equipment (including tractors, if they’re not using draft horses), livestock, and fertilizers and other chemicals (hopefully to very limited degree). They need transporters and distributors. They may need co-packers and aggregators. Slaughterhouses and butchers. I think they all are part of agribusiness.

    I’ve gotten past thinking agribusiness is a dirty word. Agriculture, or farming, is not an island unto itself. It is a business and it relies on many other businesses. It’s usually corporate, too, and while “corporate farming” sounds awful, I think that’s what most of our beloved small organic farms do. Agribusiness just describes the environment in which farming operates.

    1. Agribusiness is an ecosystem. Thank you for a thoughtful and sustainable explanation.

  6. A name that differentiates between organic farming and monsanto farming is worthy of consideration.

    While they both are 'farming' one is genuine to the environment while the other is devastating to the environment.

    They exist side by side and need to be labeled just like GMO food now needs to be labeled .

    Its a new century. It ain't just food and farming anymore.

  7. Vincent Benoit Barral submitted this comment:

    I agree that I t is worth differentiating between
    - industrial farming and food processing, and
    - local, organic, and short supply chain farming

    Here is my contribution to the discussion on a better term than agribusiness:
    - slow food cluster (
    - artisanal food sector
    - farm to table sector
    - farm to consumer sector