Image of wheat

Activity #3: Who is Working the Farm?
Historically, farming has involved every member of the family. Everyone had a role to play in running the farm. Generally men would do the fieldwork — cultivating, planting, harvesting, tend the crops and animals, and began to process raw materials. Women traditionally looked after the dairying process (making cheese and butter), cared for the poultry and egg production, tended the garden and performed domestic work such as cooking, spinning, knitting, sewing, cleaning and child care. Children were responsible for helping to feed the animals and assisting with textile production — carding and spinning. The whole family turned out to help with the planting and harvesting.

To get a better idea of who was working on the farm divide your students into five small groups to investigate one of the following primary sources:

  • Explore excerpts from Marshall Fairbanks Diary, 1878
  • Discover the Wilder Family records in the census information from 1860, 1870, 1875
  • Map a family farm which has been in operation for over 200 years Cochran Family Century Farm, Chautauqua County, Ripley, NY
  • Get a woman's perspective on farming from an excerpt from Ann Scutt's Diary
  • See a family at work in photos from the Lainhart Family Century Farm, Albany County, Guilderland, NY