Difference Between Subsistence Farming and Commercial Farming


Main Difference

The main difference between subsistence farming and commercial farming is that subsistence farming means lower scale farming, whereas commercial farming is on large scale farming.

Subsistence Farming vs. Commercial Farming

The purpose of subsistence farming is not to make a profit. Commercial farming is for profit. Subsistence farms are for farmers’ survival. Commercial farming is to raise livestock, grow crops in large quantities, to raise the economy to gain excess yield. Crops from subsistence farming are the only source of food, and if crops are in surplus amount, then it is sold to nearby villagers directly. Food from commercial farming not directly consumed, but all products sent to food processing companies and subsequently to market and stores to sold out.


In subsistence farming, advanced machinery is not used mostly to work done by farmers itself. Usage of advanced machinery is increasing gradually in commercial farming even in the United States, and the Canadian workforce of farmers reaches only 2%. Hence, due to an increase in the usage of machinery, the number of farmers is dramatically reduced. In subsistence farming number of farmers works together and helps one another to produce food for them without machinery and rely on animals and humans. Only a few farmers work in commercial farming and rely on scientific and advanced methods such as insecticides, pesticides, herbicides sprays, hybrid plants or animal breeds, etc. for the bulk of yield.


Most farmers plasticized subsistence farming on family-owned farms, while commercial farming plasticized on large farms. Subsistence farming uses monsoon for the method of irrigation, whereas commercial farming uses modern techniques for irrigation. From subsistence farming, food grains, vegetables, and fruit crops are grown. From commercial farming, cereals and other cash crops to earn money are grown. The productivity of subsistence farming is enhancing by using manures. The productivity of commercial farming is enhancing by using high doses of modern methods. In subsistence farming, conventional tools like digging, hoe or doe, etc. are used. However, commercial farming uses heavy machinery.

Comparison Chart

Subsistence FarmingCommercial Farming
Labor intensiveCapital intensive
Common In
Less developed countriesMore developed countries
Food for the farmer’s familyMassive production for the entire population
Farm Size
Comparatively small in sizeRelatively large
55%Only 5%
Use of Machinery
Doesn’t rely on machineryIncreases day by day

What is Subsistence Farming?

Subsistence farming is a form of agriculture to grow crops and to perform rearing of livestock. Such lower scale farming called “subsistence farming.” In the past, before the industrialization era, many people’s professions depend on subsistence farming to fulfill their basic needs of life. In subsistence farming, modern agricultural methods and techniques are being less used. Subsistence farming is holding small size plots and manual labor. For subsistence farming cropping decision is based on the family needs and its recent market prices.

Subsistence farming mainly provides bread and butter, surplus production, which sells in the nearby local market foe money to meet other life needs. In subsistence farming, the latest agro-techno knowledge to farmers is inferior. To break down this concatenation of events Government has to conduct programs for the awareness of farmers, give knowledge about agriculture, provide loans, improved market facilities, provide modern technology and fertilizers.

Subsistence farming is also explained as “Planting those products which you want to eat or which your family needs.” For subsistence farming, it doesn’t matter you have good productive land and weather. If you want to eat bread, then you’ve to plant it and wait to grow it. Likewise, if you’re going to root crops such as potatoes, carrots, and turnips, etc. you grow them and then pray and hope for the best product yield. Subsistence farming is not efficient for harvesting because of the limited yield of different crops.

What is Commercial Farming?

Commercial farming is also known as “agricultural business” or “agri-business.” In commercial farming methods, different crops raised, and cattle also reared to sell the products in the market to make money. In this type of commercial farming, crops are grown on a huge scale in large farms by using newly invented agriculture technologies, heavy machinery for irrigation method and chemical fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, weedicides, seeds, etc. The main feature of commercial farming is to produce higher yield by using modern methods of harvesting. Predominately, in commercial farming, only those crops are grown, which are in higher economic demand and which are to be exported to different countries.

Furthermore, the extent of commercial farming varies from place to place. Commercial farming is preferred to earn large profits. It mainly based on capital investment. For commercial farming, water, soil, and other natural resources discovered as the best suitable environmental resources for crops. Commercial farming production depends on the market demand for particular crops. In commercial farming, you come up with proper management, latest technology, most advantageous input, best machinery for sowing and harvesting, availability of better facilities for storage and transportation.

Commercial farming is basically for economic activities. It requires a high amount of output because of substantial input or investment. Commercial farming is for commercial purposes, and that’s why mainly undertaken on a commercially large scale and use large land plots for farming and different technological means to produce products. Few workers are employed because machines do most of the work. Commercial farming is making as efficient as possible day by day to give a justification for the cost of harvesters and plows.

Key Differences

  1. Subsistence farming does not play an important role in the country’s economy, whereas commercial farming plays a vital role in the country’s economy.
  2. In subsistence farming, crops produced to feed the family. On the other hand, commercial farming crops produced with the intention of selling.
  3. Subsistence family produces products only for immediate family conversely commercial farming produce products in bulk.
  4. Subsistence farming uses traditional methods for cultivation; on the flip side, commercial farming use machines for cultivation.
  5. Subsistence farming provides only food to the farmer, while commercial farming provides food and money to the farmer.
  6. Subsistence farming utilizes manure, inversely commercial farming utilizes sprays as a fertilizer.


Subsistence Farming and Commercial Farming are the two different kinds of farming. Subsistence farming is for local consumption, and commercial farming produced for commercial purposes.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson

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