What Is Farming? What Is Gardening?

By: Ron Pitt

What differentiates a farm from a garden, or a farmer from a gardener? At a basic level, we think of farms as producing products for commercial purposes and gardens as producing products for one’s own consumption or enjoyment. But the more you think about it, the blurrier that distinction becomes.

There are subsistence farms whose sole purpose is to feed oneself or one’s family, and there are gardens whose sole purpose is commercial. So if it’s not purpose, then maybe it’s scale. But there are farms that are much smaller than large gardens, and both farms and gardens can produce anywhere from one to hundreds of different products. OK, so maybe farming is more oriented toward the bottom line, gardening is done more for one’s personal enjoyment. But that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny either. Much has been written about how farming and gardening can enrich the life of the grower, bring people closer to the natural environment, and create beauty and pride.

The high tunnel at Barrington Farm School. Janelle and Louise harvest turnips for the farm stand with Casey, our Volunteer Coordinator.

Perhaps farming is more individualistic, gardening is more communal. There are many wonderful garden clubs in this area, 24 in Rhode Island alone. We don’t have farming clubs, per se, but the farming community in this area is large and robust. Currently there are 1,243 farms in Rhode Island, an increase of 40% in the last twenty years, with many more farms in Rehoboth, Seekonk, and Swansea. And there are dozens of organizations in this region that farms tap into. Indeed, the Barrington Farm School’s mission includes the phrase “build community.”

Rosasharn Farm in Rehoboth offers a CSA and education opportunities including field trips with Nayatt Elementary and WWOOF, a program that hosts people interested in building skills in farming.

I give up. Suffice it to say that farming and gardening overlap in their characteristics, provide similar benefits, and reinforce each other’s roles in society. Here’s a shoutout to our sister organizations in Barrington – Barrington Garden Club and Hameho Garden Club – with whom we share interests and a love of nature.

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