The Difference Between Farms & Ranches - Food Dialogues

The Difference Between Farms & Ranches

Ranching and farming are two different, equally important systems that have similarities and differences in the way food is raised and produced.

Farmers primarily raise crops. However hog, dairy and poultry producers are also frequently called farmers. Famers are also soil and fertilizer experts, seed variety gurus, and plant growing professionals. They maximize their land potential through the crops they grow, and treat their soil as a key and cherished ingredient in producing food.

Ranchers, on the other hand, raise cattle or sheep. The “machinery” they typically use are horses and/or four-wheelers or pick-up trucks to help herd the cattle and/or sheep. Ranchers maximize their land’s potential by utilizing grass as one form of sustenance. Ranchers’ other duties include maintaining farm animal facilities , researching animal genetics and making related investments, ensuring animals are always provided ample water and feed, , and maintaining health and safety of their cattle and/or sheep.

Lastly, farms are generally smaller than ranches, but that doesn’t mean their production is less or the workload is lighter. Farmers have to spend more time per acre on their land to plant, grow and harvest a crop. In comparison, ranchers spend their time gathering, moving and working their livestock and implementing fences and watering systems in a fashion that maintains or improves the native condition of their land. Farmers divide their operation up by fields or paddocks; ranchers by pastures.


Farmers and ranchers can raise one or multiple types of food. Some farmers may even decide to raise both crops and animals. It all depends on the size of their farm, available land and personal desires. For example, many farmers use crop rotation to preserve the quality of their soil; they plant one crop in the spring, and another in the fall or winter after harvest. The mixing of crops through rotation can slow the spread of pests and diseases during the growing season. The different crops can also reduce the effects of adverse weather. By requiring planting and harvesting at different times, farmers can work more land with the same amount of machinery and labor.

Some ranchers also raise multiple animals. For example, one of the most recent Faces of Farming and Ranching spokespeople Darrell Glaser, who manages Bar G Ranch, broods approximately 600,000 turkeys each year and maintains a cowherd that consists of 200 mother cows.