Growth of the English Colonies, Northern Agriculture
breadbasket of America, Pennsylvania farmers, middle colonies, colonial trade, subsistence
Around the middle of the 18th century, a heavily populated and increasingly urbanized Europe lost the capacity to feed itself, providing an important market for North American farmers. The middle colonies, particularly Pennsylvania, became the breadbasket of America. After Pennsylvania farmers provided for their families from their farms and by trading with neighbors, they sent their surplus production of corn and wheat, as much as 40 percent of what they produced, on to the Atlantic market. New England farmers worked soil that was poor and rocky, but used the same system.
Economists call this system safety–first or subsistence–plus agriculture: Farmers provided for household and neighborhood needs before risking their surplus in distant and unpredictable markets. In profitable years, farmers were able to buy finished cloth, dishes and crockery, tea and coffee, and other goods that colonial trade with England provided—goods on which more and more Americans depended by 1770.
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