What Is Large-scale Farming?

Food comes from many sources, but in the most general terms, it originates from large-scale or small-scale farms. Large-scale farming also goes by another name: industrial farming. Unlike small-scale farms, large-scale farms utilize various industrial methods to maximize production. Thus, it's not so much about the acres a farm spans, but the methods of production.

Combine working on a wheat field
credit: MihailDechev/iStock/Getty Images
A large harvester in a wheat field.

How to Recognize a Large-Scale Farm

In large-scale agriculture, the land is used to grow a few varieties of a few different crops across many acres in the effort to produce a consistent product and the highest yields possible for the greatest profit. To support these large farms, industrial agriculturists often use pesticides and chemical or mineral fertilizers in large quantities. Seeds are often planted by machines, and irrigation systems water the crops. Large machines are often used to harvest the crops and prepare them for sale. Large-scale farms are often owned by a large company and managed and run by employees, while small-scale farms are often run by the farmers themselves, with assistance from a smaller group of family members. Often, large-scale farming yields large amounts of one crop, but may actually produce less than could be produced by small-scale farmers who may use products and methods that are less damaging to the soil, produce fewer greenhouse gases and consume fewer natural resources.