Ye olde tale of the landuse=farmland tag

Posted by Harry Wood on 8 June 2011 in English (English)


  • In the beginning there was landuse=farm (somebody slapped this tag onto the embryonic wiki tag docs) It wasn't clear if this meant farmyard and farming fields, or just farmyard, but in the beginning we weren't that fussed.

  • A new tag landuse=farmyard was introduced causing some confusion. Most people switched their understanding of landuse=farm to mean not the farmyard but rather the whole areas of farming fields (if that wasn't their understanding already), but it all got documented in a fairly half-assed way.

  • Upset by this situation some people decided to solve it with a new tag proposal which would entail moving old mapping data to conform to a new scheme (always a bad idea, or at least... always an idea requiring careful justification). The hope was that people would move from landuse=farm to landuse=farmland thereby eliminating any problematic old landuse=farm uses which were actually drawn around farmland. However they failed to explain this justification properly at the time, merely stating that landuse=farm was "ambiguous"

  • Some people (me in particular) were irritated by this seemingly unnecessary new proposal, but the situation wasn't resolved quickly.

  • Naturally other people were sticking their oars in with suggestions like landuse=agriculture, and Proposed features/agricultural Field (there is always a background noise of unnecessary tag proposals on the wiki) These similarly declared that landuse=farm was "ambiguous" without explaining it properly.

  • Later I had many conversations trying to explain the word farm and get to the bottom of why landuse=farm was "ambiguous". I noticed that support for the tag seemed to be stronger among german mappers, and wondered if there was a language issue. Something to do with their use of the word.

  • The landuse=farm documentation was becoming clearer over time. Mappers were naturally moving away from using landuse=farm where it should be landuse=farmyard, so the original justification (which was never explained) was becoming weaker, lost in the mists of time. Despite this, because the proposal had been in place and linked for a long time, adoption of the landuse=farmland proposed tag was also on the increase. This was particularly true in the german mapping community who had documented DE:Tag:landuse=farmland and were largely ignoring my discussions on the english wiki.

  • At some point the JOSM developers (many germans) incorporated landuse=farmland into their tagging presets, which significantly fuels adoption

  • I made a concerted effort to document landuse=farm with a pretty diagram, to make it absolutely clear that landuse=farmland was a proposal to represent the exact same thing we already had a tag for. Eventually I put the question very directly. "What's wrong with landuse=farm?"

  • Over the past year, adoption of the unnecessary landuse=farmland tag continued to grow. Supporters of the tag didn't feel the need to answer my question, or indeed explain to anyone else on the proposal page, why the tag needed to exist.

  • Potlatch developers mainly look at usage stats when deciding what tags to including as presets. It's trendy nowadays to disregard any concept of a "proposal" process, so they wouldn't even have seen any objections raised. It's just a tag that a lot of mappers are using. As such the tag is added to Potlatch presets and more mappers start using it.

And so it is that we drift into a situation where we have two widely adopted tags for farm fields.

If I take step back now, and put aside my irritation about the fact that this was always an unnecessary duplicating tag proposal, try to judge both tags on their merits. I can see that mentioning 'land' helps people be clearer about what the tag is for, although landuse=farmland is ugly because it actually has the word 'land' in it twice. landuse=farm is shorter and easier to type. But to be honest it's 50/50. Much of a muchness. I don't really care. It's just a shame that we have two tags.

As an aside... it's also a shame that the very concept of mapping farm land is completely nuts! Personally I don't actually add any farm data to the map myself because it doesn't make sense to me: Talk:Tag:landuse=farm#Very large swathes of land. Until that problem is solved (and I don't know what the solution is) farm mapping has a bizarre completeness problem. Odd patchy farm coverage just looks ugly as hell in the default Mapnik rendering. In my opinion neither tag should be rendered unless/until somebody can explain how it should be mapped.


I'm having a grumpy old fart moment again aren't I?

Comment from Richard on 8 June 2011 at 22:15

Potlatch developers are always happy to listen to reasoned argument if you contact them. :)

Hide this comment

Comment from Longbow4u on 8 June 2011 at 23:24

I am happy that landuse=farmland and landuse=farmyard are now becoming more common. Landuse=farm was very confusing for me, so it was not a good idea to begin with. A farm is a building in English, isn't it. In the coming months I try to close any gaps in my area, mostly landuse=farmland. If double use of "land" is ugly, why, no one ever sees this in the map tiles. Using JOSM, you usually don't have to type all the letters. For the key, "l" is enough to get landuse, and "f" suffices to get farmland (because of the presets). So, problem solved. Landuse=farm could be replaced by bots for landuse=farmland, or it could be kept as a synonym. It is unfortunate that the language communities interact so little a times, e.g. in your discussion. But this is probably due to language problems. Thank you for your essay. :-) Greetings from Germany.

Hide this comment

Comment from EdLoach on 9 June 2011 at 01:09

Yes, but we all get them. *Some* people are daft enough to use multipolygon relations when boundary ones (WITHOUT OUTER as a role, whatever JOSM validator tells you) was working great. (and relax....)

Hide this comment

Comment from Andy Allan on 9 June 2011 at 08:47

I'll second Richard on this one - the potlatch2 developers have a strong and impassioned sense of editorialism with the tagging presets, and certainly aren't swayed just on raw usage numbers - otherwise we'd be at the mercy of tag-changing bots!

Hide this comment

Comment from Pink Duck on 9 June 2011 at 08:53

In English, a farm is a general term for everything on a farm site - the buildings, yard and fields. So farmland and farmyard are just more specific terms. I am fine with landuse=farm for a general definition of the purpose of the land. See for European definitions.

Hide this comment

Comment from netman55 on 9 June 2011 at 09:59

Perhaps you should talk to farmers to sort this one out! "Typical "townies", haven't got clue about the countryside" some farmers might say if they saw this discussion here and elsewhere.

As I visit farms on a regular basis and speak to farmers, here's my viewpoint (England/Kent):

Farm - Also known as "Estate" - an area "managed" by a person(s) as a single entity, that person may be or not the landowner. A farm can contain different types or "Grades" of farmland (oh dear another load of tags just been spawned!) plus buildings and waterways. So a farm is not just a building. Difficult to map from Bing as farm boundaries can change often especially with leased land.

Farmyard - area close to and including farm buildings which are central to farm operations and often used for "wintering" activities and storage

Farmland - a loose/generic term generally which can mean various things, for example a single farm or part of it, a collection of farms. Farmland can contain fields, orchards, woodland (yes, thats right woodland/forestry, grade 4 or 5 farmland), grazing land/paddocks etc etc.

So some of the wiki definitions are nuts.

However I think the tagging in this area is way overboard, for mapping purposes tag the farmland and the buildings i.e. landuse=farmland & building=yes should be just fine, especially as farmers are diversifying into other areas due to economic situations, one farmer down the road is leasing farm buildings to form a mini business park and another has an archery area, try tagging that lot accurately, on second thoughts don't bother

Hide this comment

Comment from marscot on 9 June 2011 at 14:08

Have change over a few tags to farmland
but maybe we could have done this

farm:use=land yard/building/orchards/paddocks/grazing/fallow/woodland/ect

Hide this comment

Comment from Liminin on 9 June 2011 at 16:22

Old MacDonald had a farm,E I E I O,and on that farm he had some
'embryonic wiki tag docs',E I E I O,with a 'wiki tags docs'here
and a wiki tags doc there,everywhere a wiki tags doc...

Hide this comment

Comment from Hawkeye on 9 June 2011 at 18:43

I have tried mapping a farm in detail to work this through. I kept changing my mind on different aspects - tagging some fields as farmland and others as grass. In the end, I feel landuse=farmland isn't very descriptive. Perhaps farmland=grazing, farmland=arable. Would add more detail. Fences and hedges look great and are useful landmarks for walkers etc, so I would urge people if they have the time to map them, rather than putting blobs of farmland on the map. But, you know, as long as people are adding new info and its vaguely accurate, then eventually those big blobs become fine detail.

Have a look at my attempt here:

Hide this comment

Comment from c2r on 11 June 2011 at 15:09

I agree with the original rant, I have to say.

I also think that mapnik could do with a bit of refining when it shows the fields, as it currently starts at zoom=9 but not really until zoom=7 or zoom=6 (dependent on monitor) do the secondary class roads actually become visible against the fields....

Hide this comment

Comment from Fabi2 on 12 June 2011 at 22:11

I also don*t know the history of landuse=farm, until now.

Explaination from a naive German point of view:

landuse=farm: "Farm" is a other word for "Bauernhof" ( in German which are only core of a farm with the buildings.

landuse=farmland: What is "yard"? So better use "farmland", as there is also "Land" in German, with the same meaning as the English "land".

Hide this comment

Leave a comment

Parsed with Markdown

  • Headings

    # Heading
    ## Subheading

  • Unordered list

    * First item
    * Second item

  • Ordered list

    1. First item
    2. Second item

  • Link

  • Image

    ![Alt text](URL)

Login to leave a comment