Difference Between Subsistence and Commercial Farming with Proper Definition and Brief Explanation

Agriculture is the most practiced occupation in the whole world, that is, there are many people in this world who earn their living by growing vegetables, fruits, flowers and raising livestock. Based on geographic conditions, level of technology, demand for products, and required workers, there are two main classifications of agriculture, namely, subsistence agriculture and commercial agriculture. In subsistence agriculture, the farmer participates in the production of crops for local consumption.                                                                              Difference Between Subsistence and Commercial Farming

Commercial agriculture, as is clear from the name, is an agricultural practice in which the farmer and other laborers work in the production of crops, for commercial purposes. The excerpt from this article attempts to shed light on the difference between subsistence and commercial farming.

Content: Subsistence agriculture versus commercial agriculture

  1. Comparative graph
  2. Definition
  3. Key differences
  4. conclusion

Comparative graph

Basis for comparison Subsistence farming Commercial agriculture
Sense The agricultural practice in which crops are grown for personal consumption is known as subsistence agriculture. The agricultural practice, in which the farmer cultivates for commercial purposes, is called commercial agriculture.
Nature Laborious Capital intensive
Zone It is practiced in a small area. It is practiced in a large area.
Productivity It is enhanced through the use of manure. It is potentiated through higher doses of modern inputs.
Cultivated crops Food grains, fruits and vegetables. Cash crops and cereals.
Irrigation method It depends on the monsoon. Use modern irrigation methods.
Culture Traditional methods are used. Machines are used.

Definition of subsistence farming

The type of agriculture, in which the cultivation and raising of livestock is carried out, to meet the needs of the farmer and his family, is called subsistence agriculture. Before industrialization, there were many people who depended on subsistence agriculture for their needs.

In this crop, there is less use of modern agricultural techniques and methods, the size of the farm is small, and manual labor, which may be members of the farmers’ family, helps in the crop production process. The output produced is used primarily for local consumption, with little or no surplus trade. The surplus produced (if any) is sold to nearby markets. The cultivation decision is based on the needs of the family in the future and its market price.

Definition of commercial agriculture

Commercial agriculture, or also called agribusiness, is an agricultural method in which crops are grown and livestock are raised with the aim of selling the product in the market to earn money.

In this type of agriculture, a large amount of capital is invested, and the crops are grown on a large scale on large farms, with the use of modern technology, machines, irrigation methods, and chemical fertilizers. The basic characteristic of commercial agriculture is that high doses of modern inputs are used for higher productivity, such as seeds of great variety, fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, weedicides, etc.

In commercial agriculture, mainly those crops that are in high demand are produced, that is, crops that will be exported to other countries or that are used as raw material in industries. Furthermore, the scope of commercialization of agriculture differs from region to region.

Key differences between subsistence and commercial farming

The difference between subsistence and commercial agriculture can be worked out on the basis of the following premises:

  1. Subsistence farming is an agricultural system that aims to grow a large number of crops that satisfy all or almost all the needs of the farmer and his family, with little or no excess of products for commercialization. Commercial agriculture is the method of farming in which the production of crops and the raising of livestock are carried out with the intention of selling the products on the market.
  2. Because high labor inputs are required in subsistence farming, it is a very labor-intensive technique. In contrast, in commercial agriculture, a large capital investment is required, and that is why it is a capital intensive technique.
  3. Subsistence farming is done in a small area only. As against, a large area is required to perform commercial agriculture.
  4. To increase productivity, manure is added to the soil, in subsistence agriculture. In contrast, in commercial agriculture, crop yields can be increased with high doses of modern inputs, that is, seeds of a wide variety, fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, etc.
  5. In subsistence agriculture, mainly food grains such as wheat and rice, fruits and vegetables are grown. In contrast, commercial agriculture mainly grows cash crops and cereals.
  6. While subsistence farming relies heavily on the monsoon and simple irrigation methods, commercial farming relies on modern irrigation methods such as surface irrigation, drip system, sprinklers, etc.
  7. In subsistence farming, traditional farming methods are used, while machines are used for cultivating the land, in commercial farming.


In general, the socioeconomic development of all the countries of the world depends mainly on their agriculture, since it is the source of livelihood for many, and adds to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. In fact, the greater the growth of agriculture in a country, the more its commerce and industry will prosper.

Subsistence and commercial farming are the two types of agricultural practices. Subsistence agriculture is carried out by the farmer for the survival of him and the person who depends on him. By contrast, commercial farming is nothing more than an agricultural business, in which crops are grown for commercial purposes.

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