Sturbridge in Worcester County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)
Farming as a Way of Life
Farming was central to life in rural New England.
Two out of three households were headed by farmers, and the seasonal rhythms of farm work shaped the calendar. Most families owned some land, but many rented other people’s land. From plowing and planting to hoeing and harvesting, the kind of work varied with the changing seasons.
Farming defined the work of men, women, and children.
Farming required the entire family’s work, and each member had responsibilities in the farmyard, fields, garden, and household. Even families that did not farm usually had a kitchen garden, and often kept a cow, pig, or chickens.
Farms varied greatly in size, from a few acres to several hundred.
A typical farm was about 80 acres. For comparison, the town common in front of you is about one acre.
Most farmers raised a variety of crops and livestock.
New Englanders grew hay, corn, and oats for livestock, and rye, corn, potatoes, and buckwheat for the table. Farms had cows for milk, oxen for work, pigs, chickens, and sometimes sheep and horses. Women used the milk to make butter and cheese, often the farm’s
Farm families traded much of what was produced.
They produced food for themselves, traded some with their neighbors for goods and services, and sold an increasing proportion outside the community through storekeepers and other middlemen.
Farm life was changing in the early 1800s.
With almost all of the good land taken up, opportunities to farm in New England were no longer expanding. Many young people moved to cities or villages to work in manufacturing, trades, or commerce. Many others left New England entirely for new farms in New York, Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. Families that continued to farm here had to adapt to changing markets and competition from the West.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Agriculture • Settlements & Settlers.
Location. 42° 6.404′ N, 72° 5.949′ W. Marker is in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, in Worcester County. Marker is on Old Sturbridge Village Road. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge MA 01566, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Fire Pit (within shouting distance of this marker); The Graveyard (within shouting distance of this marker); Controlling Livestock: The Town Pound (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Fitch House Yard (about 300 feet away); Getting Water (about 300 feet away); Where is the Farm? (about 500 feet away); The Architectural Style of the Salem Towne House (about 500 feet away); Millstones (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Sturbridge.
More about this marker. Three photographs appear on the left side of the marker. They contain captions of “Getting in hay was the most difficult work of the year for men.”, “In the early 1800s women milked the cows and oversaw the dairy.” and “Children often helped in the kitchen garden, pulling weeds and picking off harmful insects.”
Credits. This page was last revised on August 11, 2018. It was originally submitted on August 11, 2018, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 79 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on August 11, 2018, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.