Do You Know These Farming Basics?



By: Bambi Turner

6 Min Quiz

Image: Tom Werner/Digital Vision/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Do you know the difference between a tractor and a trough, or a cattle prod and a combine? Find out if a career in agriculture is right for you with this farming basics quiz!

Let's face it -- to people working in the corporate world, a job on a farm can seem like a dream job. Not only do you get to swap your annoying co-workers for cows and sheep, but you get to spend your days outdoors, soaking up the sunshine and breathing in the fresh farm air. What's not to love?

Those who've ever picked up a hoe or climbed aboard a tractor can tell you that farming is not only way harder than you probably think, but even hard work is no guarantee of success. Rain, drought, cold or heat can sink your entire production, and pests or diseases can wipe out crops faster than you can tend to them.

In fact, the USDA estimates that half of the 2 million farms in the United States bring in $10,000 a year or less from farming activities -- not quite enough to fund a family without an additional income source.

Of course, that doesn't mean you should let your farming dreams slip away. After all, food is a necessity and millions of farmers find ways to make it work. Test your knowledge of the agricultural world with this quiz!

Which of these is not a method of working soil?

Farmers know that the earth doesn't make it easy to grow crops. It requires breaking up the soil, loosening it to allow air and moisture to move properly using techniques like tilling, hoeing and aerating.


Historically, a bushel has been equal to around....

A bushel is a traditional method of measuring crops, with one bushel equal to 32 quarts. Today, bushel values vary by commodity, so one bushel could be 35 pounds of corn, 60 pounds of wheat or 42 pounds of apples.


What do you call equipment that forms hay into bundles?

A baler is used to form hay into bundles known as bales, which may be square, round or rectangular. This makes it much easier to move and store the hay than if it were left loose.


What is a seed drill used for?

A seed drill is pulled behind a tractor. It's used to accurately place seeds at specific depths and intervals during planting.


Which of these is most typically grown in an orchard?

Orchards are specialty farms used for growing fruits or nuts. This is similar to the way that a vineyard is used to grow grapes for winemaking, consumption or making juice or raisins.


What is the purpose of a harrow?

A harrow is a large, medieval-looking device equipped with spiked spirals. When pulled behind a tractor, the harrow levels the soil and helps to break up weeds.


What does the M in GMO stand for?

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are a hot topic of debate in agriculture. In farming, this term often applies to seeds that have been engineered in a lab to perform better than their natural form in terms of pest or weed resistance.


Which of these is NOT a commodity crop?

A commodity crop is one that can be traded easily on the international market, like corn, wheat or soybeans. The opposite of this a specialty crop, such as saffron, artichokes or avocado.


Hydroponics refers to plants grown in....

Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants in water rather than in soil. It's an effective form of farming because it saves space, reduces problems with pests or weeds and provides a stable and versatile growing environment.


What does an herbicide do?

Herbicides are chemicals designed to kill weeds without killing crops. They are often used in conjunction with pesticides, which take out crop-eating insects.


What is a heifer?

A heifer is a young female cow who hasn't yet had a calf. Once she gives birth to an offspring, she is a cow rather than a heifer.


Which of these describes a farm designed to feed only the farmer and his family?

If you have a dream of buying your own plot and living off the land, consider subsistence farming. This type of agriculture involves a family farming the land to feed only themselves -- as opposed to a commercial farm, where crops are grown to sell.


Which of these is a type of biofuel?

Biofuel is an alternative fuel source made from fermented carbs like corn, sugarcane or trees and grasses. Fuels like ethanol represent another potential income source for farmers looking to carve out a living.


How large is the average U.S. farm?

While 911 million acres of the country is covered in farmland, the average U.S. farm in 2017 measured just around 444 acres. The vast majority of production comes from large family farms making $1 million or more in annual sales.


What is the key consideration when determining when to harvest corn?

Farmers traditionally determine when to harvest corn based on moisture. When the moisture levels in the crop measure between 15 and 34 percent, the corn is ready for harvest. The exact moisture range for a farmer is based on what type of grain drying and storage equipment he is using.


Which of these describes a plot of land left unseeded for a period?

Crop rotation is important for maintaining a farm that can be used for extended periods. Sometimes parcels of land are left fallow, and unseeded, which allows the land to recover and regenerate.


What's the most common beef cow in the U.S.?

Black angus cows are the most common in the U.S., while holstein cows are the most common dairy cows. These are just two of the 80 cow breeds common in the U.S., and the 250 breeds found around the world.


How much of U.S. farm output is exported?

Around 25 percent of all output from U.S. farms is exported, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. This provides an additional opportunity for farmers seeking a market for their products.


Which of these is an ideal pH value for growing soybeans?

Soil pH means a great deal when it comes to a successful crop yield. Soybeans grow best when pH measures between 6.3 and 6.5, according to the Michigan State University Extension.


Which of these dairy grades is used on milk you can drink?

Dairy grades help us understand what milk can be used for. Milk marked Grade A is designed for drinking, while Grade B milk can only be used to manufacture products like cheese and butter.


In 2018, this many U.S. farms got at least $1 million in subsidies.

Farming subsidies were introduced around the time of the Great Depression to help keep farms afloat in times of difficulty. A 2018 article in Forbes reveals that more than 400 farms in the U.S. receive subsidies of $1 million a year or more. Between 2008 and 2018, the top 10 subsidized farms received an average of $1.8 million annually.


How many eggs does a typical chicken lay in a year?

No, chickens don't lay an egg a day. Some estimates consider 300 eggs a year to be a solid run for a standard chicken, while a USDA study outlined in a 2016 New York Times article puts the U.S. averages at 276 eggs per chicken annually.


Which of these crops is the most profitable per acre?

Saffron, which comes from the crocus flower, is highly profitable. It takes about a quarter acre to generate one pound of this yellow spice, which sells for between $5,000 and $10,000 per pound. Other uber-profitable crops include lavender and ginseng.


Which of these is the study of soil and crops?

Future farmers who didn't grow up on a family farm might want to consider a degree in agronomy. This field covers soil management and crop production, and can provide useful guidance for the agricultural field.


How much of farm production in the U.S. is sold direct to consumers?

Around 8 percent of all farm output in the U.S. is sold directly to consumers instead of to corporations. This could come from farmers' markets or local produce stands.


The average farmer feeds this many people a year from his/her annual yield.

The average U.S. farmer produces enough food to feed 155 people. This is much higher than the 26 people fed by the average U.S. farm in 1960 -- thanks to improved technology and efficiency.


What percentage of U.S. corn is sweet corn?

Only around 1 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is sweet corn -- the kind you toss on the grill and slather with butter. The vast majority is feed corn, which is used to feed livestock or make ethanol.


How long does it take to raise a grass-finished cow for slaughter?

If you're using corn and grain to fatten up a cow, the animal can be slaughtered in around 12 to 18 months after birth. Cows fed only grass for their entire lives take 24 to 36 months to prepare for slaughter.


For how much should you expect to sell an acre of wheat at market?

An acre of wheat sold for an average of $323 per acre in 2017, according to the Purdue University Extension. That means wheat farmers need to keep costs very low or rely on volume to make a living.


How many ears of corn can be grown on an acre of land, on average?

The Ohio State University Extension estimates that the average corn yield on one acre of land is around 1,200 dozen ears, or 14,400 individual ones. With corn prices between $2 and $4 per dozen, yield information allows farmers to calculate potential sales figures.


Which of these describes a farm where crops, fruits or veggies are grown?

Arable land is soil capable of producing crops, so farms that grow food are known as arable farms. An alternative is a pastoral farm, which produces cattle or livestock.


The USDA Organic seal on a product means that this percent of its ingredients are organic.

Organic certification can help farmers secure higher prices for food, and appeal to buyers wanting a different quality of goods than what's available in conventional markets. As of 2018, the USDA Organic seal means that a product contains an least 95 percent organic content.


How much of each dollar spent on food in the U.S. ends up in the hands of a farmer?

Only around 15 cents of every dollar spent on food ends up in the hands of a farmer or rancher, according to the American Farm Bureau Foundation. This is only about half of the 31 cents per dollar that ranchers and farmers earned per food dollar spent in the U.S. in 1980.


How many gallons of milk does a typical cow produce each day?

A typical cow produces seven to nine gallons of milk a day -- that's more than 100 glasses! This amount of milk could also be used to make around 10 pounds of cheese.


What's the most frequently consumed meat in the world?

Americans love their beef, but people around the world are obsessed with pork -- it represents around 42 percent of all meat consumed on Earth. Around 90 percent of that pork is consumed outside the U.S.


How much honey does an average bee produce in its lifetime?

Believe it or not, a single bee produces only about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its entire life. That's why farmers who keep bees must have massive hives to keep production high enough to generate income.


What percentage of water in the U.S. goes to farms and agriculture?

Around 80 percent of all water used in the U.S. is used for farming and agriculture, according to the Penn State University Extension. A single milk cow can require 35 gallons a day or more, while irrigating one acre of land takes an average of 4,000 gallons per day -- though this can vary based on weather and location.


What percent of U.S. GDP does farming represent?

Farming represents only around 1 percent of the total U.S. GDP, or gross domestic product. When you consider all agriculture and food industries -- including restaurants -- this increases to around 5.5 percent, according to the USDA.


What does grass-fed mean on a beef label?

Grass-fed on beef means that the animal was fed grass at some point, but may have been eating corn or grain for the past few years. If you want an animal that only ate grass, look for beef marked as 100% grass-fed or grass-finished.


How many pounds of food does a dairy cow need each day?

It's not easy being a milk-making machine! Dairy cows eat around 100 pounds of food a day, and also drink 30 to 50 gallons of water.


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