Commercial Farming: Pros and Cons of Producing Food for Sale

Commercial Farming: Pros and Cons of Producing Food for Sale
External Guest Writer
July 14, 2022

Humans have gone  from hunting and gathering, to subsistence farming, and then to commercial agriculture to produce their food. These food systems create resources to meet the demands of the growing population, supplying markets, groceries, and businesses with ingredients for dishes. Commercial farms established the industry, which is currently valued at $2.4 trillion.

Aside from food, commercial farming paved the way for industries that use plants for raw materials, such as oils, textiles, and wood. The agricultural industry is a lucrative venture that requires research, patience, and development.

What is Commercial Farming?

Commercial farming, also known as commercial agriculture, is the practice in which crops are grown and harvested to be sold for profit. Commercial farming is part of the food and resource industry, as the crops grown in commercial farms supply food for the general population, as well as raw materials for fabrics, furniture, and other goods.

Development of Modern Commercial Farming

Commercial farming focuses on developing agricultural practices for both growing crops and raising livestock for meat, milk, or animal hide. Commercial farms operate on a large-scale basis, making use of the arable land to grow a wide variety of crops at a time. These large-scale farming companies follow the planting and harvesting seasons of seasonal vegetation.

Commercial farms often employ farmers and researchers for the benefit of their farms. Agricultural researchers work with commercial farmers to optimize harvests, studying soil health, effects of chemical fertilizers and weed killers, irrigation methods, and modern technologies that would simplify farming, while producing bountiful agricultural products.

There are different types of commercial agriculture farms catering to specific crops or fungi, and while most prefer the traditional way of farming, some have adopted organic farming in their agricultural processes. Commercial farming is also carried out on  smaller lands, but large-scale farming continues to dominate the global agriculture industry.

Commercial Agriculture vs. Subsistence Agriculture

Commercial farming is the practice where crops and livestock are raised for profit. Crops are either sold directly to businesses and consumers, or processed as raw materials for products like juices, jellies, pickles, and more. Commercial farming is done for monetary profit over subsistence, and is typically large-scale farming.

Commercial agriculture is on the opposite end of subsistence agriculture, where subsistence farming is the practice of growing crops solely for one's own consumption. Subsistence farming does not profit from crop production, and instead makes use of small plots of land to grow resources for self-consumption. There is no monetary gain in subsistence farming.

How Does It Work?

Commercial farming is often done on a large-scale basis to meet demands, which requires vast hectares of land to rear animals, and grow a variety of crops in the field year-round. These huge farms work day in and day out to grow and process food to be sold to markets, businesses, and restaurants around the world. 

Commercial farming works around the clock to plant, water, grow, harvest, process, and deliver the crops to different distribution channels. Time is essential in commercial agriculture, especially in temperate climates where seasons may affect the growth of crops.

Depending on the type of commercial farming practice, farmers work with researchers to care for plants or livestock as they grow, preventing disease and pests from wiping out the entire farm production. These growers are essential in keeping the world supplied with food and resources to keep society thriving.

The Different Types of Commercial Farming

Crop Farming

Crop farming is a broad term for farms that focus on vegetable and fruit farming instead of raising livestock. The majority of the earnings in these farm systems come from the harvest that the farms produce as they grow crops using different agricultural practices. 

Crop farms are commercial-scale ventures that deviate from the usual representation of farms. These farms employ management practices to ensure crops are grown to their fullest potential, which in turn brings them maximum profits. Crop farms install advanced technologies to simplify growing crops, and work with researchers to create hybrid crops for better yields.

These farms have production targets calculated to know how much crops to sell to earn enough profit to keep the farm lucrative. Under crop farming is also commercial gardening to sell crops locally through farmer's markets and organic markets. Not all commercial gardens are organic, and the majority of these gardens are grown by individuals for some seasonal income. 

Plantation Farming

Plantations typically focus on growing a singular type of crop in vast farms, like sugarcane, cotton, and grain farming. Plantation farming supplies large industries that require vast amounts of raw materials, such as sugar and textile industries. By focusing on a singular crop, plantations refine their harvests for higher productivity, bountiful yields, and pest or disease resistant crops.

Organic Farming

Organic farming is crop farming and livestock ranching without the use of artificial chemicals in their fertilizers, growth hormones, or any additives to make products look fresher and more succulent. Organic farming stemmed from the demand for healthier foods, with many believing that ingesting food farmed with artificial chemicals is harmful to the body.

Instead, organic farming uses natural resources: compost or vermicast for fertilizers, natural bug repellents, and adding natural nutrients for plants to grow organically. Under organic farming is hydroponic farming, pure organic farming, and some forms of urban gardening. 

Organic farms must use materials and ingredients of agricultural origin of at least 95% natural and organic. Organic products must not be less than 70% organic to be labeled as such, and organic farms supply to health food stores, farm to table restaurants, and the like.

Livestock Farming or Livestock Ranching

This type of farming is commercial farming that focuses on raising livestock for meat, eggs, wool, or other byproducts instead of growing crops. While crops may also be grown on the side, either for commercial purposes or for animal feed, these farms rely primarily on selling their animals or byproducts for profit. 

Commonly reared animals include chickens, cows, sheep, goats and pigs. A livestock farm may also raise rabbits, alpacas, insects, and even crocodiles.Other farms focus on selling animal waste as organic fertilizer, like vermicast from worms and chicken manure - both of which are popular in urban gardening.

Under livestock farms, there are different types of farming that specialize in different animals. For instance, dairy farming focuses on rearing bovine, goats, and other livestock animals that produce milk. They may also double with beef farming, supplying beef to distribution channels.

The Pros and Cons of Commercial Farming

Commercial agriculture definitely has its pros: the industry supplies food for the general population, and continues to grow the food industry by supplying the ingredients needed to create crowd-favorite foods and dishes in popular establishments. Other advantages include:

  • Food security and production
  • Supply of raw materials
  • Job creation for farmers and agricultural researchers
  • Foreign exchange of goods
  • Lowering product prices
  • Increased crop yield through valuable research and development
  • Entry to organic farming practices in commercial agriculture

Commercial agriculture is responsible for the food stock in groceries, the ingredients in both fast food and gourmet dishes, and the organic fertilizer used in indoor gardens. However, despite its pros, there are also downsides to commercial farming:

  • Destruction of natural resources
  • Decline in soil health
  • Food wastage
  • Pollution
  • Risks of child labor
  • Spread of diseases
  • Decrease in biodiversity

One of the most recognized cons to commercial farms is the amount of greenhouse gasses they produce. Livestock like cows produce a huge proportion  of the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, and the processes of harvesting crops using advanced heavy-machinery contribute to the carbon footprint of these farms.

Growing the Industry

Despite the downsides to commercial farms, they are essential for feeding the world. Without these commercial farms, society would experience food shortages, and low supplies in raw materials used in clothes and houses. Commercial farms are important for sustaining human society.

Commercial farms must take it upon themselves to ensure that their processes are sustainable, and reduce harm to the environment while ensuring food production.