Types of farming

There are three types of farming - arable, livestock and mixed.

  • Arable farms are ones where the main way of making money is by growing crops
  • Livestock farms are where animals are the important part of the farm
  • Mixed farms are where animals and crops are both important to the farmer
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Learn about farms and agriculture

Mixed farms have both livestock and crops. They are found where farmers have good quality, fertile land that they can use for arable farming and other land which is more suited for animals. Farmers will often grow fodder crops for their animals, and so save money on livestock feed.

Intensive and Extensive Farming

Intensive farms have a lot of inputs used on a small area of land. An example would be a market garden that uses a lot of chemicals, buildings, electricity and workers in a very small area of land.

Extensive farms have few inputs on a large area of land. An example is a hill sheep farm where perhaps only one farmer will look after a large number of sheep, which do not take a lot of looking after.


As mentioned in the Changes in British Farms section, farmers have increased the amount of food they grow on the land. This has led to the creation of wine "lakes" and grain "mountains" - surplus produce that has been stored in warehouses. The problem of too much milk and dairy produce was tackled by the E.U. bringing in quotas. These are limits on the amount of milk each farmer was allowed to produce.

The European Union is currently reforming the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which many believe was the cause of these problems. It remains to be seen how successful these changes will be.

Growth of Cities

Some of the best quality farmland has been lost due to the growth of cities. This urban sprawl is mainly caused by new housing developments, but new industry, out of town shopping centres and multi-lane ring roads and by passes all contribute.

One solution is to build within the city in brown-field sites, although these places are not always popular as they have traffic congestion problems and lack of room for expansion. Another is to use a green belt - an area around a city where development is meant to be restricted by law. Such schemes have only had limited success.

Farms as Businesses

Like shops and factories, a farm is a business. Like all other business it has to make money to survive. Its profits are made when the money the farmer makes by selling his or her outputs is more than is spent on the inputs. Like other business people farmers want to make a substantial profit. Most of the recent changes in farming can be explained by the farmer's desire for a good profit.

Inputs, Outputs and Processes

Inputs are what go into the farm. There are two types of input. The natural or physical inputs include weather, climate, relief (height, shape and aspect), soil, geology and latitude. Farmers have little or no control over these. Changing the natural inputs can sometimes be done but it usually involves a lot of expense. For example, areas with not enough rainfall get water from irrigation schemes, steep slopes can be cut into terraces and the climate can be greatly altered by using greenhouses.

Examples of human inputs include machinery, fertiliser, pesticides, seeds, livestock, animal feed, workers and buildings. These usually have to be paid for, although farmers can save some money by producing some of these themselves, e.g. grass is grown as a fodder crop and animals are bred.