Farming in the Colonies

New England

The land in New England was poor and difficult to farm. The farmers in New England had to first clear stones from their fields before they could begin to farm. Those stones can be seen today. The poor soil made farming difficult. The growing season was short; there was only enough time to plant one crop such as corn. Most farmers could do no more than what is called substance farming. That meant that farmers could produce only enough for them to eat and live on. Initially, farmhouses were one large room in which the family would cook, live, and sleep. As time went on, slowly, these houses were slowly expanded.

Fishing was very important to New England. Fishing fleets sailed regularly from New England coastal cities for the major fishing grounds off the coast. The fishermen were able to catch enough fish to sell to other colonies. They were able to package enough dried or salted fish to export to Europe and the West Indies. Some New Englanders also became whalers, as they hunted for their valuable oil. New Englanders also benefited from a rich forest that covered much of New England. The forest provided a fertile source for hunting, as well as a source for wood. The wood was used to build the homes of New England. The forests also became the source of one of the most important New England industries- shipbuilding.

Middle Colonies

The Middle colonies had rich soil and a good climate for growing crops. As a result, they were able to produce more food than they could consume. As a result they were able to export wheat and other grains to Europe. The middle colonies became known as "the breadbasket colonies". Farmers would ship their goods to the large port cities of New York and Philadelphia. Many farmers lived along the Hudson and Delaware Rivers, or other large waterways, which made shipments possible.

Farmers in Pennsylvania developed a wagon called the Conestoga, which was pulled by up to eight horses and was used to haul food to market areas.

Southern Colonies

The farmers in the south were divided into two groups: There were owners of large farms and plantation, who owned hundreds of acres of land. There were also small farmers, who had small farms often not even owning the land they worked. Tobacco, rice and indigo were the main crops grown in the southern colonies . All of these were cash crops, sold for money. The crops were usually exported from the colony. The production of these corps required large numbers of workers. As a result, the plantations in the south relied on slaves to do much of the work on their farms.