HISTORY TALKS...

Farming the fields of Zázrivá

SLOVAKIA is among the countries in which manual cultivation of agricultural land continued well into the 20th century. In the mountainous regions of the north, farm lands were cultivated with hoes and spades as late as the 1950s, as more sophisticated ploughing equipment could not be used due to the terrain. Many fields had high elevations and steep slopes and many farmers did not even have draught animals they could use. Moreover, men from these poorer northern regions tended to go elsewhere for work, leaving fieldwork to women.

SLOVAKIA is among the countries in which manual cultivation of agricultural land continued well into the 20th century. In the mountainous regions of the north, farm lands were cultivated with hoes and spades as late as the 1950s, as more sophisticated ploughing equipment could not be used due to the terrain. Many fields had high elevations and steep slopes and many farmers did not even have draught animals they could use. Moreover, men from these poorer northern regions tended to go elsewhere for work, leaving fieldwork to women.

Until the mid-20th century, a system of rotating three fields was used in the mountainous regions of Slovakia even though western Europe had been using a more efficient and profitable two-field system for quite some time. As recently as 1934 it was reported that 631 municipal areas were farmed in this way. Even more recently farmers in these regions had difficulty in switching to a two-field rotation system but the state then issued a law forbidding the three-field system.

This postcard from the end of the 1950s shows the village of Zázrivá in the Orava region. This snapshot of farming methods used in Slovakia is something of an historical document as few farmers now pursue traditional agricultural methods.


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