Difference Between Subsistence Farming and Commercial Farming

Main difference

The main difference between subsistence farming and commercial farming is that subsistence farming means small-scale farming while commercial farming is large-scale farming.

Subsistence vs. Commercial Farming

The purpose of subsistence farming is not to make a profit. Commercial agriculture is for profit. Subsistence farms are for the survival of farmers. Commercial farming is about raising livestock, growing crops in large numbers, increasing the economy for excessive returns. Subsistence farming crops are the only source of food, and if there is a surplus of crops, it is sold directly to nearby villagers. Food from commercial agriculture is not consumed directly, but all products are shipped to food processing companies and subsequently to market and stores sell out.

In subsistence farming, advanced machinery is not primarily used for work done by the farmers themselves. The use of advanced machinery is gradually increasing in commercial agriculture even in the United States, with the Canadian workforce of farmers reaching just 2%. Therefore, due to the increase in the use of machinery, the number of farmers is drastically reduced. In subsistence farming, multiple farmers work together and help each other to produce food for themselves without machinery and relying on animals and humans. Only a few farmers work in commercial farming and rely on scientific and advanced methods like insecticides, pesticides, herbicide sprays, hybrid plants or animal breeds etc.

Most farmers plasticized subsistence farming on family farms, while commercial farming plasticized on large farms. Subsistence farming uses the monsoon as its irrigation method, while commercial farming uses modern irrigation techniques. From subsistence agriculture, cereals, vegetables and fruits are grown. From commercial agriculture, cereals and other cash crops are grown to earn money. The productivity of subsistence agriculture is improving through the use of fertilizers. The productivity of commercial agriculture is improving through the use of high doses of modern methods. In subsistence agriculture, conventional tools such as digging, hoe or deer, etc. are used. But nevertheless,

Comparison chart

subsistence farming commercial agriculture
Laborious capital intensive
common in
less developed countries more developed countries
Food for the farmer’s family Mass production for the entire population
farm size
Comparatively small in size relatively large
55% Only 5%
Use of machinery
Does not depend on machinery It increases day by day

What is subsistence farming?

Subsistence farming is a form of agriculture for growing crops and raising livestock. This smaller-scale farming is called “subsistence farming.” In the past, before the age of industrialization, many people’s professions depended on subsistence farming to meet their basic necessities of life. In subsistence farming, fewer modern farming methods and techniques are used. Subsistence farming has small plots and labor. For subsistence farming, the decision to farm is based on the needs of the family and its recent market prices.

Subsistence farming mainly provides bread and butter, surplus produce, which is sold in the nearby local market for money to meet other necessities of life. In subsistence farming, the latest agrotech knowledge for farmers is inferior. To break this concatenation of events, the Government has to carry out programs for farmers’ awareness, provide agricultural knowledge, grant loans, improve market facilities, provide modern technology and fertilizers.

Subsistence farming is also explained as “Planting those products that you want to eat or that your family needs”. For subsistence farming, it doesn’t matter if you have good productive land and climate. If you want to eat bread, you have to plant it and wait for it to grow. Similarly, if you are going to grow roots like potatoes, carrots and turnips etc, you grow them and then pray and hope to get the best yield from the produce. Subsistence farming is not efficient for harvesting due to limited yield of different crops.

What is commercial agriculture?

Commercial farming is also known as “agribusiness” or “agribusiness.” In commercial farming methods, different crops are grown and livestock are also raised to sell the produce in the market to earn money. In this type of commercial agriculture, crops are grown on a large scale in large farms by using newly invented agricultural technologies, heavy machinery for irrigation method, and chemical fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, seeds, etc. to produce a higher yield by using modern harvesting methods. Predominantly, in commercial agriculture, only those crops that have the highest economic demand and are exported to different countries are grown.

Also, the extent of commercial farming varies from place to place. Commercial farming is preferred for high profits. It is mainly based on capital investment. For commercial agriculture, water, soil, and other natural resources discovered as the most suitable environmental resources for crops. Commercial agricultural production depends on market demand for particular crops. In commercial agriculture, you get proper management, the latest technology, the most advantageous inputs, the best planting and harvesting machinery, the availability of the best storage and transportation facilities.

Commercial agriculture is basically for economic activities. It requires a large amount of production due to a substantial investment or input. Commercial farming is for commercial purposes, and that is why it is mostly done on a large commercial scale and uses large plots of land for farming and different technological means to produce products. Few workers are employed because machines do most of the work. Commercial farming is becoming as efficient as possible day by day to justify the cost of combines and plows.

Key differences

  1. Subsistence farming does not play a significant role in the country’s economy while commercial farming plays a vital role in the country’s economy.
  2. In subsistence farming, crops grown to feed the family. On the other hand, commercial agricultural crops produced with the intention of selling.
  3. The subsistence family produces products only for the immediate family, and commercial agriculture produces products in bulk.
  4. Subsistence farming uses traditional farming methods; On the other hand, commercial agriculture uses machines for cultivation.
  5. Subsistence farming provides only food to the farmer while commercial farming provides both food and money to the farmer.
  6. Subsistence farming uses manure, commercial farming conversely uses sprays as fertilizer.

Final Thought

Subsistence farming and commercial farming are the two different types of farming. Subsistence farming is for local consumption and commercial farming is produced for commercial purposes.

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