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Colonial America

Daily Life on the Farm

Most of the people living in Colonial America lived and worked on a farm. Although there would eventually be large plantations where the owners became wealthy growing cash crops, life for the average farmer was very hard work. They had to work hard all year long just to survive.

Colonial era farmhouse
Farmhouse built in 1643 by Edwin Rice
Early Morning

A typical day on the farm started early in the morning as soon as the sun began to rise. Farmers needed to take advantage of every minute of daylight to get their work complete. The family would have a quick breakfast of porridge and beer and then everyone would go to work.

Work for Men

The men worked outside on the farm and the fields. What they did depended on the time of year. During the spring they would be tilling and planting the fields. They had to do all the work by hand or with the help of an ox or horse. During the fall they had to gather the harvest. The rest of the time they tended the fields, took care of their livestock, chopped wood, fixed fences, and repaired the house. There was always more work to do.

Work for Women

The women worked every bit as hard as the men. They prepared the meals, sewed and mended the clothing, made candles, managed the garden, prepared food for the winter, wove cloth, and raised the children.

Did the children work?

Most children were put to work as soon as they were able. In many ways children were seen as laborers for the family. The boys helped the father with his work and the girls helped their mother. This way they also learned the skills they would need when they grew up.

Did the kids go to school?

In many areas there wasn't a public school like there is today, so a lot of farm children did not get any formal education. Boys often learned how to read or write from their father or the local minister. Girls were often not taught to read or write at all. In some places the children did go to school. The boys usually attended longer as it was considered more important for them to learn to read and write so they could manage the farm.

James Hopkinsons Plantation Slaves Planting Sweet Potatoes
The enslaved working on large farm by Henry P. Moore
What did they grow?

Colonial farmers grew a wide variety of crops depending on where they lived. Popular crops included wheat, corn, barley, oats, tobacco, and rice.

Were there enslaved workers on the farm?

The first settlers were not enslavers, but, by the early 1700s, it was enslaved people who worked the fields of large plantations. The enslaved worked for the rich, however, and the average small farmer generally couldn't afford enslaved labor.

Interesting Facts about Daily Life on the Farm in Colonial Times
Activities To learn more about Colonial America:

Colonies and Places
Lost Colony of Roanoke
Jamestown Settlement
Plymouth Colony and the Pilgrims
The Thirteen Colonies

Daily Life
Clothing - Men's
Clothing - Women's
Daily Life in the City
Daily Life on the Farm
Food and Cooking
Homes and Dwellings
Jobs and Occupations
Places in a Colonial Town
Women's Roles
William Bradford
Henry Hudson
James Oglethorpe
William Penn
John Smith
Roger Williams

French and Indian War
King Philip's War
Mayflower Voyage
Salem Witch Trials

Timeline of Colonial America
Glossary and Terms of Colonial America

Works Cited

History >> Colonial America

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