Agricultural Terminology 101
Hello, I’m Holly Michael – farm wife, mother, blogger , DMM crazy headline writer and communications professional who has worked at some of Dayton’s largest companies. I straddle the sometimes equally stinky worlds of agriculture and corporate life, so you don’t have to.
Every industry has its own lingo. Let me take you behind the scenes of agriculture to better understand our language and culture. This way, you’ll have something to say to that guy who shows up on the undeveloped edge of your cul de sac with a tractor.
Cattle – cow (female that has had a calf), heifer (virgin cow), steer (future steaks), bull (big daddy with all his parts intact), also bovine
Sheep – ewe (female), weather (future gyro), ram (see bull), also dumbest animals ever
Pigs/hogs – sow (female that has had a litter of pigs), gilt (virgin pig), barrow (future sausage), boar (see bull), also swine
Corn – grown in fields to be used as livestock feed and for commercial products. Field corn is vastly different from sweet corn grown in gardens.
Soybeans – short bushy green plants that produce pods. Harvested in the fall for livestock feed. Endamame is the name of the fresh green soybeans eaten in Asian cooking – they are a separate plant, not commonly raised in greater Dayton.
Wheat – grain harvested on the hottest day of the summer when the term “amber waves of grain” starts to apply. Straw is the stem of the wheat plant, commonly baled and used as livestock bedding or to keep your grass seed from blowing away.
Hay – grasses and clover grown in fields and mowed and baled multiple times over the summer. Each harvest is referred to as a “cutting.”
Livestock Trailer – used to haul farm animals. Farmers are contractually obligated to peer inside trailers they pass on the highway to see what’s inside.
Combine – harvester used for corn, soybeans and wheat. Uses different heads, depending on the crop. Some combines are so large that they haul their head behind them on a trailer when they use the roads.
Gravity wagon – tall-sided wagon built wide at the top and narrow on the bottom—uses gravity to dump its cargo of grain at the elevator.
Where to find a farmer:
Grain elevator – easily located facility, the hub of small town America, where farmers bring their grain to be stored in giant bins. The elevator usually sells feed and serves as a local hangout for farmers, offering free pancake breakfasts and celebrating “poop day.” (A real event I did not make up.)
County Fair – A weeklong celebration of all things agriculture. Farm families don’t visit the fair—they live it. An important time for farm families to celebrate their heritage and show off their livestock, crops and gardens. The Montgomery County Fair is always on Labor Day weekend.
4-H Meeting – Most farm kids are involved in 4-H, a national youth organization founded in Ohio more than 100 years ago. The four H’s are head, heart, hands and health – part of the 4-H pledge. 4-H’ers are not only farmers these days, including kids who take a variety of projects like art, cooking, sewing, and science to be evaluated at the fair.
You might not be ready for the Farm Science Review but this guide should help you converse with any farmers you run into while waiting in line to buy organic couscous at Dorothy Lane Market.
So just remember, during harvest you can dump your gravity wagon at the elevator, but follow this advice: never stay for the pancake breakfast when it falls on poop day.