Agriculture in the European Middle Ages
How did Ag Improve and Prosper?
Farming in the Middle Ages increased in technologies greatly. Europeans made new technologies that allowed them to grow more crops. One important invention was the horse collar. This collar allowed horses to pull plows. Horses could pull plows much faster than oxen could so this was an economical solution. Europeans also harnessed the power of wind and water. Rivers were used o power water mills that turned grains like wheat into flour. Where water was not available they used wind mills to pump water, grind grains, and cut wood.
Who Farmed the Land?
Serfs farmed the land. Serfs were peasants who worked for lords and were not allowed to their lords manor. Also they were not allowed to marry without permission from their lord, or own land. These serfs technically were not slaves, they could not be sold or bought, and their lords did give them land (the lords could not reclaim this land). The lords also were responsible for protecting their serfs. Serfs worked for their lords for three days of the week, the rest were spent working for themselves in the fields. After they had seeded and harvested their crops they ground the grains into flour at the masters mill (they had to pay the master for the use of the mill, they also had to pay him to use the bread oven and wine press). Serfs also could not be freed unless they went to live in town and had been in town for more than a year.
What is the Three Crop Rotation System?
Serfs also learned how to let ground recover and how to grow more crops per year. Instead of just farming 2 fields they farmed 3. The rotation kept every field with fertile soil fertile.One field was planted in spring another in fall, the third field was left unplanted. This meant that instead of 1/2 of the fields being unplanted only 1/3 of the fields were unplanted. The results of this system were great and the population began to grow steadily. (Above I have posted a picture of what the crop rotation would look like during the year.)
How were the Crops Seeded and Planted?
In order to grow their crops, the ground first had to be plowed. They plowed the grond in furrows or little rut like dips into the field. The seed was then spread into the furrow. After the seed had grown to its full potential it was harvested. The crop was harvested with large, sharp knives called sithes to cut the stalks clean of the roots ( the person cutting the stalk would hold a clue together tightly careful not to let any of the grains fall off). They then piled the clumps into stack that waited until everything was harvested. After everything was harvested they beat or threshed the stalks to get all the grains off the stalk.