Glossary of Terms

A science, a movement, and an environmentally and socially sensitive practical approach to agriculture, one that focuses not only on production, but also on the ecological sustainability of the productive system.

Agri-tourism and Recreational Services
Income from recreational services such as hunting, fishing, farm or wine tours, etc.

Alternative Farming/Alternative Agriculture:
These are essentially synonymous terms encompassing a vast array of practices and enterprises, all of which are considered different from prevailing or conventional agricultural activities.
They include:

  • Non-traditional crops, livestock, and other farm products;
  • Service, recreation, tourism, food processing, forest/woodlot, and other enterprises based on farm and natural resources (ancillary enterprises);
  • Unconventional production systems such as organic farming or aquaculture; or
  • direct marketing and other entrepreneurial marketing strategies.

Alternative has also come to imply the use of environmentally-friendly farming practices in general, and the benefits of farm diversification.

Aquaculture is defined as the farming of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and other aquaculture products.

Arable Land
An agricultural term used to describe land that is capable for growing crops, suitable for farming, or able to be plowed or tilled.

Best Soil Management Practices (BSMP)
BSMP are established soil conservation practices that also provide water quality benefits. They include such practices as cover crops, green manure crops, and strip cropping to control erosion; and soil testing and targeting and timing of chemical applications to prevent the loss of nutrients and pesticides.

Carbon Sequestration:
The process through which agricultural and forestry practices remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. The term ‘sinks’ is also used to describe agricultural and forestry lands that absorb CO2, the most important global warming gas emitted by human activities.

Certified Organic Agriculture
Agricultural systems and products that have been managed and produced in accordance with specific standards or technical regulations and that have been inspected and approved by a certification body. Related terms: certified organic area; certified organic farm; certified organic food; certified organic wild area; certification program; grower group certification; organic label; group certification; certification body.

Climate Change
A change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer.
Related terms: Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG), Ecological Footprint, Carbon sequestration, Global Warming.

Commodity Crops
Standardized crops produced by many farmers and consolidated for processing and eventual use in other products. Common commodity crops include corn, soy, and wheat; end uses include both food (e.g. corn syrup) and non‐food (e.g. ethanol) products

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community's farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.

A mixture of decaying organic matter, as from leaves and manure, used to improve soil structure and provide nutrients.

Conservation Tillage
A term that covers a broad range of soil tillage systems that leave residue cover on the soil surface, substantially reducing the effects of soil erosion from wind and water. These practices minimize nutrient loss, decreased water storage capacity, crop damage, and decreased farmability.

A component of a Food System that involves the consumption of the end product of production, processing and distribution, and follows regional cultural patters and habits of consumption of local populations.

Conventional Tillage
Refers to tillage operations that use standard practices for a specific location and crop to bury crop residues.

Cover Crop
A crop planted primarily to manage soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, or wildlife.

Crop Rotation
The agricultural practice of routinely changing the crop planted on a given piece of land to maintain the nutrient balance of the soil. For example: Once a nitrogen‐ depleting crop, such as corn, has been planted on the same acreage for several years, a nitrogen‐fixing crop such as soy will be planted to restore proper levels of nitrogen to the soil.

Crop Residue
Plant material left in fields after harvest. Residue might include any part of the crop such as leaves, stems, roots, tubers, etc.

Direct Marketing
The business of selling agricultural products or services directly to the public. Agricultural products produced and sold directly to individuals for human consumption from roadside stands, farmers’ markets, pick-your-own sites, etc.

The transportation or delivery of food on, from or between the premises on which it was grown, raised, cultivated, picked, harvested, collected, caught, packed, or treated.

Ecological Sustainability
Papers discussing water, soil, air, pesticides, fertilizers and manure, biodiversity.

Ecological Footprint
A measure of how much land and water is needed to produce the resources we consume and to dispose of the waste we produce.

In the context of a regional food system, everyone employed within the food chain (production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste).

In economics, benefits or costs that are not included in the market price of goods or services.

Farmers’ Markets
A public or private space where several farmers congregate on a regular basis to sell a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other farm products directly to consumers.

Farm to School Programs
A collaborative program that connects schools to local farmers.

Farmland Preservation/Protection
The preservation or protection of the irreplaceable land that produces our food and provides us with scenic open space, wildlife habitat and clean water is increasingly at risk from urban sprawl and rural subdivisions.

Compounds used to enhancement plant growth through the addition of nutrients. Typically refers to fertilization from anthropogenic sources, such as human-made fertilizers released from burning fossil fuels.

Coarse grasses such as corn and sorghum harvested with the seed and leaves green or alive, then cured and fed in their entirety as forage.

Food Charters
A statement of values and principles to guide a community's food policy.

Food Access
Availability of healthy and culturally appropriate food at affordable prices and in locations convenient to consumers.

Food System Assessment
Consist of methods of evaluation of the food system that consider qualitative and quantitative food systems data with regard to its social, economic and ecological components. Includes topics such as economic assessment, social assessment, life cycle assessments, etc.

Food Desert
A geographic area characterized by few healthy food retail options or areas in which people lack “easy access” to healthy food. Deserts can include areas where healthy food is expensive, supermarkets are hard to access via public transportation, and other barriers.

Food Hubs
Community spaces anchored by a food store where other social and financial services are collocated.

Food Insecurity
Food insecurity is characterized by the “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods” or the “limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”

Food Justice
A movement that attempts to address hunger by addressing the underlining issues of racial and class disparity and the inequities in the food system that correlate to inequities to economic and political power. 

Food Miles
The distance food travels from where it is grown or raised to where it is ultimately purchased by the consumer or end-user.

Food Policy Council
A group of individuals that advise decision-makers on food-related issues and policies. Some councils are appointed by elected leadership and represent geographic areas, sectors of the food system, and/or different operating departments within a political jurisdiction, while others are based on voluntary membership.

Food Self-Reliance
The condition whereby the region is capable of manufacturing, importing, retaining and sustaining food sources needed to support its population with minimum per capita nutritional standards.

Food Security
Food security takes place when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. The multi-dimensional nature of food security includes food availability, access, stability and utilization.

Coined by permaculturist Arthur Getz in the article Urban Foodsheds. The term refers to the flow of food from its source to the end consumer, or the area that is defined by a structure of supply where our food and regional food supply system works.

Food Sovereignty
The right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.

Food Systems Theory
This category includes topics such as food access, food security, food hubs, urban agriculture, community development, community food market, food self-reliance, farm to school programs, food sovereignty, etc. The section also includes topics in education and research in food systems.

Food Swamp
A geographic area characterized by a large number of unhealthy food options, which are thought to crowd out other food retail options, decreasing the consumption of healthy foods.

Food System
The food system is a series of interlocking processes that combine: production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste recovery, that together create the complex process by which a population is fed. The food system is the process that food undergoes to reach our plates. It relies on actors who contribute to the food system with labour, policy or education. The food system may be democratic or undemocratic, depending on how centralized and how exclusive the power structures are that control it.

Edible parts of plants, other than separated grain, that can provide feed for grazing animals, or that can be harvested for feeding. Includes browse, herbage, and mast.

In livestock production, any herbaceous broadleaf plant that is not a grass and is not grass-like.

In livestock production, a means for quality evaluation of traits related to tenderness, juiciness, and flavour of meat; and, for poultry, a normal shape that is fully fleshed and meaty and free of defects.

Animals feeding on plants or plant material. In livestock production, a systems used by which domesticated animals are used to convert forage into meat, dairy and other bi-products.
Related terms: Continuous grazing, rotational grazing, fall grazing, intensive rotational grazing, management intensive grazing, high density grazing, etc.

Any paper that looks at improving the health and nutrition of individuals or groups within in a community that is related to food systems.
Related terms: healthy eating, nutritious food, food consumption, food access, food affordability, food safety.

Product resulting from ensiling forage with around 45% moisture, in the absence of oxygen.

In the context of a regional food system, anything related to human labour, animal labour, work done by machines, tools, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, water, irrigation.

Integrated Farming Systems (IFS)/Integrated Food and Farming Systems
Integrated and resource-efficient crop and livestock systems that maintain productivity, that are profitable, and that protect the environment and the personal health of farmers and their families.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM):
An ecologically based approach to pest (animal and weed) control that utilizes a multi-disciplinary knowledge of crop/pest relationships, establishment of acceptable economic thresholds for pest populations and constant field monitoring for potential problems.

Irrigated Land
This includes all land watered by any artificial or controlled means, such as sprinklers, flooding, furrows or ditches, sub- irrigation, and spreader dikes. Included are supplemental, partial, and pre-plant irrigation.

Land Reform
The changing of laws, regulations or customs regarding land ownership. Land reform may consist of a government-initiated or government-backed property redistribution, generally of agricultural land.

A plant or the pod or seed of such a plant, used for feed, food or soil improvement. Plant s belonging to the family Fabaceae. Plants from this family form a symbiotic relationship with bacteria living in their root nodules, and are capable of fixing nitrogen from the air in order to make it readily available to plants.

Life Cycle Analysis
A quantification of the level of energy and raw materials used as well as the solid, liquid and gaseous wastes produced at every stage of a product's life or process.

Any domestic or domesticated animal including bovine (including buffalo and bison), ovine, porcine, caprine, equine, poultry and bees raised for food or in the production of food. The products of hunting or fishing of wild animals shall not be considered part of this definition.

Local Food
Locally or regionally produced agricultural food product that is less than 400 miles from its origin, or within the region in which it is produced.

Local Food System / Regional Food Systems
Refers to food produced, processed, distributed and consumed locally. As a response to globalization, global food corporations and climate change, the local food movement is emerging as an alternative for a more environmentally and socially just food system. The preference to buy locally produced goods of the so-called localvores promotes regional culture and identity, self-reliant food economies, rural-urban linkages and more generally, sustainability.

Market value of agricultural products sold
This represents the gross market value before taxes and production expenses of all agricultural products sold or removed from the place, regardless of who received the payment. It is equivalent to total sales and it includes sales by the operators as well as the value of any shares received by partners, landlords, contractors, or others associated with the operation.

In the context of regional food systems, Marketing refers to process involving the identification, development, promotion and selling of agricultural products or services at the regional level.

Meat broker
Any person engaged in the business of buying or selling carcasses, parts of
carcasses, meat or meat food products of livestock on commission, or otherwise negotiating purchases or sales of such articles other than for his/her own account or as an employee of another person.

Methane digesters
It is a device which captures biogas resulting from the decomposition of manure, processing by-products, and other materials. Harvested biogas is used as a substitute for natural gas to power engines which generate electricity. It is fed into the natural gas pipeline or flared.

Migrant Farm Worker
A migrant farm worker is a farm worker whose employment required travel that prevented the worker from returning to his/her permanent place of residence the same day.

Net cash farm income
This value is the operators’ total revenue (fees for producing under a production contract, total sales not under a production contract, government payments, and farm-related income) minus total expenses paid by the operators. Net cash farm income of the operator includes the payments received for producing under a production contract and does not include value of commodities produced under production contract by the contract growers. Depreciation is not used in the calculation of net cash farm income.

No-till practices
Using no-till or minimum till is a practice used for weed control and helps reduce weed seed germination by not disturbing the soil.

Nutrient Management
Nutrient management is managing the amount, source, placement, form, and timing of the application of nutrients and soil amendments to ensure adequate soil fertility for plant production and to minimize the potential for environmental degradation, particularly water quality impairment.

Farm Operator
The term operator designates a person who operates a farm, either doing the work or making day-to-day decisions about such things as planting, harvesting, feeding, and marketing. The operator may be the owner, a member of the owner’s household, a hired manager, a tenant, a renter, or a sharecropper.

Organic Agriculture
A production system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, and livestock feed additives.

Organic Fertilizer
An organic fertilizer or a biofertilizer is a natural fertilizer that helps to provide all the nutrients required by the plants and to increase the quality of the soil with a natural micro-organism environment. For instance, the production and use of biofertilizer (e.g. seaweed products; compost) is proposed to improve crop yields by using root nodule bacteria (rhizobia), mycorrhizal fungi, and other micro-organisms that are able to increase the accessibility of plant nutrients from the soils.

Organic Matter
Soil component made up of plant residue, living microbial biomass, humus, and detritus.

In livestock production, subdivision of the pasture into smaller units by installing fences in strategic locations.
Related terms: set paddock, strip grazing.

Any substance intended for preventing, destroying, attracting, repelling, or controlling any pest including unwanted species of plants or animals during the production, storage, transport, distribution and processing of food, agricultural commodities, or animal feeds or which may be administered to animals for the control of ectoparasites. The term includes substances intended for use as a plant growth regulator, defoliant, desiccant, fruit thinning agent, or sprouting inhibitor and substances applied to crops either before or after harvest to protect the commodity from deterioration during storage and transport (UN FAO).

Pesticide Residue
Pesticide residue means any specified substance in food, agricultural commodities, or animal feed resulting from the use of a pesticide. The term includes any derivatives of a pesticide, such as conversion products, metabolites, reaction products, and impurities considered to be of toxicological significance.

A measure of acidity or alkalinity, with values representing the negative log of the hydrogen ion concentration. Values range from 0 (acidic) to 14 (alkaline or basic), with a pH of 7.0 being neutral.

The process by which plants take CO2 from the air (or bicarbonate in water) to build carbohydrates, releasing O2 in the process. There are several pathways of photosynthesis with different responses to atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Harvest output or yield. The growing, raising, cultivation, picking, harvesting, collection or catching of food.

The packing, treating (for example, washing) or storing of food on or off the premises on which it was grown, raised, cultivated, picked, harvested, collected or caught.

Policy and Planning
This category includes food charters, agricultural plans, land access, Official Community Plans, community planning, etc. This section is linked to the ISFS B.C. Food System Policy Database

Regional Food Systems / Local Food System
Refers to food produced, processed, distributed and consumed within a bioregion. As a response to globalization, global food corporations and climate change, the local food movement is emerging as an alternative for a more environmentally and socially just food system. The preference to buy locally produced goods of the so-called localvores promotes regional culture and identity, self-reliant food economies, rural-urban linkages and more generally, sustainability.

Bulky and coarse livestock feed high in fiber (greater than 18 % crude fiber) but lower in energy than most concentrates.

In livestock production, the act of killing livestock for human consumption.

Small Scale
Any agricultural production that takes place in a plot of 10 acres or less.

Forage preserved in a succulent condition by partial anaerobic, acid fermentation. (Oregon State University Forage Information System.

Soil is the end product of the combined influence of climate, topography, organisms (flora, fauna and human) on parent materials (original rocks and minerals) over time. 

Soil Assessment
In the context of land evaluation, soil assessment focuses on the matching of the specific soil requirements of the land use versus the properties of the soil. Most of soil assessments have been made for agricultural land uses and cropping systems, but the same principles could be applied for other applications.

Soil Degradation
A change in the soil health status resulting in a diminished capacity of the ecosystem to provide goods and services for its beneficiaries.

Sustainability: A system encompassing a broad range of practices that, according to the World Council on Economic Development, “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” A balanced model of sustainability takes into account the environmental, economic, social, and cultural impacts of a given practice or process. A sustainable food system would be one whose components (production, transportation, etc.) are assessed and regulated according to the needs of these four elements.

Sustainable Agriculture
An integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:

  • satisfy human food and fiber needs;
  • enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends;
  • make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;
  • sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and
  • enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole

Sustainable Fisheries Management
Sound management practices that prevents overfishing and rebuilds fish stocks, helping strengthen the value of fisheries to the economy, our communities, and marine ecosystems and providing a long-term supply of seafood.

The mechanical cultivation of soil to provide a optimum conditions for seed germination, crop growth, and control of weeds.
Related terms: Primary Tillage, secondary Tillage, Deep Tillage, Subsoiling, Ridge Tillage, Conservation Tillage, Conventional Tillage

Urban Agriculture
The practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city. Related terms: CSA, Farmer’s Market, animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, Urban beekeeping, horticulture.

Urban Agriculture
The growing and cultivation of food in cities, which can include both plants and animals. This can include both privately owned and leased plots, as well as cooperative arrangements. Urban Agriculture advocates suggest that arrangements should be formalized; however, much of this type of agriculture happens on an informal basis, such as in the case of vacant lot reclamation activities.

Value Added
The amount by which the value of an article is increased at each stage of its production, exclusive of initial costs.

Includes such issues as food losses, food waste management and recycling, water waste, production waste management (manure, water, residual biomass, etc.).

Waste Management
This section includes projects, programs, and policies related to the prevention, reduction and management of food waste in food systems.

Sale of commodities in large quantities to retailers or distributors.