Farming Types

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Farming Types

The factors mentioned in the previous section all contribute to the pattern of farming seen in both the UK and the world. The map below shows the very general pattern of farm types from around the world. The examples used inthis section relate to farming types found in many world areas shown on the map.

world distribution of farming types

Commercial farming involves farming for a profit. The farmer is growing crops or rearing animals to sell for as much money as possible. These farms can be arable (just growing crops), pastoral (just rearing animals) or mixed (both arable and pastoral). Increasingly farms are becoming more mixed due to the impact of farming subsidies and regulations. Most of the farming in MEDC's is commercial farming of one type or another.

The arable farms of East Anglia are a good example of commercial farming, as are the cereal farms of the central United States and the Canadian Prairies.

Intensive farms generally take up a fairly small area of land, but aim to have a very high output, through massive inputs of capital and labour. These farms use machines and new technologies to become as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

Intensive agriculture can be seen in many places around the world, such as the Canterbury Plains of New Zealand, pig farming in Denmark and rice cultivation in the countries of South East Asia. All use technology appropriate to their country to enable them to get the highest yields from their land.

Extensive farming is the direct opposite of intensive farming. The farms are large in comparison to the money injected into them or the labour used. The cattle ranches of central Australia area good example of extensive agriculture, where often only a few farm workers are responsible for thousands of acres of farmland.

extensive farming

Another example of extensive farming can be seen in the massive cattle ranches of Brazil. These involve clearing vast areas of rainforest (the trees are often burnt rather than chopped down and sold) to make way for the cattle ranch. The cattle quickly eat the remaining vegetation and begin to cause massive problems of soil erosion.

Subsistence farmers only produce enough to feed themselves and their family, without having any more to sell for profit.This is the most common form of farming in LEDC's.

Some of them are nomadic, meaning that they move around the country using a piece of land for a while and then moving on. This type of subsistence farming is also called shifting cultivation. The traditional tribes of the Amazon rainforest use system of shifting cultivation. They chop down a clearing in the trees and use it for a few years before moving on and allowing the soil and vegetation to recover. For thousands of years this form of agriculture has allowed the people to live, without the rainforest being unduly damaged.

Types of Farming:

  Intensive Extensive
Commercial Pig farming in Denmark. Cereal farming on the Canterbury Plains, New Zealand. East Anglian cereal farming and market gardening. Market gardening in the Netherlands. Cereal farming on the Canadian Prairies and central United States. Ranches in central Australia, the Brazilian rainforest and the South American Pampas.
Subsistence Rice cultivation in South-East Asia, especially the Ganges valley. Terraced padi fields of Indonesia Shifting cultivation in the Amazon rainforest. Nomadic pasturalism in central Africa.

The main types of farming that you would find in the UK are arable, dairying and hill farming. Many farms are actually mixing some or all of these in an attempt to make more money. Most farming in Britain tends to be intensive although some of the hill farms of Wales and Scotland could be described as extensive. All of them are commercial.

The map below shows where these main farming types occur:

main farming types

The only other farm type that is not really shown on the map is market gardening.This is the growing of vegetables and fruits, usually in huge greenhouses.

Farming Types in Britain:

  Climate Soils Relief
Arable (e.g. East Anglia) Warm summers, cold frosty winters. Average temperatures of 18°C or more. Low rainfall, falling during the growing season mainly. Fertile boulder clays, which are easy to plough. Generally flat, so it easy for machinery to be used on it.
Dairying (e.g. Devon) Warm summers and mild winters mean that pasture is available all year long. High rainfall also encourages fast grass growth. Fertile enough for good pasture growth, but not for arable crops. Gently sloping, the green rolling hills of the UK. Cattle can not cope with land that is too steep.
Hill Farming (sheep) (e.g. Wales) Cool summers, cold winters and plenty of rainfall all contribute to these areas being unsuitable for arable farming but good for grass growth. Thin, poor soils that can be easily eroded and would not be good enough for other forms of farming. Hilly, steep land that would not be suitable for machinery or cattle. Sheep can cope with the slopes though.
Market Gardening* (e.g. East Anglia) Temperature and water is usually controlled carefully by being in huge greenhouses. Soil is brought in to provide the best nutrients for the crops. Fertilisers are used extensively. The greenhouses themselves need flat land on which to be built.

* Often the biggest requirement of market gardening is the transport routes needed to take the products to shops and supermarkets for sale. Often products have to be sold within 24 hours of being produced.

Human factors also play a huge role in determining where different farming types are located. The Common Agricultural Policy and other regulations have encouraged arable farming more than dairying or hill sheep farming, and this has led to many farms becoming mixed farms. Both dairy farms and market gardens require excellent transport links to their markets as they are producing goods that will quickly go off. Arable farming and market gardening require large capital inputs, whilst sheep farming and dairying require much less.However arable farms and market gardens tend to be the more profitable also.

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