Distribution of Farming Types in the UK | GCSE Geography Revision Notes (2023)

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1 Distribution of Farming Types in the UK

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3 Regional Variations

4 Distribution of Farming Types

5 4 Major Types of Farming and Distribution in the UK


Distribution of Farming Types in the UK


  • The world has 570 million farms
  • The UK has about 212,000 farms
  • Arable farming, pastoral farming, mixed farming, and market gardening are farming types distributed in various regions across the UK
  • Arable farming is highly distributed in the southeast areas of the United Kingdom
  • Pastoral farming is distributed in the west areas such as East Anglia, Yorkshire, England, Southwest areas, highlands or uplands, etc.
  • Mixed farming mainly occurs in slightly wet and warm climates in Central England and Scotland, among other areas across the UK
  • Market gardening occurs in East Anglia and areas near London and Birmingham for easy access to markets.

According to the World Census of Agriculture, the world is home to about 570 million farms. Over 500 million of the farms worldwide are family farms. Over 475 million farms are less than 2 hectares in size but operate a small share of farmland worldwide. The United Kingdom has set aside 69% of its land area for farming.

The UK employs about 476,000 people (1.5% of the country’s workforce) in the agricultural sector. The industry generates about 0.62% of the country’s gross value added of about £9.9 billion. However, it produces less than 60% of the food its population consumes. Agriculture is mostly distributed in rural areas, especially in the South West where livestock is kept and East Anglia where crops are grown.

The United Kingdom has about 212,000 farms varying in size between 20 hectares to 100 hectares. The country has low farm earnings despite heavy investment in subsidiaries and fertile soil, high technology, and skilled manpower. This has been attributed to low prices at the gate of farms. Many young people fail to join the industry due to high prices of land, low earnings, and lack of enough farmland to let.

The average age of Britons with farm ownership is 59. Efforts have been made to sustain profits and supplement the income of farmers through organic farming and diversification of income-generating activities from purely farming.

With rising fears about energy security, fossil fuel prices, and climate change, farmers have the opportunity to exploit biofuels for alternative sources of renewable energy. Increasingly, farmers are made aware to be important custodians of wildlife and the British countryside.

Regional Variations

Places in Wales, Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland with similar terrain have minor differences in the farming practices in use. However, the quality of specific farmland and the geography of any given area impact agriculture in the areas. 80% of farmland in Wales and 84% in Scotland are regarded as ‘Less Favoured Areas’.

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‘Less Favoured Areas’ have low agricultural yield while the converse has high yields. The low yield areas mainly comprise hill farms and upland moors, explaining why dairy and sheep farming mainly occur in the regions. Fields in the southern and eastern areas, including England, are larger, flatter, and more open, making them ideal for growing cereals. On the other hand, the western and northern areas are hillier and thus ideal for livestock farming.

Distribution of Farming Types

Various physical factors such as climate and topography or relief affect the type of farming adopted in any given area. The factors influence the type of crops farmers can grow in any region or animals that can thrive in a particular landscape in the UK. Proximity to markets, among other human factors, can influence certain farming types such as market gardening.

4 Major Types of Farming and Distribution in the UK

  1. Arable Farming

Arable farming involves crop production. Various factors such as soil, light, water, nutrients, air, and climate affect the growth of crops. This type of farming is often practised in the southeast areas that enjoy warm summers with low, fertile, and flat land. The areas also have good transport networks and farms located close to markets in large cities and towns, such as London.

The United Kingdom grows cereals such as oats, wheat, and barley. It also grows pulse crops such as peas and beans; root vegetables such as sugar beet and potatoes; and forage crops such as kale and rape, vetches, and cabbages. Fruits grown in the country include pears and apples. Hay is grown for animal feed.

Arable crops are often grown in summer, spring, or even autumn when seeding starts. Frost-hardy crops such as vetch, beans, and cereals (such as winter wheat) are usually grown in autumn. Crops sown in spring are susceptible to drought in June or May. Traditional techniques of sowing seeds such as dibbling, broadcasting, ploughing-in, and drilling are usual. Drilling is the most economical, especially in dry conditions.

  1. Pastoral Farming

Pastoral farming involves keeping livestock for wool, meat, milk, and eggs. Historically, animals such as donkeys were kept for labour. The United Kingdom’s major agricultural output is livestock products. Pigs, cattle, poultry, and sheep are commonly kept as meat animals. Sheep are kept for wool, while alpacas and goats are kept for exotic wool such as angora and cashmere. Poultry is kept for eggs while cattle for milk.

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Many farm animals bred in the UK are kept for specific purposes. For instance, early-maturing cattle breeds are bred for beef because they produce high yields. Some breeds also store fats in muscles instead of layers, making them ideal for beef. On the other hand, dairy animals have high milk yields. Surplus dairy herd calves in the UK make up British beef output because calves are required for dairy animals to produce milk.

Cattle Farming – The UK is home to about 17,000 dairy farms. Most dairy farms are located in the west of the country. The climate in the west of England and the southwest areas of the country is wet and warm. The land is flat or hilly but not steep. The western region of the country has good road networks for easy transport of farm produce to nearby markets. England has an average herd of 86 cows, Scotland 102 cows, and Wales 75 cows. The British Friesian is kept for milk while Aberdeen Angus for beef.

Pig Farming – Pigs are mainly kept in East Anglia and Yorkshire. The UK has about 4,600 farms that rear pigs. Although it produces 90% of the pork it consumes, it is only self-sufficient enough to produce 40% of its ham and bacon. Pig farms rear the British landrace, large White, Cumberland, British Saddleback or Welsh, Wild Boar, and Small White, among other popular pig breeds. Falling under the ‘1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act’, farmers must be permitted by the local authority to breed pigs. Slurry is another by-product of pig farming.

Sheep Farming – The UK is home to more than 41,000 farms that keep sheep, with about 50% of ewes reared on upland farms or hills. The Lake District, Snowdonia, and Pennines in the Scottish Highlands and Wales’ heather moors and National Parks have many sheep farms. The Downs in Kent and Romney Marsh in the lowlands are also home to sheep farms. The steep land and climate in the areas are not ideal for arable farming. Although the UK imports lamb from New Zealand, it is the largest lamb producer in Europe.

Today, lambing is done indoors to promote earlier lambing due to reduced rates of replacement and mortality. It also helps protect grassland and give it time to rest and grow, resulting in higher stocking rates and improved early growth. However, the technique is costly. The trampling of sheep on the heather moor prevents it from growing into scrub woodland and slows the spreading of bracken.

Goats and Poultry – The UK also has a few farms that breed goats for milk and meat and poultry for eggs on a small scale.

  1. Mixed Farming

Mixed farming involves the growing of crops and keeping animals on the same farm. Areas that support mixed farming have relief and climate ideal for keeping animals and growing crops. The soils are fertile and land flat, while the climate is warm and slightly wet. The regions have good transport networks for easy access to markets. The farming technique is practised in Central England and Central Scotland, among other regions across the UK.

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  1. Market Gardening

Market gardening involves growing high-value crops such as vegetables, fruits, and flowers close to ready markets. Finance is another important factor when engaging in this farming practice. It is commonly practised in East Anglia and areas near Birmingham and London with good transport networks.


  1. FAO. 2013a. 2000 World Census of Agriculture. Analysis and International Comparison of the Results (1996-2005). FAO Statistical Development Series 13. Rome.
  2. Government of Albania. 2012. Preliminary Results of Agriculture Census, 2012. Ti rana, Instituti i Statisikave.
  3. FAO. 2001. Supplement to the report on the 1990 World Census of Agriculture. International Comparison and Primary Results by Country (1986-1995). FAO Statistical Development Series 09a. Rome
  4. Nix, Hill, Williams and Bough: Land and Estate Management. Chichester: Packard Publishing Ltd. Third edition 1999. ISBN 978-1-85341-111-3
  5. Soffe, Richard J: The Agricultural Notebook, 20th Edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2003 (reprinted 2006). ISBN 978-0-632-05829-7
  6. Soffe, Richard J: The Countryside Notebook. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. ISBN 978-1-4051-1231-4
  7. Spencer, Aubrey John: Spencer’s Smallholdings and Allotments Acts 1908–1926. Third edition. London: Stevens and Sons, 1927.
  8. Watson, James and More, James: Agriculture: The Science and Practice of British Farming. Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd, Ninth Edition 1949.
  9. Williams, Cardwell and Williams: Scammell and Densham’s Law of Agricultural Holdings. London: LexisNexis Butterworths, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4057-1797-7


  1. Map of Farming Type Distribution in the UK – Image Courtesy of BBC UK
  2. Distribution of Farming Types in the UK – Image Courtesy of sjm1984


What are the types of farming in the UK? ›

There are three main types of farming: arable, pastoral and mixed. The topography, soil and climate vary in different parts of the UK. That means some parts of the UK are more suited to a particular type of farming.

How is farming distributed across the UK? ›

Agriculture is mostly distributed in rural areas, especially in the South West where livestock is kept and East Anglia where crops are grown. The United Kingdom has about 212,000 farms varying in size between 20 hectares to 100 hectares.

What are the types of farming answer? ›

The different types of farming are as follows:
  • Dairy Farming.
  • Commercial Farming.
  • Plantation Farming.
  • Commercial grain farming.
  • Commercial mixed farming.
  • Primitive subsistence farming.
  • Intensive subsistence.

How many farm are there in the UK? ›

How is the UK agriculture industry structured and how is agricultural land used? In 2021, the UK agriculture industry was made up of 216,000 farm holdings. The utilised agricultural area was 17.2 million hectares of land, 71% of the UK land total.

What is the most common farming in the UK? ›

Wheat, barley and oats are the most common arable crop. Wheat is the most widely grown arable crop in the UK.

How is the UK distributed? ›

The population distribution of the UK is uneven. The most densely populated areas are the southeast, the northwest, and the major cities of the UK. The most sparsely populated areas are the north (Scotland) and the west (Wales, Northern Ireland).

What factors affect farming in the UK? ›

Climatic factors such as light, water and rainfall, temperature, air, relative humidity and wind also affect farming. Physical factors such as topography/relief, soil and climate affect farming. Technology affects farming. Education/Farming Knowledge affect farming.

Why is farming important in the UK? ›

The food and farming sector makes a significant contribution to the economy – over 4 million people are employed in this sector and it contributes £122 billion to the economy***. Farmland plays a positive environmental role by acting as a carbon sink.

What are the types of farm and their definition? ›

Types of farming in India: i) Subsistence farming. ii) Commercial farming. iii) Shifting agriculture. iv) Intensive farming.

What are the 4 types of farming system? ›

Lowland Rice Farming System; Tree Crop Mixed Farming System; Temperate Mixed Farming System; and. Upland Intensive Mixed Farming System.

What are the 8 stages of farming? ›

Agriculture & Agricultural Practices
  • Soil preparation. Before raising a crop, the soil in which it is to be grown is prepared by ploughing, levelling, and manuring. ...
  • Sowing. Selection of seeds of good quality crop strains is the primary stage of sowing. ...
  • Manuring. ...
  • Irrigation. ...
  • Weeding. ...
  • Harvesting. ...
  • Storage.

Where is the most farming in the UK? ›

Agricultural activity occurs in most rural locations. It is concentrated in the drier east (for crops) and the wetter west (for livestock). There are 216,000 farm holdings, which vary widely in size.

What size is a farm UK? ›

Tom Heathcote, head of agri-consultancy at Knight Frank, said that based on his own experience and knowledge of the market, he would consider an average UK farm to include 800 acres (600 arable, 150 grass, 50 woodland), one house, two cottages, and a mixture of modern and traditional buildings, for about £8m.

What percentage of UK is farm land? ›

The utilised agricultural area (UAA) is 8.9 million hectares in 2022 and accounts for 69% of the total area of England. The total croppable area accounts for just over half (55%) of UAA and has remained broadly stable at just under 4.9 million hectares in 2022.

How much of the UK is used for farming? ›

The total agricultural area in the UK is around 17.6 million hectares, with an additional 3.2 million hectares covered by woodland and forests. The agricultural area, excluding woodland, accounts for 72% of the total area of land.

How is farming changing in the UK? ›

Farming in England is now going through the biggest change in a generation. Food is still the primary purpose of farming, and always will be. The Food Strategy includes plans to support farmers to boost home-grown fruit and vegetable production, and encourage people to buy more locally sourced, high-welfare food.

What factors affect the distribution of the UK's population? ›

The relief (shape of the land) significantly impacts the distribution of the population. Low-land areas tend to be densely populated, whereas upland areas have a low population density. Most urban areas have developed in lowland areas because they are easier to build on and have favourable climates, e.g. Birmingham.

What are the factors influencing the population distribution of the UK? ›

The main factors determining population distribution are : climate, landforms, topography, soil, energy and mineral resources, accessibility like distance from sea coast, natural harbours, navigable rivers or canals, cultural factors, political boundaries, controls on migration and trade, government policies, types of ...

How is the distribution of the UKS population changing? ›

As birth rates fall and people have smaller families, the number of young dependants is falling and the number of elderly dependants is rising. The population structure of the UK has changed since 2001 as a result of low birth and death rates, together with migration into and out of the country.

What are the two recent trends in UK farming? ›

UK Farming Industry Statistics

The total number of self-employed farmers dropped from 138,000 in 2019 to 109,000 in 2020, decreasing over 21%. Wheat harvest dropped by a whopping 37.5% in 2020 compared to the previous year, while Barley increased by 3.9%.

How many types of farming systems are there? ›

Subsistence farming, organic farming, and commercial farming are three farming techniques that contribute considerably to India's agriculture. The forms of farming used in different parts of India vary; some are based on horticulture, ley farming, agroforestry, and other methods.

What are the factors affecting types of farming? ›

These factors are grouped in three basic categories known as technological (agricultural practices, managerial decision, etc.), biological (diseases, insects, pests, weeds) and environmental (climatic condition, soil fertility, topography, water quality, etc.).

What do farmers in the UK grow? ›

The main crops that are grown are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, sugar beets, fruits and vegetables. The livestock that is raised include cattle and sheep. In the drier east, farmers grow wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and sugar beets.

Is UK farming sustainable? ›

A whopping 72% of UK land is currently used by farmers for food production, but combining trees with farming (agroforestry) gives us the option to suck carbon out of the atmosphere, and make farming more profitable, productive, and sustainable.

When did farming begin in Britain? ›

The culture of farming arrived in Britain some 6,000 years ago, marking the beginning of the Neolithic period (New Stone Age).

What is the main purpose of farming? ›

Agriculture provides most of the world's food and fabrics. Cotton, wool, and leather are all agricultural products. Agriculture also provides wood for construction and paper products. These products, as well as the agricultural methods used, may vary from one part of the world to another.

What are the main characteristics of farming? ›

Characteristics of Commercial Farming
  • Large-scale Production. ...
  • It is Capital-intensive. ...
  • The Use of High Yielding Varieties (HYV) ...
  • It is Produced for Sale. ...
  • Heavy Machinery and Human Labor. ...
  • In Most Cases, One Type of Agricultural Practice is Done in a Large Area. ...
  • The Practice is Traditionally Done all Year Round.

What are the two types of farming called? ›

The two types of farming, pastoral and arable, support each other and increase farm yield. This type of farming reduces the risk of making losses due to poor weather conditions. For instance, if the crops are not doing well, animals on the farm are still a good source of food and money.

What are the 6 different farming sectors? ›

  • Combinable crops.
  • Horticulture and potatoes.
  • Livestock.
  • NFU Sugar.
  • Poultry.

What is farming system PDF? ›

Farming system is an integrated set of activities that farmers execute in their farms under their resources and circumstances to maximize the productivity and net farm income on a sustainable basis.

What are the 7 steps of farming? ›

The 7 steps involved in agricultural practices are mentioned below:
  1. Ploughing.
  2. Sowing.
  3. Adding nutrients.
  4. Irrigation.
  5. Protecting plants.
  6. Harvesting.
  7. Storage.

What is classification of farming system? ›

On the basis of the share of gross income received from different sources and comparative advantage, the farming systems may be classified as follows: Classification of Farming Systems: A) According to the Size of the Farm: a) Collective farming. b) cultivation farming: i) small scale farming ii) large scale farming.

What is difference between agriculture and farming? ›

Agriculture is the broad term for everything that goes into growing crops and raising animals, to provide food and materials that people can use and enjoy. Farming, which involves cultivating the land and raising livestock, is one part of agriculture, which also includes plant science.

What is the first process of farming? ›

The first step of farming is sowing of seeds.

What is the best method of farming? ›

Crop rotation is based on growing a series of different types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons. The planned rotation may vary from a growing season to a few years or even longer periods. It is one of the most effective agricultural control strategies that is used in preventing the loss of soil fertility.

What type of farming is most common? ›

The most abundant type of agriculture practiced around the world is intensive subsistence agriculture, which is highly dependent on animal power, and is commonly practiced in the humid, tropical regions of the world.

What is method of farming? ›

These are the farming practices, which are featured by large manpower, capital inputs, and extensive use of equipment like winnowing machines, threshers, and harvesters. Apart from this, it utilizes technologies like selective breeding and the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

What are the three stages of farming? ›

Soil cultivation involves three main stages, namely ploughing, tilling and levelling.

What farming is done in England? ›

The main crops that are grown are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, sugar beets, fruits and vegetables. The livestock that is raised include cattle and sheep. In the drier east, farmers grow wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and sugar beets.

What are the 5 steps of farming? ›

Arrange the following agricultural practices based on the order in which they are followed.
  1. Harvesting.
  2. Sowing.
  3. Storage.
  4. Irrigation.
  5. Preparation of soil.

How many types of farming we have? ›

Currently, agriculture is divided into two different types, including industrialized agriculture and subsistence agriculture. Let's explore and learn more about these two types of agriculture.

What is farming system and types of farming system? ›

A farming system is a mix of farm enterprises such as crop, livestock, aquaculture, agroforestry and fruit crops to which farm family allocates its resources in order to efficiently manage the existing environment for the attainment of the family goal (Lal and Miller, 1990).

When did farming start in UK? ›

The culture of farming arrived in Britain some 6,000 years ago, marking the beginning of the Neolithic period (New Stone Age). Previously, in the Mesolithic period (Middle Stone Age) Britain had been home to a population of hunter-fisher-gatherers.

What is the season of farming in UK? ›

That's because summer crops finish being harvested at the start of autumn. The UK harvest season falls towards the end of September or the beginning of October. And while it's fixed nowadays, the date of the harvest festival would traditionally change depending on when the harvest had all been brought in.

What are the 10 types of crops? ›

Crops grown: Intensive subsistence farming yields two types of crops- wet and dry. While the wet crops include paddy, the dry ones vary from wheat, pulses, maize, millets, to sorghum, soya-beans, tubers, and vegetables.

What are the types of farming and explain its types in detail? ›

Answer:there are two types of farming. they are subsistence farming commercial farming Explanation:subsistence farming - This type of farming is practised to meet the needs of the farmer family. it is classified into two types. intensive subsistence farming , primitive subsistence farming.


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