Food Production

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  • Arable farming: growing crops.
  • Pastoral farming: rearing livestock.
  • Mixed farming: a mixture of both arable & pastoral farming
  • Commercial farming: production with the intention of selling the produce to make a profit.
  • Subsistence farming: production to provide food for yourself/family, associated mainly with LEDCs.
  • Extensive farming: production over a wide area of often poor quality land, often livestock on mountains.
  • Intensive farming: production using a small area of good quality land with many capital inputs to maximise the output.
food production system
Figure 1: Food Production as a System
Video 9.01 Food Production Systems

Thanet Earth, Kent, UK

Thanet Earth, located in Thanet, Kent is an example of a capital intensive system of commercial farming that provides specific vegetables to major UK supermarkets year round. Watch the videos and use the map below to create a case study.


  1. Draw/save a locational map of Thanet Earth (use map 9.1 below to help)
  2. Watch videos 9.1 and 9.2"
  3. What does Thanet Earth Produce?
  4. Describe the natural inputs (relief, climate, soil).
  5. Describe the human inputs (labour, raw materials, capital, technology)
  6. Explain how the capital inputs allow such large output from a small area of land.
  7. Describe the ways in which the system is attempting to be more environmentally sustainable.

Thanet Earth is an example of arable commercial farming.

In the United States large scale intensive commercial pastoral farming takes place. 1000s of cattle are kept in small compounds and fed corn rather than grazing on grass.

In Australia, commercial cattle farming is extensive with the cows grazing over tens of thousands of acres and few capital inputs are required.

Video 9.1 Thanet Earth intensive commercial farming
Video 9.2 Thanet Earth techniques
Map 9.1: Geographical Location of Thanet Earth

Subsistence Farming: Matatu, Kenya

Subsistence farming is common throughout rural East Africa. It is typically very small in scale, relying on very little capital (basic hand tools, no fertilisers or irrigation) and with low output.

Watch Video 9.3 and complete these questions.

  1. How does this example compare to the Thanet Earth system in terms of inputs and outputs?
  2. The farmers produce appears to be highly reliant on rainfall, do you think that irrigation would be a worthwhile investment?
  3. Without produce to sell how can farmers like this raise the money to invest in better production techniques?
Video 9.3 Subsistence farming in Kenya

Causes of Food Shortages

Causes of Food Shortages Diagram
Figure 9.2: Causes of Food Shortages


  1. Read this article
  2. Explain the causes of food shortages.

Tackling Food Shortages

The United Nations World Food Programme

An international program that works with a range of agencies, organisations and charities to supply food to countries/places that are suffering significant shortages.

The WFP assists in emergency situations after natural disasters and conflict such as the Haiti earthquake that have destroyed crops, stores of food and infrastructure for the usual distribution of food.

It also helps with more structural problems such as Zimbabwe where political problems and farm ownership conflicts have vastly reduced the production of food in the country.


  1. Read through this page
  2. Write down the 4 objectives of the World Food Programme.
  3. Read through this page
  4. Describe the programmes role on helping deal with disasters.

The Green Revolution

The green revolution is championed for vastly increasing crop yields and reducing global food shortages.

  1. Watch Video 9.4:
  2. Describe the methods it used to increase crop yields.
  3. In which countries was it particularly successful?

Click to play the Rice Game

Video 9.4 The Green Revolution

Looking to the Future

Increasing population levels, changing diets, soil degradation and climate change are once again threatening to create more widespread food shortages.


  1. Read this article and summarise the arguments in favour of genetically modified crops.

Food Shortages: Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe used to be one of the main African food producers, but is now heavily dependent on imported food aid.

  1. Read this article & watch Video 9.5.
  2. Describe the factors that have caused the food shortages in Zimbabwe.
  3. Identify which are physical and which are human.
  4. Describe the impacts that food shortages are having in Zimbabwe.
Video 9.5 Food shortages in Zimbabwe

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