Here’s some fun with words and thoughts on farming I wrote some time ago and just never posted.
Before the title “hobby farmer” became widely used, the parlance of the time for a man who toiled in the fields with little or no monetary reward was “gentleman farmer.” I don’t actually know the etymology of gentleman farmer, although it seems a little rude. Were those who turned dirt and a profit not gentleman? If the implication is that a weekend farmer was somehow superior to the full-timer, then I don’t care for the title. I’ve far too much respect for those who have successfully (or even unsuccessfully) taken on agriculture as a means-to-an-end.
As for hobby farmer; I do think it’s more appropriate. It removes the gender – which is important. Based on what I see in magazines and the internet (and my wife), small-scale farming is as much if not more a female pursuit. And it removes the pretentiousness of it; describing more the action (farming) and not the quality of the person (gentleman).
But I have issues with Hobby Farmer. For starters I think most hobby farmers earn some revenue – just not much profit and certainly not a living. I enjoy revenue from the farm in much the same way I believe Warren Buffet enjoys his successful investments. It’s not about the money, it’s just the way success in the market is measured. For myself – when I’ve done well enough on the land that someone else will pay for the spoils it’s a sign I’m learning and succeeding.