Agricultural Technology

In the beginning, technology was limited. The colonists possessed few implements and little technological knowledge. Axes were used to clear the land or fell trees. Simple mauls were made from scraps of timber, and splitting wedges were cut from wood. Shovels and spades were made with wooden blades, plated with iron shoes. Hay forks or pitchforks were made out of split saplings. Sowing and cultivating was accomplished by hand, and in the beginning, there were few plows. By 1700, some changes had occurred: A-frame harrows were used to break up the soil, and sickles or cradles were used to cut hay and grain. Crudely designed wooden hand plows, enhanced with iron plates, made it possible for two men to plow 1 to 2 acres a day. By 1750, many farmers in the North were using the cradle scythe. This 10- to 12-pound tool allowed reapers to cut 3 acres a day. Cradles allowed grain to fall into piles, the piles were raked into bundles, and the bundles were bound into sheaves. In the South, farmers preferred the sickle. The sickle didn’t shatter the grain as much as the cradle, and it also left more straw behind in the field. Thomas Jefferson, one of Virginia’s most notable planters, regarded agriculture as a science of the very first order. Among his many innovations was a plow that would delve deeper than the standard wooden plows of the time and help limit soil erosion. (Library of Congress, LC-MSS-27748-64) Oxen provided the major means of transportation and assisted minimally in other kinds of farm work. It would be many years before horses were used to power more sophisticated farm machinery. All domestic livestock, except for turkeys, had to be or had been imported. Meat was very important to the colonists’ survival and provided the basis of their diet. Mutton, a popular meat in the sixteenth century, became less common after a time because of the number of wild predators that preyed on sheep. Cattle and pigs, which were less susceptible to attack by panthers or wolves, became increasingly popular. Goats were also kept, especially in the early years, for they provided both meat and milk, and they proved hardier than other kinds of livestock. Livestock was frequently turned loose and only herded when necessary. In the Northern colonies, fences were usually made of stone, while in the South split rail fences were common. These enclosures were used primarily to fence animals out of planted fields or gardens. Along the coast, islands also were used to isolate livestock. Unfortunately, mice and rats were a frequent problem, so farmers kept cats and dogs, or relied on snakes and other natural predators. Sometimes, farmers built granaries off the ground to discourage infestation. Birds were also a problem as they devoured grain while it was still in the fields. As a result, they were hunted and added to the farmers’ stew pots. Deer were hunted heavily, since they could destroy a cornfield in a very short time. In the New England colonies, farmers initially worked smaller plots of land and settled in villages. These farming communities were tightly knit and shared similar cultural and religious traditions. Because of the cooler climate and rocky soil, however, much of the region was better suited for cattle and dairy production, and these proved the most profitable endeavors. In fact, by 1650, Boston and the Massachusetts Bay region became major livestockproducing areas. By the mid-1640s, farmers in Connecticut and Rhode Island were raising crops, including vegetables and fruits, in addition to livestock. Rhode Island was labeled the garden of New England. Farmers nearest the waterways and along the Atlantic coast grew cash crops, including wheat and corn, which were sent to market. Farmers more inland could not count on this exchange, and they were more likely to be subsistence farmers. Agriculture: Agricultural Technology alltravel8John Deere Mastering Software Diversity in Agricultural Technology … alltravel8

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