Agriculture - Introduction

Agriculture

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Introduction

Soon after Europeans arrived in the Hudson Valley in the 17th century, they established their own permanent agricultural settlements. During the colonial period, farmers grew grain and fruit on the fertile soil.

Colonial governance in New York under both the Dutch and the English involved the granting of enormous tracts of land to just a handful of families, the  Livingstons among them. This meant that most New York farmers were tenants rather than landowners. Until the middle of the 18th century, annual farm rents were typically paid to landlords in the most valuable currency of the day: wheat. New York’s reputation as the breadbasket of the colonies rested squarely on the shoulders of her wheat production, with yields up to 40 bushels per acre.

Another condition of many farm leases required that tenants establish orchards with a minimum of 100 apple trees, thus setting the stage for commercial fruit production, a cornerstone of Hudson Valley agriculture. Fruit production took on added economic importance in the region after an insect pest called the Hessian fly, as well as other pests and fungus diseases, devastated New York wheat crops in the years after the American Revolution.

Hessian Fly, from Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language (1911).