Farming in the Middle Ages

As farming was a major part of the Medieval life, and still is today in the world. This is a just a quick “heads up” on how farmers organised the land in the Middle Ages

Around the village there was usually 3 large open fields., each 700 hectares in size. The peasants were given strips of land for themselves to work on in each of the 3 fields so they got a mixture of the good and the bad land. Wheat, oats and barley were grown in these fields.

open field system

The crops were rotated in the fields and one field was left fallow (unused). This is because of the nutrients of each crop. For example, one crop may require a lot of potassium from the soil to grow. Planting this crop over and over again would use up all the potassium in the soil and eventually the crop would not be able to grow. Rotating the crop for a more nitrogen based crop would mean that the soil would be healthier for longer. Rotating the crops so 1 field is fallow also gives the soil a chance to replenish it’s nutrients, therefore, reducing the chance of famine and barren land. This form of farming is called the open field system.

Apart from the 3 fields, there was also a common and a wood or forest. Cattle and sheep could be grazed on the common. When food was scarce in the winter, these animals could be killed for their meat. The wood or forest supplied the peasants with firewood for the winter, a bonfire for Halloween and in some cases…public witch burnings!! (see middle ages crime and punishment)

There you go…in order for peasants to feed themselves, they used the open field system of farming in the hope of continuously producing food to eat.

For more on the Middle Ages or any other topics, find more here!


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