Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C: Crops

I'm using "crops" as a shorthand for "salable goods/services produced domestically." What crops is your fantasy kingdom (or science fiction space station) focused on producing?

I built a small fantasy kingdom with a New England-ish climate and it needs to be able to both sustain itself and trade a bit with the neighbors. You don't have to understand farming or economics in detail, but it's good to at least sketch these things out and think about them when you're world-building. It's going to affect what's on the table when people sit down to eat, what they're wearing, which craftsmen/guilds have more clout in society, and plenty of other things.

I'm not an economic expert, so I'm going to do this in very vague terms. I'll try to keep this "short." 

Grains: mostly oats, due to climate, but wheat too. Hay.

Fruits, Vegetables: cabbage, potatoes, beets, peas, squash, spinach and lettuce. Rhubarb. Fruit will include apples and maybe pears, maybe cherries... raspberries and blueberries, yes. Concord grapes, or the equivalent.

Livestock: Sheep are a multipurpose critter: milk, meat, and wool. All of them very trade-able. Also, cows for milk, beef, and leather. Pigs, chickens, etc.

Photo by Melissa R. Addison
Horses: This is probably the closest thing to a luxury my kingdom produces: warhorses. The knights you put in the saddle are a luxury item too, but we're not going to be exporting those.

Salt: This can be tough (I recommend Mark Kurlansky's book for reasearch), but vital to the economy. My kingdom does have a northern coastline where one could produce sea salt via either evaporation or freezing. I doubt they'll make enough to export -- might need to import some, in fact.

Cheese: Very consumable and very exportable, both sheep and cow varieties. 

Beer: Since I'm fond of beer, I give free rein to all kinds of beer and ale and the seasonal varieties thereof. 

Lumber: You need to make beer barrels out of something, after all.

What does all this mean
The productivity of a land speaks directly to its ability to support a population of people who don't have to farm for a living and can instead spend all their time weaving cloth, carving wood, learning to wield a sword or, perhaps, reading books and thinking. Historically speaking, one can make a living off farming in a New England-ish climate. But the fact that all of New England has, since its colony days, had only one major city to speak of (Boston) gives one an idea that it's not that rich of a living.

My little kingdom may be short on the finer things in life, like education or high culture, but they can keep their children fed and warm, and they produce enough to sell raw materials and transportable food to that big empire to their south. Unfortunately, that was also what drew the empire's attention and made them worth trying to conquer. But that's a different story...

7 comments:

Phiala said...

Barley. Flax.

Grapes are an interesting issue: the history of the New York wine industry is fascinating, and possibly relevant.

No mining of any sort?

And no value-added agricultural products other than cheese and beer? The country should be known for a few varieties of each then.

Suze said...

'The productivity of a land speaks directly to its ability to support a population of people who don't have to farm for a living and can instead spend all their time weaving cloth, carving wood, learning to wield a sword or, perhaps, reading books and thinking.'

This reminds me of what a lucky dog I am.

L. Blankenship said...

I looked at flax, but wasn't entirely sure how well it would do in the climate. Barley, yes, for the beer at least.

Mining -- colonial New England relied on bog iron, from what I've read. It's known for quarries, but mining not so much. Problem with quarries is transportation, of course...

Preservation is the problem with the food products, as I see it. Unless they've got a solid supply of salt, smoking is the best option. Maybe sun-drying for veggies. I'm sure they trade in some of that, but how much...?

Beer varieties, yes, they have an oatmeal stout that will put flesh on your bones... :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

Good choice for C. Anyone whose read a book, played a farming game, or even a board game like Settlers of Cataan understands the importance of these.

Erin M. Hartshorn said...

Great choice, and very useful to remember when creating a world. Thanks for the post.

Erin

Sharkbytes said...

Good thoughts for creating a world. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge blogs in April.

Grammy said...

Hi, very interesting. If I ever "create a world" I will certainly remember a lot of those suggestions. Thank you. I am trying, too, to visit as many AtoZ's as I can.
Best regards to you,
Ruby

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