From:
Land, Liberties, and Lordship in a Late Medieval Countryside: Agrarian Structures and Change in the Duchy of Wroclaw.
Richard C. Hoffman
University of Pennsylvania Press
1989
ISBN: 0-8122-8090-3

Polish agriculture

Polish agriculture, the peasants in their everyday activities, adopted in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a bundle of new techniques associated with short-fallow cereal monoculture, the normative agricultural system of medieval Europe. Slow diffusion of a more productive farming technology still left room for older, more extensive, forms appropriate to lower human densities. Silesian evidence confirms the survival of slash-and-burn agriculture in some well-wooded areas during the early thirteenth century, and pastoral economies long prevailed in the Odra bottomlands northwest of Wroclaw. The bishop's men in Pilczyce ran swine there and cattle grazed  woodlands and meadows around Glogi an Warzyn. The twenthy-one fishermen of Kotowice had their counterparts  up and down the river. The small settlement of Redzin, property of St. Clare, well illustrates the economic potential, even in the later thireenth century, of a thinly-settled landscape. Several meadows supported herds of cattle, even some customarily brought from elsewhere. Fishers worked the rivers and ponds and others kept bees. Timber was a valuable asset, as was a vineyard leased out by the convent.
The Redzin  vineyard is, however, a useful remincder that pockets of sophisticaed labor-intensive agricutlture also coexisted with other forms throught the Midldle Ages. Vintagers near Trzebnica, vineyards at Osobowice, and wine tithes from Wroclaw's outskirts attest to early and continuing attempts at viticulture. Technical advances in horiticulture gave hops growers at Malkowice the peculiar disntiction of being the first documentd Polish users of intentionally hauled and spread animal manure.  But both extensive and intensive specialities remained incidentals against the general orientation towards regular cereal production.
In the central activities of Polish agriculture innovative crops, tools, rotations and field systems appeared and spread from the twefth century. Common millet, once frequent in archaelogical sites, gave way to rye, wheat, oats and barley. Although wheat, the preferred cereal, occurs often in list of obligations, in actual quantity produced it probably took a distant back seat to the better-adapted others. Even if the traditional ard (rad\lo) broke but did not turn the soil, it remained the basic tool for tillage until around 1200. The heavy plow (pl\ug) and been adopted in a few Polsih sites by 1225 and spread rapidly in the rest of the century. Better harrows and sickles came in as well. Although the new plows were still drawn almost exclusively by oxen until around 1200, an improved horse harness was learned, possibly from the east, some two hundred years earlier. Horses pulled carts, and where their speed was a real asset, harrows. The abbot of St. Vincent in 1204 may have thought horses were "harrowers," but the equation of two oxen with one horse to assess the dues of Trzebnica hospites suggest that  peasants' beasts were less able to specialize.
In the West, increased regular cereal production with a more powerful but ungainly plow and greater use of horse power acocompanied diffusion of three course rotation and often changes in the layout of parcels to make  the classic three field system. Polish agriculture took a similar course. Triennial rotation of winter grains, spring grains, and flallow appeared here and  there during the eleventh century but full development of even an irregular three course rotation occurred only after 1100. Inventories from a farm of St. Mary in 1204 and Polanowice in 1267 distinguish between summer and winter seed. Arable land could be reorganized during  merger of independent zreby into new nucleated villages, but in all probablility regulated rotation and fixed field systems came in only with the German law. Except for this last, however, the Polish agrarian economy around 1200 plainly knew and was itself adopting the technical features of western production.
A final sign of rising grain production and the technical adaptability of country people before the entry of German peasants and customs is the spread fo the vertical-wheeled water mill into rural Poland around 1200. Indubitably authentic Silesian texts of the twelfth century mention no such machines, but several do soon thereafter. Near Wroclaw a miller with his own zreb ran a mill at Pilczyce on the Sleza, and Trzebnica owned another on tthe Widawa near Mikora's bridge, both by 1225. The eight mills recorded by 1269 stood in most of the more densely settled sections ff the Wroclaw district.