Farming & Peasants

Crop Yield

Three types of crop are covered here: barley, wheat and flax. Barley and wheat can be grown anywhere, but flax is a cash crop that requires wet land to grow. There are three quality levels of soil in which you can plant: poor, average, or good.

Crop Production (poor/average/good soil) Raw Value
Bushels of Barley 8/12/16 per acre 2 sp per bushel
Bushels of Wheat 6/8/10 per acre 3 sp per bushel
Bushels of Flax 5/9/11 per acre 6 sp per bushel

Although a "lower quality crop" than wheat, barley is valued for its use in brewing ale, as well as the quality of mixing it with wheat to produce large quantities of low-quality bread. As it stands, barley fields produce an average of 24 sp per acre, wheat produces 24 sp per acre, and flax produces 54 sp per acre. Flax is by far the most lucrative, but cannot be grown everywhere. Furthermore, as it is a cash crop, it is risky to plant - if you do not manage to sell your flax, you cannot simply bake it into bread and eat it.

Processing Crops

By processing crops, their value can be increased significantly. Of course, there is overhead involved in processing crops; equipment and labor are required, and access to this equipment (or the tax the owner of the equipment demands for its use!) will affect the profit margin of processing crops.

Linen can be made from 1 bushel of flax. Water for retting, beating machines, combs and a spinning wheel are required to spin the flax into linen. Each bushel of flax produces 30 square yards of linen, worth 5 copper pieces per square yard. As such, 1 bushel can produce 15 sp worth of linen.

Ale can be made from 1 bushel of barley. Cauldrons and barrels, and water are required - the more copper cauldrons for brewing and barrels for storage that are possessed, the bigger a batch can be. Each batch takes 2-4 days, and 1 bushel can produce 20 gallons of ale that is worth 1 sp each. As such, 1 bushel can produce 4 gp worh of ale.

Wheat bread can be made from 1 bushel of wheat. This requires a mill, ovens and a kitchen. The maximum batch size is limited by how many ovens you have; grinding flour in a mill can be done at a rate of 2 loaves per hour, and once the loaves are in the oven it takes 1 hour to create a batch. 1 bushel of wheat produces 15 loaves of good bread worth 5 cp each. As such, 1 bushel can produce 4sp2cp of bread.

Peasant bread can be made from 1 bushel of wheat and 1 bushel of barley. This requries a mill, oven and kitchen. The maximum batch size is limited by how many ovens you have; grinding flour in a mill can be done at a rate of 2 loaves per hour, and once the loaves are in the oven it takes 1 hour to create a batch. This produces 40 loaves worth 2 cp each. As such, 1 bushel can produce 4sp of bread.

Peasant Demographics

Most peasants, such as those of Vingaard, live under a feudal system. Peasants work and profit from their own land, but must spend a certain number of days each week - one to three, depending on the lord - working for the lord. These days will most likely be spent on farmland, but their lord may also put them to work on roads and other civil work, on woodcutting, hunting, mining, and any other work on his lands that he deems fit.

Serfdom guarantees certain rights to the peasantry: they are allowed to take a certain amount of wood from the lord's forests, and they are guaranteed justice and fair treatment by their lord. However, they are bound to their lord's manor, and may not leave it without permission. If they break this law, they will be brought back and punished. Serfs may be able to escape serfdom, however - either by buying their freedom or by being granted it. Furthermore, the "Year and a Day Law" allows any serf who evades recapture for a year and a day to obtain his freedom.

How many people does a lord rent his land to? That depends how much land he has. The "Peasant's Guarantee" defines as a hide as the minimum amount of land required to support a family of 5, and sets it at 120 acres. Lords may not settle their farmland more densely than this. From this, we can deduce that an average village of 300 people (60 families) are good for 7,200 acres of land - the household of several minor knights or one wealthy one. This means that one peasant is good for 24 acres of land.

Peasant Income

Now that we know that 1 peasant can effectively work 24 acres of land, we can figure out how much they produce. Note that the figure given here are for an individual peasant - few peasants are single, and most will live with a family of 2-6 people and pool their income. The 24 acres of land that a single peasant can harvest produces 144-240 bushels of wheat, 192 on average. As wheat sells for 3sp a bushel, the average peasant is thus "worth" 57gp6sp per year.

This may not seem like much (only 4gp8sp a month), but there are several things to consider. Few peasants try to subsist by simply selling their entire harvest at the nearest town. Most peasants grind their wheat at the lord's mill (for a fee), and bake it into bread. One bushel of wheat produces 15 loaves of bread, and each loaf is worth 5cp. This increases the value of each bushel from 3sp to 4sp2cp when baked. If a peasant wants to have a loaf of bread every day of the year, it will consume 24 bushels of his income if he bakes it for himself. The remainder can be sold for profit - or he can use the land to grow barley for beer, or a cash crop like flax.

The other thing to consider is that peasants do not harvest for the whole year. Planting and harvesting crops is gruelling work, but harvest season is only 1 month. In their free time they'll bake their own bread, hunt, sell firewood, and so on. This accounts for the extra income of the poorest peasants - although there are wealthier peasants. If a peasant manages to acquire livestock, they can produce dairy, wool, eggs or even meat to supplement their income. As such, livestock are the greatest indicator of wealth amongst the peasantry. Sheep are particularly popular, as a village's livestock can be combined into a single flock, which can be looked after by the children or elders who cannot do manual labour. Particularly rich families might have a whole flock to themselves.

Other Work

Besides farmland, the two most common manorial holdings are mines and quarries. As noted above, if a lord's estate includes these holdings, they may elect to put their serfs to work in the mines. On their free days, serfs may pay their lord a fee for the right to work in the mines, and whatever they produce as a result is theirs to do with as they please. Often, serfs "pay" for the right to mine by tithing a proportion of what they dig up to the lord.

Of course, this only applies to mines that are relatively close to settled areas, and are supplied by farmland of some description. Ore deposits located in inhospitable areas - such as high in the mountains - are unsuitable for building peasant villages around. To plunder the wealth of such locations, a lord would have to hire professional miners to delve the mines while maintaining regular imports of essential supplies such as food and drink. He would also need to pay for cartage of whatever the mines produced out of pocket. It is easy to see why it is much more attractive to have your serfs do the mining themselves - a mine would have to be very profitable to be worth all that trouble. In most cases, it is much easier to simply deal with dwarves, who excel at living and mining in inhospitable places.