What I Learned From the Term “Marginal Land”

WhatILearnedFromtheTermMarginalLandFarmers grow crops on marginal land. This was a topic that came up in a discussion I had on Twitter recently (it was the same discussion that prompted my previous post, “Why You Should Never Say “Every Farmer…”).  During this discussion I discovered something…not everyone has the same definition for a term or phrase.

The specific phrase we had a problem with was “marginal land.” While you all probably understand it’s general meaning, “less than high-quality land”, the specific discussion we were having really hinged on what each of us felt was the definition of “marginal land.” One person felt we shouldn’t be producing crops on marginal land because it was harmful to the environment. While I agreed, I felt there were things farmers could do to the land that could make “marginal land” more suitable for crop production, such as tiling or no-till. We didn’t really agree until we finally made a definition for the term “marginal land.” While it seems really silly, defining this term actually created an “ah-ha” moment for both of us, a better understanding of the subject and all while helping us come to a consensus (it was quite rather exhilarating).

So, next time you get upset at someone because they are using a “fuzzy” phrase like farmers grow crops on marginal lands or GMO’s are unhealthy, maybe you should stop and ask them to define what marginal lands and unhealthy means to them. It’s much easier to talk about something once you know what they actually mean rather than taking a shot in the dark and angering the listeners or giving yourself a heart attack.

What other “fuzzy phrases” do you think need to be defined before you should have a discussion with someone? List them in the comments below.

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