Ranch or Farm?

What constitutes a ranch? Size or usage? I have always differentiated the two by size, but I know others who distinguish them by usage.

From Merriam-Webster:

  • Farm: A)  a tract of land devoted to agricultural purposes.  B) a plot of land devoted to the raising of animals and especially domestic livestock.
  • Ranch: A) a large farm for raising horses, beef cattle, or sheep.  B) a farm or area devoted to a particular specialty.

Okay so which is it? :)

I’ve always called my grandparent’s place (32 acres) a farm. My husband calls it a ranch. They do have a very small garden for personal use and they do occasionally have cattle also for personal use. They’ve even feed out cattle for others from time to time. The “farm” they lived on before this one was even smaller, but they had a bigger garden and a lot more animals. Hogs, chickens, cattle, horses and geese (Guh, I hate geese. Nasty, evil creatures!). I say farm.

I think of a ranch as a huge cattle operation. 100’s of acres, breeding livestock for sell, etc.  How about you?  What is your definition?

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10 Responses to Ranch or Farm?

  1. Well my parents have just 10 acres and call it the Family Ranch and they don’t raise any animals anymore and only a small garden if they plant one at all. But when I think of ranch I too think of large operations that have no green grass…sorry that comes from going up in drought stricken Northern Calif. But there are horse farms that are huge but are called farms. So I think it’s left to the individual to figure if they want a ranch or a farm. Although when I think ranch it is more prestigous(sp) sounding and makes me think money. Farm makes me think of hard work and toiling for a living just to get by and feed the family.
    Z

  2. I grew up in farm country in the middle of Missouri and we lived on a farm, and most of my family lived on farms. Our definition was always size. You might have a small cattle farm, or a huge cattle ranch, etc. Most of the places that were considered ranches actually had a name and called it a ranch. My grandfather had close to 200 acres and he raised cattle, but he always called it a farm. We had neighbors who had hundreds of acres and raised Black Angus cattle, but it was just considered it a farm. So, who knows? LOL! I hadn’t thought much about it until now. Maybe it’s all about the name and whether or not you call it a ranch.

  3. Maria says:

    Well, my mom grew up on a farm and it was around 72 acres, they grew crops and had some farm animals (cows, pigs, chickens) but because of the size it was a farm. I consider a ranch something that is more than 500 acres in size and pretty much devotes itself to one type of livestock such as a cattle ranch (only cows). Though if the livestock is made up of sheep or chickens…then it’s a farm again…lol…..It is definitely a confusing topic!

  4. I’ve always thought of a ranch as being a great big grassy area with horses, cows and/or sheep with lots of hot cowboys walking around. Where as a farm is more crowded with the barn, equipment, cages and animals (including cows, goats, pigs, chickens, etc) with more mud and dirt with older fellows walking around in overalls. Yall keep in mind that this has been my opinion since I was very little girl and I’m just getting to old to change now, lol.

  5. tiss81 says:

    Ok, if my neck of the woods I guess I consider my acerage a ranch. We do no farming (breaking of ground to plant corn, wheat, oats, etc). We put up hay to feed our cattle and horses. I have neighbors who do “farm” but also call their acerages ranches, as they raise beef cattle and or horses. One neighbor breeds, raises and races and sells their horses, but also have “farm” ground, altho not much and put up hay and call theirs a ranch. There are “farms”: in the area, that all they do is plant and harvest crops.
    So I guess is depends on where you live, in what part of the country or world.
    You don’t have to have a lot of extra employees, to have a ranch or a farm. Most people in this part of the country are family farms/ranches, with kids and spouses working together. Or neighbors that they can rely on.
    Some smaller acreages are called “hobby farms” because of the small amount of land they have, and they have animals, or do some planting.

  6. To me–and I have nothing to base this on but the way my mind works–Farming is more crops and the animals are a side venture; and on a ranch, the animals are the main “product” and the garden/crops are on the side. But, like I said this is just my feeling.

    My grandad had several “plots”. Where their house used to be was where he kept the animals we “played” with, the horses and goats and his pheasents. Then he had a “plot” that was for the pigs and cows he raised for dinner (I tried not to think about that much). And I think he had two or three more, but were simply bought becuase they were being sold. He never once referred to it as either farm or ranch. My aunt has the same deal now (but ten times the land) and she simply calls it her property.

    So I am guessing that was no help at all… sorry :-P

  7. Sylvie Kaye says:

    To me, nothing to base it on either, I agree with Denise. I consider a ranch’s primarily product the animals. In this case, Size doesn’t matter! lol
    And as Heather mentioned, a ranch has a lot of sexy cowboys, But at least one! :)

  8. Nancy S says:

    My definition of a farm is primarily crops and/or dairy, hogs, poultry. A ranch is primarily beef cattle, horses and/or rough stock. A farm can have a horse or two and a ranch can have a milk cow and a garden but those are merely sidelines. The size is not as important to definition as is the product raised.

  9. Susan C says:

    Can I throw another term out there? I have a “Ranchette” which is 10 acres and 6 horses! LOL!

  10. My dad was the only child to grow up and move to the city. All his siblings stayed on the farm. I grew up distinguishing the two by their predominate use, if they mostly grew food in the ground, then it was called a farm. If it mostly grew food on the hoof, it was a ranch.

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