Agriculture

Even before Ludlow was settled, Native Americans farmed the land in Ludlow for countless years. A tradition that would later be carried on by the settlers of Ludlow as well. Although the land was far from exceptional for farming when the first settlers arrived, there was plenty of deer and other animals in the area that could be hunted and many fertile areas near the water. One thing to note is that most of the area did not have any trees when it was being settled. This was due too many wildfires which had occurred in the area. This is also why many older pictures of Ludlow have far fewer trees and the trees that do exist are very young. The first settlers to Ludlow were, like many other settlers, farmers and despite owning large amounts of land that would today make them rich, they were often poor. Early farm life was difficult; only crude farming instruments existed, the land had to be cleared and fenced before any farming could take place, and bears and wolves were a large threat during the early days of the town.

Farming in Ludlow

According to McChesney, the earliest records of farming in Ludlow are property valuation lists from 1801. According to these lists, there were 83 active farms in the town in 1801. At this time most of the farms were about 50 to 100 acres in size, the largest belonging to David Lyon, who owned a 650 acre farm. It should be noted that only a small fraction of this land was actually used for farming. The main crops at the time were corn and rye, which were used to feed both the people and their animals (which most often consisted of at least one horse, some oxen, cattle, hogs, sheep, and chickens). There were also several apple orchards created by the early farmers that were used to make hard cider, a popular beverage at the time. Most people were able to live off of their own farms but could also sell any surplus they had to purchase items not produced at their farms that they needed.

Another crop that emerged in Ludlow in the early 1800s was wool. This was due to the construction of a textile mill on the Chicopee River where the Ludlow Mills would later be. This mill was owned and operated by a man named Benjamin Jenks. Jenks came from Rhode Island looking for a place to establish his textile mill. Although he was also considering a site in Rochester, New York, he chose to build his mill in Ludlow due to the threat of Indians in Rochester. In 1814, the mill began operation, greatly affecting the towns economy. There were now new opportunities for employment in town and the daily wages of labor also rose dramatically. Farms started to produce wool for use by the mill and not just crops to sustain themselves. The area where the mill was located and where the Ludlow Mills would later exist was named Jenksville after this man. There was another small mill created in Ludlow around the turn of the 19th century that would need wool. This mill was older than the one created by Jenks and was located in an area in the Northwest of Ludlow known at the time as Ludlow City.

The Jenks Company was eventually reorganized as the Springfield Manufacturing Company and continued to expand creating more jobs and simultaneously creating a larger demand for milk and dairy products. This created another opportunity for farmers to make money and led to a large increase in dairy production by the town. Unfortunately for the farmers, in 1848 the Springfield Manufacturing Company (who owned the mills in Ludlow at the time) collapsed. As the farmers depended on these mills at the time, they suffered for the next two decades until The Ludlow Manufacturing Company took control of the mills in 1868. This led to another increase in the production of dairy products in Ludlow. Dairy farming would continue to prosper in Ludlow for almost 100 years. Starting in the 1950s all farming in Ludlow began to decline as the cost of running and maintaining a farm increased dramatically. Other contributing factors, were the increase in population and new developments, such as Westover Air Force Base, taking away from farm land.