Farm vs Plantation.

What is the difference between a farm, and a plantation?

Hmm. A plantation is obviously cash crops rather than animals (or servers). And I tend to think of it as intensive farming of high value crops often in warm climates.

Well, I googled plantation, definition, and the first definition was “a usually large farm or estate, especially in a tropical or semitropical country, on which cotton, tobacco, coffee, sugar cane, or the like is cultivated, usually by resident laborers.”

Then I googled farm, definition, and the first definition was “a tract of land, usually with a house, barn, silo, etc., on which crops and often livestock are raised for livelihood.”

Does this answer your question?
If it does, then I would like to point out that you could have done the exact same thing. If it doesn’t, then you asked your question badly.

I dunno, it seems to me that this is a fuzzy enough distinction that it might be worth asking if people agree with Wikipedia’s definition. I tried to answer without googling, fwiw.

Moderator Note

Don’t just tell someone to google in GQ.

From the General Questions Rules & FAQs:

I would generally assume that if someone posts a question in GQ, they are looking for a more detailed or perhaps a more clear answer than just googling the dictionary definitions for the terms.

A plantation is a farm, but not all farms are plantations. As for what differentiates plantations from other farms, see the previously posted answers: large size, cash crops, resident labor, warm climates.

There’s also context. If you are asking for North American versions, then you are probably answered, but we also have a definition for plantation which inclines to monocultural forests, where they are planted for cultivation of the timber. If someone around here asks what a plantation is, they are more likely to be answered with this kind of farm. Note, no resident labour, not warmer climate.

Historically, a plantation was basically synonymous with a colony. You transplanted people and seed goods and started farming somewhere else no one had been farming. That’s the basics of colonies in the really old days when there was ample empty land because all the inhabitants had recently died from diseases. Those sorts of colonies became full of what are now called plantations, as in the large farms.

Also remember that the full name of the state of Rhode Island includes “Providence Plantations”.

A plantation in Maine is a minor civil division that falls between an unorganized township and a town. Matinicus Isle is a plantation, for example. Maine appears to be the only state that uses the term in this way. There are 30+ communities called <Something> Plantation. Perhaps as a result, farms are always called farms up here, never plantations.

When I think of the word plantation it’s historical-- pre-mechanized farming where a large amount of labor was used–the nineteenth century cotton plantation comes to mind. But since human cotton pickers have been replaced by mechanical cotton pickers I would not call an equally large modern agricultural establishment growing cotton a plantation–instead a cotton farm.

“Plantation” is a fancier form of the word “farm”. Ergo it is often used for “fancier” farms. 100+ years ago that meant larger size, larger main house, larger work force, etc.

But note that in terms of size you can get really immense wheat farms in the western US and such that aren’t considered plantations. Also the size of the work force needed has fallen dramatically. You no longer need a hundred people to work a cotton plantation.

So now it’s mainly a historical term. If a place was a plantation 200 years ago it’s still called one.

Part of that is because you can base your food on wheat with relatively simple processing; plantations have generally been used for items which had little to no nutritional value. Sugar cane is the plantation crop that’s got the highest nutritional value and it requires heavy processing.

Is that really true? For some reason, in my mind I associate bananas, for example, with plantations. “Banana farm” or “Banana orchard” sound weird to me. Bananas certainly have nutritional value with no processing.

Other food producing plantations grow palm trees (for the oil) and coffee. I think there may be chocolate plantations still around too.

For me the word farm has the connotation of being just the fields where the crops are grown. Plantation, on the other hand, makes me think of the houses where the owner and all the workers live in addition to the fields.

Also perhaps not directly in the definitions but the word ‘plantation’ does have some connotation with the wealthy class enjoying the good life and also, in the past in the US, but perhaps presently in other countries, slavery. Farm generally connotes more of a hard working class or factory farm conditions. Both ‘paint’ a different image.

To me, the connotation is that somebody who owns a farm generally also works on the farm. While somebody who owns a plantation has other people doing the work.

Another thing is that while I think of a farm as producing crops or livestock (or a mixture of both) I generally think of a plantation as producing crops. The equivalent of a plantation for livestock would be a ranch.

OK, this is going someplace.

Is the term politically incorrect, in the 21st Century?

In general, that seems like a stretch. But I can see that it might be seen as desirable to abandon the term in the American South or historical colonies where there are strong and specific connotations, where intensive farming always meant slave labor.