Farming or agriculture is practiced throughout the world. Farmers cultivate different kinds of crops and raise different animals. Most people have made farming their source of livelihood, some for the wellbeing of themselves and that of their families and a little to the local market. while others have so much that they can actually feed other families and even states. There are two major classifications of farming i.e. subsistence and commercial farming, and this read will share some light on the difference between subsistence and commercial farming.

Subsistence farming is the kind of farming done by farmers who have small plots, which are enough only for themselves. Literally, subsistence agriculture means no extra food is produced to sell or trade. If there is any, it’ll be of very low quantity.

Commercial farming from the name is done for commercial purposes. Crops and animals are raised for the populace, and it involves the use of modern farm equipment.

Difference between subsistence and commercial farming

DefinitionIn subsistence farming, agriculture is done for the family and a minute quantity for the local marketHere, farming is done for commercial purposes.
LandSmall land is requiredVery large land is required
Tools and equipmentCrude tools and equipment like hoes and cutlasses are usedMechanized tools and equipment like tractors and bulldozers are used
LaborUnskilled or manual labor is employedSkilled labor is employed in commercial farming
YieldReturns and yields are very lowVery high yield in most cases
CapitalVery little or no capital is required to start a subsistence farmVery huge capital is required to start a commercial farm
SkillDoes not require some special skill to startRequires some skills and education to begin
Storage facilitiesStorage facilities are useless in subsistence farmingThe use of storage facilities are very important in commercial farming
PollutionThere is low environmental degradation in subsistence farmingcommercial farming cause pollution.
ChemicalsThere is minimal use or no use of agro-chemicals in subsistence farmingFarming activities are usually achieved with the use of agro-chemicals
Farming systemMixed farming system is usually employed here.Commercial farming often times support only monocropping system
Farm recordsFarm records are absentFarm records are kept to every detail.
difference between subsistence and commercial farming

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Characteristics of subsistence farming

  1. One of the characters of subsistence farming is that small land area is required.
  2. The sole purpose of a subsistence farming is to produce food mainly for the family consumption.
  3. In subsistence farming, crude tools are majorly used due to the fact that advanced implement. are very expensive to buy.
  4. Unskilled or manual labor are largely employed.
  5. In subsistence farming, returns or yield are very low.
  6. Subsistence farming requires very small capital to start.
  7. Subsistence farming does not require any strategic marketing ability.
  8. There are no use of advanced pest and disease control methods in subsistence agriculture.
  9. Subsistence farming does not require any formal education to embark on it.
  10. Building of any large storage facility is not needed in subsistence farming.
  11. Subsistence farming is mostly practiced in developing countries with lots of peasant farmers.
  12. The practice of subsistence farming usually leaves the environment free of pollution.
  13. There is low environmental degradation in subsistence farming.
  14. The use of agro-allied chemicals such as herbicide and fertilizers are very minimal in subsistence agriculture.
  15. Subsistence farming usually involves the mixed cropping system agriculture.
  16. Most often in subsistence farming, the use of farm records are absent.
  17. Specialization in subsistence farming is absent.

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Characteristics of commercial farming

  1. In commercial farming, large areas of land is usually cultivated and mechanized.
  2. Commercial farming is mainly engaged for the purpose of sales and export.
  3. Complex modern tools and implements are used in the practice of commercial farming.
  4. Skilled labor are largely employed in commercial farming.
  5. Commercial farming requires huge capital investment.
  6. Commercial farming requires high marketing strategies.
  7. Pest and disease control methods are largely employed in commercial farming.
  8. Commercial farming requires special skill, education and technical know-how.
  9. In commercial farming, storage and specialized facilities are needed
    they create more jobs and stimulate rural economies more than either big plantations or smallholder contract farmers.
  10. Return on investment in commercial farming is very high.
  11. Commercial farming is mostly practiced by companies or rich farmers.
  12. Commercial farming causes pollution.
  13. Commercial farming most often leads to environmental degradation due to use of heavy machinery.
  14. In commercial agriculture, farming activities are usually accomplished through the use of  agro-chemicals.
  15. In commercial farming, mono-cropping system of farming is usually practiced.
  16. Farm records are kept to every detail in commercial farming.
  17. Farmers usually specialize in crop or animal production in commercial farming.

Advantages of subsistence farming over commercial farming

  • In subsistence farming, investments are not required to start up, while in commercial farming, you’ll need to have investors as the capital for start up might be outrageous.
  • Products are of high quality in subsistence farming while the quality of products in commercial farming can be questioned due to the use of chemicals like pesticides, insecticides and the likes.
  • There is minimal infestation of pest and disease in subsistence farming due to the fact that mixed farming is practiced, while commercial farms can be the store house of pest and diseases if not properly managed because a monocropping system of farming is usually practiced.
  • Subsistence farms are usually small and can be easily managed, while commercial farmed needs proper management for it to run smoothly.
  • There is no pollution involved in subsistence farming, while commercial farming can cause pollution which can be really harmful to nearby towns and cities.

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The bottom line

The main difference between subsistence and commercial farming is that subsistence farming is done for the family and very little for the local farming while commercial farming is done to provide food for the land. Another difference is that commercial farming focuses on making profit while subsistence farming focuses on the family.


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