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Farmer, producer, grower... what do you prefer?

Whitney Haigwood DrewWhitneyHaigwood.jpeg
Arkansas farmers Drew and Whitney Haigwood during the 2021 harvest.
What's in a name?

Not long ago, I came across a Twitter poll asking agriculturally-inclined users which title they preferred — farmer, producer, grower, and so on. Though a small sample — about 100 people participated — the results were clear. Farmer was the favorite title, according to 77% of responses.  

The poll was shared by Whitney Haigwood, a tech and social media writer, who also happens to be married to a farmer. Whitney shared that her husband, Drew, has a strong preference for the term farmer as opposed to grower or producer, and other Twitter uses shared his sentiment. 

I had never given the “farmer versus producer” title much thought. I often use the terms interchangeably just to add some variety to my writing. (I may even throw a “rancher” in there if cattle are involved.) But I hated to think I was unintentionally offending someone by referring to them as something other than farmer. I set up an interview with Whitney and Drew to learn more. 

“I promise my skin is not so thin that I’m offended by the terms producer or grower,” Drew said over the phone, “but I prefer farmer. I think the term farmer entails so much more. I am a grower and producer, but I’m also a businessman, a mechanic, a vet, and sometimes a plumber. You have to be all of those things to be a farmer.” 

Drew shared these sentiments with his wife one evening, and she was curious if others felt the same way. Thus, the Twitter poll. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of “farmer.” "Producer” only netted 13% of the votes, “grower” received 8%, and one person responded that he considered himself a businessperson who just happens to farm. 

While no means scientific, the poll raises questions about how farmers see themselves and how they want to be seen by others. I think along the way we have collectively come to the conclusion that “producer” is the loftier title. In fact, I’ve spoken with people in the industry who can remember being directly instructed to use the term producer instead of farmer as a sign of respect. 

I brought this poll up to several of my farmer friends. None expressed a strong preference for how they are addressed, but several agreed the term farmer may carry an unsophisticated connotation with consumers. It was even brought to my attention that one of the definitions for “farmer” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “yokel, bumpkin.” (Yep, look it up.) 

That the oldest U.S. dictionary publisher continues to define more than 2 million people with a derogatory term is a subject that will have to be saved for another column. For farmers like the Haigwoods, it only proves their point that the term farmer should be embraced. Instead of running from the title, use it to change others’ opinions. 

What do you think? If you have a strong preference on the topic, I'd love to hear from you. Email ginger.rowsey@farmprogress.com

TAGS: Farm Life
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