Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wheat Farming in New York

Lots of people ask me how the Livingstons got their money.  It's a good question, but there really isn't a short answer.  The Livingstons had their fingers in many pies, which was not uncommon for the 18th and early 19th centuries.  However at least a portion of their money came from land.

Prior to the tenant uprisings of the 1840s, the Livingstons made a good yearly income from the lease of their vast acreage to men who raised families and farmed the land.  When the tenant farmers of Clermont and Livingston manor paid their annual rents to the Livingstons, they paid in "days riding" (labor for the manor lord), fowl (chickens and other domesticated birds), and wheat. 

The Hudson River Valley and eventually large swaths of western New York served as a bread basket for the English Empire and then the new United States.  Europeans often praised the land here as being rich for farming. 

While keeping up on my fellow history blogs, I was pleased to bump into one by The Farmers' Museum today that talks about wheat production in New York State during the early 19th century.  While a lot of us learned about agriculture in the Midwest when we read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as kids, you might have forgotten that her book Farmer Boy was written about her husband's farming childhood in upstate New York.  If you have, take a moment to read this great little blog entry.  (My hats off to the intern who calculated how many acres of wheat field would be required to feed a family of 6 in 1840.)

What Did We Do Before Wonder Bread? - Part 2


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