Differences between New England and Southern Colonies: Compare and Contrast Essay

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The Great Meadow by Brian Donahue is an in-depth description of the landscape and agriculture of colonial New England. Despite modern arguments, he explains that the environment was not decimated by the harsh farming conditions that destroyed the prospect of growing crops. On the contrary, the book actually defends the settlers’ ability to sustain and upkeep the land, so that produce would thrive each year. It is a better argument that colonial farming in New England was just as damaging to the environment as the Southern colonies, but without a stretched summer season to keep the crops surviving longer. Donahue explains the differentiating challenges northern colonies faced, as well as the similarities the lands had compared to their southern counterparts, which are now known for their reliance on strong agriculture.

The Southern regions of British North America had begun to utilize a Native American system, known as shifting cultivation, to stop precious nutrients in the soil from depleting each harvest. Without an abundance of minerals in the dirt, certain crops cannot grow for very long in the same place. New England settlers did not have knowledge of this system but opted for another method that not only replenished but strengthened the soil: livestock manure. By composting this organic material in with the farmland, minerals that had been extracted by crops were absorbed back into the gardens. Donahue described this method as a way of “rebuilding” the soil. Using manure did not only feed the farmland soil, but by getting rid of it to till, it was cleaning the area and keeping settlements from becoming polluted with excrement and disease. For this reason, settlers mixed their farms around to complement the livestock with the gardens. This method is so successful that many modern farmers still use this technique for reusing unsanitary and old organics to benefit both the environment and their produce.

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It was also due to this need for animals that kept New England farmers from using up all of the available lands solely for crops. Donahue describes the system of allowing the livestock to graze the hay fields during the harsh winters so that the grain would grow more abundantly when the growing season came. It also gave the grazing pastures a chance to regrow themselves for the upcoming time. This balance cost farmers the ability to use all of their available lands in order to produce bulk for trade, but it made sure that the land would continue to be fruitful each year. Workers could switch their livestock back and forth, and whatever land was not being harvested that year, got a break from the work of growing crops.

Additionally, the New England climate was cooler than the South, with shorter days of summer. According to Donahue, however, what the region lacked in warm months, it made up for rainfall. Many areas were covered by swampy marshes during the summer, which would be abundant with berries and grains. Waterfowl were drawn to these places, which also benefited hunters aiming for protein. Beavers in the area that created problems for settlers along the river soon thinned out after the purchase of Concord, which included several rivers. Valleys that were used mainly for farming were taken care of by waterways from the dense rainfall, runoff from the surrounding mountains created small streams that could be manipulated for a husband’s needs, and commons were supplied with water that was flooded with minerals needed for successful agriculture.

One of the ways Concord found sustainability was the division of its labor and land. Donahue explains this method of agriculture through the few families that took possession of the fertile ground. These families split Concord into sections, which were then kept within the family name to prevent a Southern problem of overcapacity and competition. Ebenezer Meriam’s Corner was passed down through both men and women of his lineage, and a Yeoman named Samuel Fletcher left his small property to his son. Meanwhile, the wealthier Minot family had the ability to slowly acquire more land over time. Most children who did not inherit their family’s land or could not afford to purchase free lots left Concord, such as three sons from John Jones. By the late 18th Century, most children were made to leave if they wanted to pursue their own land unless their parents passed by the time of their adulthood.

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Differences between New England and Southern Colonies: Compare and Contrast Essay. (2023, July 20). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/differences-between-new-england-and-southern-colonies-compare-and-contrast-essay/
“Differences between New England and Southern Colonies: Compare and Contrast Essay.” Edubirdie, 20 Jul. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/differences-between-new-england-and-southern-colonies-compare-and-contrast-essay/
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