The Differences Between Subsistence and Commercial Agriculture

HomeFarmingThe Differences Between Subsistence and Commercial Agriculture
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Hello, there geographers, and welcome to this amazing post. Today, we’ll be talking about commercial agriculture and subsistence agriculture. We’ll be exploring where they’re located, what’s the difference between them, and how they impact society. So sit back, relax, and let’s explore farming.

The difference between subsistence agriculture and commercial agriculture

Now, while reading this blog, make sure to use read carefully. The first thing we need to understand is just what’s the difference between subsistence agriculture and commercial agriculture. Subsistence agriculture is when people are producing food for consumption on the farm.

So they’re producing food for their family. They’re not producing it for sale. They’re not trying to make a profit from it and sell it to other people. They’re primarily producing it to be able to survive, to be able to eat the food and to be able to live on the land. This is most commonly found in LDCs.

Now, LDCs are less developed countries. It’ll be important for you to understand what an LDC is, and it’s important for you to understand kind of where these different types of agriculture are located.

subsistence agriculture map

So right now on the above image you can see I have a map up, and I have kind of highlighted general regions where we see the highest percentages of subsistence agriculture.

The other type is commercial agriculture. Commercial agriculture is for the production of food on farms to be sold off of the farm. We’re actually trying to produce revenue. Farmers here are making money.

The goal is to make money. This is most commonly found in MDCs, more developed countries. Again, it’s important to understand the difference both between these two types of agriculture and also MDC and LDC.

commercial agriculture in more developed countries
commercial agriculture in more developed countries

On the above image, you can see where I have kind of highlighted the MDCs, which primarily use commercial agriculture.

Now let’s go and explore the different types and what these things mean with regard to life on the farm and how agriculture is going to be used on the farm.

The first big difference between these two types of agriculture is the number of farmers participating in the workforce. One of the things that we start to see is as countries become more developed, fewer and fewer people become farmers.

So the MDCs actually have a lot fewer farmers in the workforce. Actually, it’s only around 5% of the population. The reason why is that agricultural density has decreased. If you remember what I’m talking about, click on the card on the top right.

You can read my blog on population densities, whether it be the normal one or even the one that uses Minecraft to explain them. Those will explain what’s happening and why this occurs. For less developed countries, those LDCs, we’re going to see a lot more farmers participating in the workforce.

More of the population is going to have to be in agricultural work, and that’s because they’re going to be supporting their families and themselves instead of just selling it. We also have less development, and that’s going to connect to our second reason, which is going to have to do with technology.

Technology is the next big difference between subsistence and commercial agriculture. Technology actually has a lot of implications for agriculture. If we are having more commercial agriculture, we are going to see more uses for machines.

We’re going to see tractors and combines, and not even just as technological advancements within just producing and harvesting, but also in just transportation. We’ll have to be able to move our products quickly, so we need advanced roads.

We need trains. We need boats and ships and other ways to transport our goods to the market so we can sell them. We’re also going to have more focus on scientific research to be able to try and get higher-yielding crops and to be able to maximize our profits.

For subsistence agriculture, they’re going to have a lot less access to these advanced machines. And even if they do have access to it, they won’t have the financial capital to be able to purchase them. So most of the work is actually going to be done by hand.

Here, farmers are going to have larger families to be able to support them. And remember, people, are using this type of agriculture to just feed their families.

There might not be that quality of roads and other transportation accessible to be able to travel around and to be able to ship their goods. And so that also kind of deters people from selling. And then lastly, any of the new research or fertilizers they might not be able to access because they just don’t have enough money.

The last big difference is going to be the size. Commercial agriculture is going to have a lot larger farms. Their average size is going to be around 415 or so acres. Now, the reason why they’re going to be a lot larger is they’ll be using a lot more machines to be able to hire so they can actually be efficient with this much land.

And again, the point here is to make money. So the more products we can create, the more that we can sell. The downside here though is that there’s going to be a lot of start-up cost. It is expensive. Many farmers who are going to be doing this are going to have to take out loans and are going to go into debt. So it can be a very competitive business.

We’re also going to see larger businesses come into play as they start to buy up more and more farms to have them produce for them. Roughly around right now, we have about 5% of the farms kind of resulting in 75% of the country’s food production for those MDCs.

So because we’re so efficient, even though we have only a very small percentage of our population participating in agriculture, they’re able to produce a lot of food to feed essentially everyone.

On the other hand, subsistence farms are going to be quite small. They actually a lot of times get passed down through generations. The average size is around 2.5 acres, and pretty much everything’s done by hand or they use animals.

Now, we’ll be exploring the differences between these throughout our agriculture unit. It’s just important to kind of have a baseline. So again, for size, the commercial is going to be a lot larger and subsistence a lot smaller.

The reason why for the smaller size of subsistence is they don’t have the machines to be able to be effective or the money to be able to support it. Lastly, especially if there are some cultural things where people pass land down through generations to their kids, they’ll have to keep dividing the land up. We’ll get into that later on at another time.

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