Agriculture was the primary livelihood of early settlers during the colonial period. The expansion of the frontier and the rapid increase of population opened up a plethora of new farms wherein cotton became the chief crop in Southern plantations.
Unlike today, farming during the colonial period differed in so many ways, particularly with the tools being used by settlers to plant crops.
Before the evolution of mechanized equipment, farming in the colonial period was mainly done through the use of the plow, ax, scythe, and the hoe.
Colonists drilled fields using iron-blade hoes while plows were used by those individuals that are wealthy enough to own horses.
Soil aeration was usually done using massively spiked rolled pulled by oxen or horses that could weigh more than 500 kilograms.
The moment a soil has been aerated and tilled, colonial farmers still had to perform manual irrigation techniques.
New irrigation methods were done through watering by hand or by flooding fields of freshwater sources.
Plant beds were continuously watered as well to avoid unwanted grasses from growing. These tools, in connection with affordable labor offered by slaves, enabled for gradually sustaining harvests and sufficient production of crops used to trade for other goods and services.
Farmers also harvested their crops by hand using handheld equipment like grain cradles, reap hooks, and scythes.
More often than not, the harvests gathered by colonial farmers included peanuts, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, okra, peas, squash, and beans.
Corn, potatoes, and rice were grown later in place of barley and wheat, which were popular European crops that were not compatible with the soil in the northern part of America.
Dissimilar to other plants, harvesting grain proved to be difficult as farmers were also responsible for removing the dried seeds from the chaff. In most cases, colonial farmers used winnowing baskets and flails to eliminate dried seeds.
The soil in New England, for instance, was weak and severe to grow crops. New England farmers had to initially clear stones from their fields before they can start to farm.
What is more, was that the growing season in the area was abridged, which resulted in farmers to plant only one crop every season.
The barn was also famous in farming during the colonial period as it was used to store livestock, crops, and farming equipment. Other than the barn, colonial American farmers made use of the shed as well, which is an essential outbuilding in this era.
Sheds were typically smaller than the barn, but it can be used to keep farming tools. It is also used as a first refrigerator in the winter or a smokehouse to preserve meats.
Fun and Interesting Facts about Farming Tools of the Colonial Period
- Most farmers in New England and the rest of northern America did substance farming to produce enough food to eat for their families.
- Americans earned their living by farming following the end of the American Revolution in 1783.
- Before the American Revolution, farmers used to sell their goods in markets worldwide from Britain to the West Indies.
- During the latter part of the colonial period, farmers depended on horses and oxen to operate crude plows.
- Sowing in the colonial period was done using a handheld hoe that featured hay and grain with a flail.
- Crude plows were relatively common in New England as farmers used it to break up and turn over the soil to make it smoother for planting.
- Plows are considered the oldest farming tool in Colonial America.
- The scythe and horse-drawn cradle were introduced in the 1790s to help farmers achieve more efficient farming.
Q & A
What is the oldest farming tool in Colonial America?
The oldest farming tool of Colonial America was the plow.
How did farmers operate crude plows?
Farmers operated crude flaws using horses or oxen.
Where did the farmers store their farming equipment?
The farmers store their farming equipment either in the shed or in the barn.
How did colonial farmers perform irrigation?
Colonial farmers performed irrigation through flooding fields with freshwater sources or watering by hand.
What did the farmers use to eliminate dried seeds from the grain?
The farmers used flails and winnowing baskets to remove dried seeds from the grain.