Saturday, January 23, 2016

What's our CommonGround? Language! 5 words that have a totally different meaning on the farm

CommonGround Michigan in front of the White House

CommonGround is an all-volunteer, all- women organization with the goal to “share our personal experiences, as well as science and research, to help consumers sort through the myths and misinformation surrounding food and farming.” 

I attended my first conference for them - they just opened a Michigan chapter - at the Smithsonian in Washington DC! We toured the sights, attended training workshops, and socialized with funny, interesting, and enthusiastic farmers from around the country.  Dairy, crop, sheep, bees ... you name it.

A theme we focused on were words we use in farming that mean nothing to anyone else - even other farmers.  Since I love talking about farming, and I love words … here’s installment two (here's one) of words that mean something different on a farm!

We all know the traffic use, but when we talk about it on the farm, we mean the amount of crops we’re harvesting.  

Regular use:
“Stop! Or at least yield! My goodness, just pull over and let me drive.  Did you learn that sign in driver’s training?!”

Farm use:
“We got a pretty good yield.  If it weren’t for the drought, the locusts, and the flood, it would have been a lot better.” 

No till
Till is a word sometimes used for a cash register, but on the farm it is a practice.  While some farmers plow their land, some do not – it is called no till, as in no plow.  

Regular use:
“No tills are open.  We’re going to be waiting in this line for fifteen minutes, and I didn’t bring my phone in, so my head might explode.”

Farm use:
“We’re no till.  Our ancestors became dairy farmers for a reason – they found out this land wasn’t very good for growing crops in the first place.”

Face-holder?  Yep.  But on the farm we often use it to count animals.  

Regular use:
“Use your head, please.  Seeing ‘who can jump the highest from the tree’ never sounds like a good idea.”

Farm use:
“We milk about 400 head.  Well, we don’t actually milk the heads at all.”

Clearly, this is a familiar term.  But on the farm, it also means that a heifer or cow is pregnant.

Regular use:
“Let’s go outside to play catch!  I promise not to hit you in the teeth again.”

Farm use:
“Did she catch?  No, I’m not talking about her. I’m serious.  I’m talking about the cow.” 

Pretty much only farm people know the difference between cattle.  A calf is baby still drinking milk, a heifer is a female that has not calved, a cow is a bovine that has had a calf, a steer is an infertile male, a bull is a fertile male, and so on and so forth.  We have lots of classifications because they are all meaningful to our industry.  

During our meeting, a woman mentioned that ‘heifer’ causes children to snicker in her school because it is a derogatory term for a female.  Heifers are prized on our farm!  It is never used in a negative manner here.  However …

Regular use:
“Seriously, she’s a real heifer.  No, I didn't know she was your sister.”

Farm use:
“That cow that had a calf? She had a heifer!  ANOTHER GIRL!  She was breathtaking.”

The final word that means something different?  Snow.  On Thursday in DC, the schools were closed after an inch and a half of snow.  Here, we sometimes notice if there's a new layer added to what's on the ground.  But that's not so much farm, but just where we live.  But we all have more in common than we don't - all across the country, no matter who you are or where you live, we all ... eat.

Smithsonian exhibit
Touring DC with Michigan farmers Jody Sharrard, Barbara Siemen, Carla Schultz

Elaine Bristol, Michigan Ag Council

Right after this picture, a guy let me try his hoverboard.  So fun!

Tera Havard, Michigan Corn Growers Association

All of us including Angel Jenio, Michigan Corn

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