Wheat was one of the most commonly cultivated crops in Kincardineshire, and records show that it was grown in the parish of Benholm, as far back as 1713, on which date a considerable part of the victual rent was paid in wheat. However it wasnít until the 1800ís arrived that wheat found more widespread popularity throughout the county and by then it would have been a common sight on the lands around Portlethen.
There was a notion in those early years that this particular grain was too delicate to stand up to the severity and variety of weathers found along our coast however after trying it season after season and seeing the crop prevail against the most severe of weather the farmers prejudices gradually disappeared.
Wheat was harvested from near the middle of August through the first week of September and was quite labour intensive. Each master or farmer needed to engage as many hands as possible and these hands often came from other walks of life such as country tradesmen, weavers, tailors, shoemakers, from different villages or outposts and together with some women they made up teams that would complete the harvest from the time that the first corn was ready to be cut down until the last batch was safely stacked in the barnyard.
Bear is a name that was in common use in the 19th century and this was the favoured grain of our county and barley was its more illustrious, but less favoured, relative. As the 19th century progressed bear became less popular and was superseded by the superior barley which was hardier, thrived better in the climate, gave more straw, ripened earlier and was a weightier grain that fetched better market prices.
Bear and Barley were harvested around the same time as wheat, maybe a few days or a week earlier, and under similar circumstances to the wheat crop where additional hired hands were required.
Oats were the most generally cultivated grain in the county of Kincardineshire around 1800 and almost half the land under tillage was dedicated to the growing of this crop.
Oats were sown in all lands that were newly broken up from old pasture or from grasslands of any description and about half the whole quantity was sown from ley (common pasture) and a considerable portion was sown again the second year from ley. Oats were a formidable and useful crop and could successfully be sown after every other kind of crop such as wheat, bear, peas, turnips, potatoes and even after summer fallow.
Peas were quite a popular vegetable and were cultivated over the whole county of Kincardineshire during the late 18th and 19th century however these were grown in small proportion when compared to wheat, oats and barley.
It was probable that the larger farms did not plant peas and it is likelier that this crop would have been more popular on the smaller farms and crofts. This was one of the more precarious crops growing in the area and it often failed, when this happened the land was left in a wretched condition and the farmer left out of pocket. The only surprising thing at all is that some farmers did continue to grow this crop.
In Kincardineshire Potatoes were first cultivated in the village of Marykirk in 1727 but it wasnít until the end of that century that the growth of potatoes obtained widespread popularity. By then the potato was being grown extensively on farms, small crofts and could even be found on individual gardening plots belonging to local residents.
Turnips, Swedes, Beans, Flax were other crops that regularly appeared in the 19th century and to a lesser extent we also saw smaller scale cultivation in respect to Cabbages, Yams and Tares (a horse crop). There are even references to Hemp being grown in George Robertsonís early Agricultural report written in 1810.