Anglo Saxons were initially a warrior-like people until their arrival in Britain. Once they settled down in Britain from the 5th century onwards, they began to adapt to a more farming lifestyle since war was no longer a full-time occupation. Settlements expanded to greater populations which also resulted in greater food demands at the same time.
The early Anglo Saxons borrowed farming methods, styles and dietary habits from their Breton adversaries, the former native inhabitants of Britain. In time, Anglo Saxon farming became the key to British wealth and made England a prosperous region by the 10th and 11th centuries. It is important to note that while a part of the Anglo Saxon society, the nobility, remained associated with warfare, the lower classes which comprised a vast majority were associated with farming.
Anglo Saxons typically made use of a basic type of plough to farm their lands. This was more specifically called a scratch plough because although it dug a deep furrow in the land, it didn’t turn over the soil. Using such rudimentary ploughing, the Anglo Saxons grew a wide range of crops. As the needs for food grew, a more advanced form of plough was invented towards the 10th century which helped better farming of the land and greater crop output.
Oxen were used in pulling the ploughs and helping farmers plough the fields. They were deployed in different formations. The most frequent way of using the oxen was to use 8 of them on a single plow. At the same time, a given field was divided into two alternating lines so that one of the lines was cultivated while the other was left fallow for the next cultivation. This ensured that the land was not exhausted and a portion was available for cultivation in each season.
Anglo Saxons farmed wielded a wide range of tools in cultivating and harvesting the produce of their fields. Most of these tools were made of wood although in cases such as the tip of a plough, sharp metal blade was utilised. Among the tools commonly used by the Anglo Saxon farmers were forks, rakes, hoes, billhooks and spades. Harrowing was another tool used early in the cultivation process. It was essentially used to cover up the seeds with soil after they had been planted.
Anglo Saxon cultivated a number of crops. The chief crops were wheat, rye and barley for grains, oats to feed the animals, and peas and beans which were often consumed together with the grains. Commonly consumed vegetables such as carrots, onions and leeks were also grown often.
At the same time, Anglo Saxons farmed animals for a number of purposes. Sheep were farmed for their milk, meat and fur. Cows provided milk, meat and leather. Horses were mostly farmed for pulling carts and riding purposes. Pigs were farmed primarily as a source of meat. Anglo Saxons also farmed goats, chickens and ducks.