Farm Economy

(This is excerpted from research completed in May 2018 by the students in Historic Preservation 213 taught by Tina Sheller)
Epsom was a mixed husbandry farm that was involved with a variety of farm activities, including the cultivation of cereal crops, hay, fruits and vegetables, production of dairy products, and raising of livestock. It was one of the largest farms in the region, serving as one of the growing number of truck farms that provided food for the rapidly expanding population of nearby Baltimore City.

Chew ran a diversified farm, meaning he did not rely on any one crop as a cash crop. Instead, he planted a variety of crops, including but not limited to, wheat, rye, corn, hay, oats, and potatoes. He often struggled to raise a successful crop due to weather and disease. In 1836, Chew reported planting 90 acres of grain (combining wheat and rye), 50 acres of corn, and 300 acres of hay. The grains were used for home consumption as well as sold for cash. Chew utilized hay as an important cash crop during the 1830s. Chew also had an orchard, consisting of mainly peach and apple trees, and fruit bushes, including cherries, raspberries, and currants, the produce from which he sold at market. These fruits were also consumed at Epsom by the Chew family as well as the workers, enslaved and free, who resided on the Farm.
Advertisement in the Baltimore Sun, 1870.

Livestock at Epsom
Livestock played an important role in the farm economy as draft animals, as a means of transportation, and as sources of vital farm products. Horses were bred for racing, as well as riding. Steers were essential as draft animals as well as a source of beef. Cows were kept and bred for dairy production. Hogs were a major source of meat. Sheep were a source of meat and wool and chickens were a source of eggs and meat. Henry Chew regularly sent his market man into town to sell butter, eggs, ham, and beef, among other animal products at the Baltimore markets. The resulting income accounted for a large percentage of Chew’s overall profit. In 1850, Epsom’s dairy sent 2250 pounds of butter to market, the largest amount of butter produced in Baltimore County.
Animal Inventory for Epsom Farm, 1867. Courtesy of Henry Banning Chew Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.