Native American agriculture fed the first colonists at Jamestown and Plymouth and largely accounted for their survival. Native American crops and farming techniques sustained the early settlements and provided the United States and a good portion of the world with its most prolific feed grain. Agriculture was a vital ingredient in the fur trade. More often than not, frontiersmen carried Native American agriculture into the woodland farms of the Ohio and beyond. Throughout American history, in sometimes benign and sometimes tragic circumstances, agriculture forged a bond between Native Americans and whites in North America. Turkeys, oysters, and many kinds of fish were introduced to the colonists. Other important crops adopted from Native American tribes included tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkins, beans, watermelons, berries, nuts (pecans, black walnuts, peanuts), maple sugar, tobacco, and cotton. A few plants were initially rejected by the settlers, who considered them poisonous or inedible, and some were rejected by Europeans when they were exported later on, but most were gratefully adopted. From the beginning, the colonists derived their living from farming. Even on the eve of the American Revolution, more than 75 percent of the colonists still practiced agriculture. Many immigrants were displaced tenant farmers seeking opportunities to settle their own farms. Some worked as tenant farmers in the colonies, while others arrived as indentured servants. (In fact, by 1750, more than half the immigrants arriving south of New England came as indentured servants.) For members of both groups, there was still the promise that some day they would own their own land. Small family farms were most common in the colonies, except in the South where plantations began to evolve. Houses were often crudely made and small, and most farm families manufactured their own tools and products, relying little on the outside world. Even if the farmers’ role in government and policy making would not be established for many years, it wasn’t long before the ownership of land became the standard for wealth and status in all of the colonies.
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