What is the difference between commercial farming and subsistence farming?


Quick Answer

Commercial farming involves raising crops and livestock to sell for a profit. The needs of the market help determine which crops are grown. With subsistence farming, the farmer raises the food he needs to provide for himself and his family or community.

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What is the difference between commercial farming and subsistence farming?
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Full Answer

Commercial farming is typically done on a very large scale, often by agricultural corporations. The goal of commercial farming is to make profits, which is done through maximizing crop yields through labor-saving techniques and technology. Use of synthetic fertilizers and hybrid seeds is common on commercial farms, as are heavy farming machinery and sophisticated irrigation technology. Commercial farms typically grow one crop in large quantities. Some of the main crops grown on commercial farms include bananas, coffee, corn, cotton, nuts, tea, sugar cane and wheat.

In subsistence farming, farmers grow a wider range of crops based on the anticipated needs of their families or communities. Traditionally, subsistence farmers have eaten what they grow. Most subsistence farmers also trade excess crops and livestock for other needed goods. While subsistence farming is still common in less-developed parts of the world, it disappeared for the most part in Europe by World War II and in the United States by the 1950s.

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