Types of Farming


Areas around the globe have developed various methods of farming, both traditional and innovative, to suit the needs and demands of the people of the region as well the climate.

Farming looks much different than it did when nomadic people began to shift from foraging behaviors into sedentary agriculture.

While the face of farming is different, the goal for many farmers is still the same: produce food for one’s family, and make a profit when possible.

This article will look at various types of farming currently being utilized. 

Subsistence Farming

Subsistence agriculture closely resembles the earliest farming methods. In this method, crops and livestock are grown and raised with the purpose of feeding the farmer and their family. Subsistence farming leaves little left over for trading or selling.[1]

Despite numerous agricultural revolutions and modernization, subsistence farming persists in multiple countries, especially in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and South America.[2]

Subsistence farming has numerous advantages. First, it is cheaper than other agricultural methods. It requires few investments, and inexpensive, easy to access implements.[3]

Secondly, no outside labor is needed to raise crops and livestock as the family are the primary workers.[4]

Third, it is relatively easy to become a subsistence farmer due to the lack of specialized skills or need for education. The ability to use basic farm tools and plant accordingly is all that is needed.[5]

Subsistence farming allows for the continued existence of families in small, rural villages that otherwise would move to urban areas for work.[6]

Despite the numerous advantages of this type of farming, it brings some limitations for both farmers and the environment.[7]

Because subsistence farmers operate in many of the same ways their old predecessors did, they often lack the technology and convenience of modern agriculture that helps crops and livestock thrive even during difficult times.[8]

Farmers must rely on rain. In many countries, the rainy season is also the planting and growing season. If the region is experiencing drought, or there is little rain, the loss could be devastating for families who rely on subsistence agriculture for food.[9]

Similarly, the lack of traditional farming tools such as irrigation makes it more difficult. Subsistence farmers tend to live in poverty and do not have the money to invest in irrigation systems to counteract a lack of rainfall.[10]

Since this method of farming generally can only produce enough food to support one family, there is little room for profit. Subsistence farmers usually only have a few acres and can produce very little to sell or trade.[11]

While sustenance farms are small and require little land to produce food, it still can prove damaging to the surrounding environment.[12]

Poor soil and crop management practices associated with this type of farming can cause a loss of nutrients in the soil that can lead to soil erosion. This can take years to regain.[13]

A second environmental drawback is a loss of biodiversity through the loss of forests. Slash-and-burn is a common practice in subsistence farming. This technique is one of the biggest detriments to the environment.[14]

Lastly, those farmers who do have the means to implement various forms of irrigation are rapidly depleting water sources faster than they can recover, leading to water scarcity in several regions where rainfall is sparse.[15]

Commercial Farming

Commercial farming is the opposite of subsistence farming; crops are grown solely for selling. This modern agriculture method is performed on large-scale farms that require a sizeable amount of land, labor, and machinery.[16]

This type of farming is most common in developed countries. It is the dominant form of agriculture in Southeast Asia, Central America, and the midwestern US.[17]

The most significant advantage of commercial farming is the massive amount of food produced. The high quantities of products that come from commercial farms allow consumers to buy food at an affordable price.

In developing countries, commercial agriculture helps keep the price of food down and benefits more impoverished communities. Also, commercial farms can bring jobs to communities and improve infrastructures such as the construction of roads and railways.[18]

However, there are several limitations to the benefits that come with commercial farming.

The corporations who run large-scale farms can easily take advantage of the people they employ. Underpaying workers and creating monopolies is a drawback of this type of farming.[19]

Secondly, the land needed to operate commercial farms continues to shrink. As existing companies continue to increase their acreage and new farmers wish to engage in this method of farming, there is less land for farmers practicing smaller forms of agriculture.[20]

The decreasing availability of land coupled with the heightened desire of commercial farmers to expand their land has caused a spike in the cost of land, making it difficult for newer or younger farmers to enter into commercial farming.[21]

Industrial agriculture also poses a threat to the surrounding ecosystem.

Farm expansion leads to deforestation in woodland areas with little effort on companies’ part to restore forest growth in other areas. The destruction of forests across the world is a source of habitat loss for numerous species across the globe.[22]

The massive amounts of fertilizers and pesticides used in commercial agriculture pose a threat not just to humans, but to the ecosystem as well.

Heavy chemical use can cause runoff that pollutes waterways and increase immunity to various chemicals in plants and pests that leads to increased usage. Sprays spread in the air and contribute to higher levels of greenhouse gases.[23]

Intensive Farming

Where commercial agriculture is the opposite of subsistence farming, intensive farming is the counterpart to organic agriculture.[24]

The purpose of intensive farms is to produce the most amount of food at the lowest cost, which often means that intensive farms that raise livestock in the least amount of space that laws allow.[25] They are found worldwide.

The high crop yields are one of the significant benefits of intensive farming. This method helps farmers monitor their crops and livestock easily.[26]

These higher yields help keep food prices down for consumers, which in turn helps hunger problems across the globe by offering a balanced diet at a low cost.[27]

Whereas organic farms must use natural manure and large spaces to cultivate crops and raise livestock, intensive farms require much less land and equipment, which contributes to cheaper food.[28]

Intensive farming has strict regulations set in place. The maintenance of livestock, pesticides, manure, and other resources are closely monitored to ensure safe and healthy products for consumers.[29]

While intensive farming is economical and benefits producers and consumers alike, it has the potential to cause harm to the environment.

The most significant environmental detriment is the loss of ecosystems and land across the world due to the expansion of intensive agriculture, similar to commercial farm plants. Intensive farms are responsible for the deforestation of 80% of tropical lands.[30]

The genetic erosion of crops and livestock leads to a loss of global biodiversity, which the destruction of habitats accelerates.[31]

Old and new parasites have emerged thanks to conditions that foster their growth. At the same time, plants and insects that benefit crops are killed.[32]

Intensive farming saps the nutrients from the soil, creates runoff and clogs water systems while increasing the land’s chances of flooding.[33]

Raising large amounts of livestock and clearing land for large-scale plants contribute significantly to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.[34]

The chemicals used in intensive farming that damage the environment also have the potential to harm the people that work on these plants and the consumers.[35]

The pesticides, fertilizers, and other synthetic chemicals used to grow food are often difficult to wash off, leading to human consumption.[36]

Ingesting these chemicals can have long term effects such as physical deformity, skin allergies, congenital diseases, ADHD, and cancer.[37]

And while it is advantageous that intensive farming uses less space, labor, and resources to produce much more than traditional agriculture, it poses problems for conventional farmers competing with these larger plants and takes away opportunities for job creation.[38]

Extensive Farming

Extensive farming is a type of agriculture where crops are grown on small amounts of land and labor. The number of plants harvested at the end of the season depends on soil fertility, climate, terrain, and quantity of water available.[39]

The difference between extensive farming and intensive farming is that in the latter, large amounts of chemicals are used to grow plants, and harvesting is done with machines.[40]

Extensive farming uses far fewer artificial fertilizers and pesticides but requires more land to be profitable. This means that if an extensive farm is built, it must be done far away from primary markets, raising the cost of transportation to said markets.[41]

However, not all extensive farms conduct themselves in this manner. Other forms of extensive agriculture include vertical gardens, aquaponics, permaculture, or even a garden with multi-cropping.[42]

These techniques allow those who live in urban areas to engage in agriculture on their own, without relying as heavily on large-scale food producers.[43]

There are many advantages to extensive farming, especially in its treatment of livestock.

This method of agriculture requires less labor than other forms of farming like intensive agriculture. The amount of land needed to yield the same amount of crops as intensive farming is greater, but the amount of labor overall is less because work such as terracing is not required.[44]

In rural areas with flat land (such as the midwest in the US), machines make cultivation easier are super effective.[45]

This more efficient use of labor contributes to lower prices for consumers in the grocery store.[46]

Unlike in intensive farms, which raises as many animals as possible in as little space that is legally allowed, extensive farms allow for more humane conditions for livestock.[47]

Fertilizers, chemicals, and pesticides are used with less frequency than other forms of agriculture.[48]

Fewer chemicals mean that the ecosystem and soil in surrounding areas are safer and more fertile, and there is no concern about water runoff or contributing to greenhouse gases.[49]

There are a few disadvantages to this farming method. In the short term, yields are much lower than other forms of agriculture.[50]

Additionally, the large amount of land needed for extensive farms can limit the habitats of animals living near the farm.[51]

The number of disadvantages is very few compared to other methods, and extensive agriculture may be the most economical for farmers and consumers while also the most eco-friendly.

Sedentary Farming

Sedentary farming is a form of agriculture in which the same area of land is cultivated every year.[52]

There are numerous sedentary farmers in South America and Southeast Asia. In the offseason, they find jobs on plantations and return to their homes with their wages.[53]

In Southeast Asia and West Africa, the growth of cash crops and the collection of forest products is combined with subsistence farming for additional income.[54]

Sedentary agriculture was one of the first forms of agriculture that allowed ancient humans to transition from hunting-and-gathering to agriculture as their primary source of food.

Sedentary farmers may use a variety of techniques to grow crops, from monocropping, slash and burn, terracing, or crop rotation.

One family may run sedentary farms and produce only enough food for a single household, or they may be larger operations that allow for trading and sale with members of the community.

Depending on the responsibility of the farmer, the environmental effects may not be as damaging or long-lasting as more industrialized forms of farming.

If the farmer practices crop rotation, multi-cropping, and other responsible techniques, the soil should retain the majority of its fertility and erode much more slowly.

The clearing of nearby forests could pose a threat to animal habitats, but because sedentary farms tend to be small, wooded areas may have the chance to regrow after a period of several seasons.


[1] https://www.britannica.com/topic/subsistence-farming

[2] https://www.britannica.com/topic/subsistence-farming

[3] https://www.virtualkollage.com/2017/01/the-advantages-of-subsistence-farming.html

[4]  https://www.virtualkollage.com/2017/01/the-advantages-of-subsistence-farming.html

[5] https://www.virtualkollage.com/2017/01/the-advantages-of-subsistence-farming.html

[6]  https://www.virtualkollage.com/2017/01/the-advantages-of-subsistence-farming.html

[7] https://www.virtualkollage.com/2017/01/the-disadvantages-of-subsistence-farming.html

[8] https://www.virtualkollage.com/2017/01/the-disadvantages-of-subsistence-farming.html

[9] https://www.virtualkollage.com/2017/01/the-disadvantages-of-subsistence-farming.html

[10]  https://www.virtualkollage.com/2017/01/the-disadvantages-of-subsistence-farming.html

[11] https://www.virtualkollage.com/2017/01/the-disadvantages-of-subsistence-farming.html

[12] http://www.globalsciencebooks.info/Online/GSBOnline/images/0706/DSDP_1(1)/DSDP_1(1)43-53o.pdf

[13] http://www.globalsciencebooks.info/Online/GSBOnline/images/0706/DSDP_1(1)/DSDP_1(1)43-53o.pdf

[14] http://www.globalsciencebooks.info/Online/GSBOnline/images/0706/DSDP_1(1)/DSDP_1(1)43-53o.pdf

[15] http://www.globalsciencebooks.info/Online/GSBOnline/images/0706/DSDP_1(1)/DSDP_1(1)43-53o.pdf

[16] https://www.quora.com/What-does-commercial-farming-mean

[17] http://geography.name/commercial-agriculture/

[18]  https://www.reference.com/business-finance/advantages-disadvantages-commercial-farming-c781156040407036

[19] https://www.reference.com/business-finance/advantages-disadvantages-commercial-farming-c781156040407036

[20] https://www.virtualkollage.com/2017/01/the-disadvantages-of-commercial-farming.html

[21]  https://www.virtualkollage.com/2017/01/the-disadvantages-of-commercial-farming.html

[22] https://www.reference.com/business-finance/advantages-disadvantages-commercial-farming-c781156040407036

[23] https://www.reference.com/business-finance/advantages-disadvantages-commercial-farming-c781156040407036

[24] https://www.riverford.co.uk/aboutus/environment-ethics/whyorganic/what-is-intensive-farming

[25] https://www.riverford.co.uk/aboutus/environment-ethics/whyorganic/what-is-intensive-farming

[26] https://www.farmmanagement.pro/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-intensive-farming/

[27]  https://www.farmmanagement.pro/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-intensive-farming/

[28] https://www.farmmanagement.pro/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-intensive-farming/

[29] https://www.farmmanagement.pro/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-intensive-farming/

[30] http://www.everythingconnects.org/intensive-farming.html

[31]  http://www.everythingconnects.org/intensive-farming.html

[32] http://www.everythingconnects.org/intensive-farming.html

[33] http://www.everythingconnects.org/intensive-farming.html

[34] http://www.everythingconnects.org/intensive-farming.html

[35] https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/advantages-disadvantages-intensive-farming.php

[36] https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/advantages-disadvantages-intensive-farming.php

[37] https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/advantages-disadvantages-intensive-farming.php

[38] https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/advantages-disadvantages-intensive-farming.php

[39] https://www.britannica.com/topic/extensive-agriculture

[40] https://www.britannica.com/topic/extensive-agriculture

[41] https://www.britannica.com/topic/extensive-agriculture

[42] https://www.quora.com/What-is-an-example-of-extensive-farming

[43] https://www.quora.com/What-is-an-example-of-extensive-farming

[44] https://www.slideshare.net/wafanoufal/extensive-farming

[45] https://www.slideshare.net/wafanoufal/extensive-farming

[46] https://www.slideshare.net/wafanoufal/extensive-farming

[47] https://www.slideshare.net/wafanoufal/extensive-farming

[48] https://www.slideshare.net/wafanoufal/extensive-farming

[49] https://www.slideshare.net/wafanoufal/extensive-farming

[50] Thomas, Tyrone (2000) My Environmental Exposé, Hill of Content, pp. 42–50; ISBN 0-85572-301-7

[51] Thomas, Tyrone (2000) My Environmental Exposé, Hill of Content, pp. 42–50; ISBN 0-85572-301-7

[52] https://www.reference.com/business-finance/definition-sedentary-farming-6f72a0d07c841ad1

[53] http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/paragraphs/paragraphs-on-sedentary-agriculture/44618

[54]  http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/paragraphs/paragraphs-on-sedentary-agriculture/44618