Came across the following quote. What does Don't farm it out means in this context?

"When the need arises – and it does – you must be able to shoot your own dog. Don’t farm it out – that doesn’t make it nicer, it makes it worse." — Lazarus Long

3 Answers 3


The original sense of farm appears to have been legal and connected with rent of land, and farm out thus meant, essentially, rent out (land). Alexander Burrill, A New Law Dictionary and Glossary (1850) offers this discussion:

FARM, ... In English law. The rent of lend held under lease, anciently reserved and paid in provisions (in eduliis.) [Citatations omitted]

Rent reserved on a lease of land, payable in money ; ...

A term in lands ; that is, an estate granted for a definite period, as for life or years, (usually for years,) on payment of a rent ; a lease of land ; the estate or interest of a lessee ; a leasehold interest in lands.


The present meaning of the word farm is very properly termed by Sir Wm. Blackstone, the result of "a gradual departure from the original sense;" its successive gradations of meaning appearing from the definitions above given, viz. ; provisions,—rent paid in provisions,—rent paid in money, or generally,—a term in lands, held on rent,—land itself, held for a term and rent,—land held or hired for a term, for cultivation,—any land used for cultivation, whether hired or owned. ... In England, however, the idea of a lease, a term, and a rent, continue to be in a great degree inseparable even from the popular meaning of a farm, as they are entirely so from the legal sense. The ordinary expression "to farm out," is an instance of the perpetuation of the same meaning.

In short, the phrase "to farm out" harkens back to the earlier legal meaning of a farm as a rental arrangement whereby a tenant occupied and cultivated land in return for some regular payment of rents. Today, the primary sense of the phrase is to send work out-of-house to an independent contractor or subcontractor.


It means you should do it yourself.

Don't get someone else to do it.

See also the definition of "farm out"

  1. to turn over (as a job) for performance by another usually under contract

  2. a : to put (as children) into the hands of another for care


I believe it goes back to pre revolutionary France, when the Monarchy "farmed out" excise tax collection to the fermes general, or Farmers General. The Fermes General enriched themselves by collecting far more than they paid on the contract with the crown, and eventually pissed of the public to the point where many if them met the guillotine up close and personal during the revolution.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.