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Basic Information

In modern usage1 a farmer is anyone who engages in agriculture for a living. This may include raising livestock, but only in a fixed location (migratory, ranging or ranch herding are generally considered something separate). From a little before the rise of civilisation to the very recent past, this has been the default occupation of most of humanity (and in some places still is).

Land, and the occupation, control and operation thereof, is key to the farmer's identity - any farming culture will be heavily adapted to the terrain it works in terms of technique, crops and many other things and tradition is very important in almost all cases: what works, works. A farmer needs to rely on being able to produce his crop, year on year and there are lots of ways of getting that wrong - agrarian societies are naturally conservative and slow to innovate … although an innovation that provides a visible, tangible benefit may well be snapped up with surprising speed once it becomes obvious. Expect a farmer to know his land intimately2 and be well aware of the nature and capabilities of each field - he will likely as not also be well aware of any appropriate folklore - not least because most farming families will have been in place for generations3. Remember, it's all about the land. Conversely, a farmer uprooted from his ancestral land may be more or less helpless - although set down in territory that looks like home he can probably settle himself in sooner or later. Settling completely alien biomes can be better left to people who don't know much to begin with4.

Although much romanticised, usually by rich urbanites, farming is typically extremely hard work with long hours on poor margins - almost all of it outdoors in all weather. All other things being equal, farming tends to require a certain hardiness of body and mind that most other occupations don't.

The farm labourer is a subset of the farmer - someone who works on land but has no agency in the work - these can be hired hands, slaves (for example in the Roman latifundiae or Colonial era plantations) or something in between. A typical serf was a "farmer" of his own land some days and a labourer on his landlord's demesne on others. Also, some colonial projects used indentured or prison labour that was bound for a fixed term. In many eras at least some of the urban population would also turn out to farm work for part of the year (typically at the main cereal harvest).

See Also:

Sources ++

1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Most people will be farmers - PCs aren't. Thus they either come from an urban area or are displaced from a farming community. Either is backstory.
    • "Not enough land" is a typical reason for displacement, as is "<mooks> burned my village" and "I didn't fit in" … but bear in mind that a PC that didn't fit in in one village is likely not to fit in in another one as well. Losing land for financial reasons is also common in places where farmers tend to be renters or freeholders (serfs are expected to be potless).
  • Note the conservatism of farming communities - PCs are likely to represent all sorts of outside influences that are likely to be considered threatening at best.
  • Also, the importance of land - which many modern urbanites tend to misunderstand. One farm is not the same as another of equivalent size and many farmers will not automatically up sticks and move, even if offered a larger farm at the destination.
  • PCs with land to settle may have a challenge finding anyone who can put and keep a crop in the ground - good farmers won't want to move … your best bet are second and third sons who can't find land back home and don't fancy labouring or perhaps those farmers displaced by misfortune or war. Otherwise, you are prone to be taking your chances with people learning as they go along (and quite possibly not accustomed to the rigours of farming life). Although, as noted, in an alien biome, you might well have roughly as much luck with unskilled labour whilst you work out how to do it properly. Plenty of colonists starved to death before they sorted that out.
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