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Form of farming in which nearly all the crops or livestock raised are used to maintain the farmer and his family, leaving little surplus for sale or trade. Preindustrial agricultural peoples throughout the world practiced subsistence farming. As urban centers grew, agricultural production became more specialized and commercial farming developed, with farmers producing a sizable surplus of certain crops, which they traded for manufactured goods or sold for cash. Subsistence farming persists today in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing areas.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on subsistence farming, visit Britannica.com.