Frisians - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Frisian economy centers on agriculture and dairying—the Frisian dairy breed is famous the world over. Inland farms are smallholds, worked by the families that own them. Even in the coastal regions where larger holdings were once common, farming was done on a smaller, family scale on leased lots. In the forested area, livestock takes precedence, while the open lands have emphasized crop production since the introduction of chemical fertilizer and mechanized traction. The weekly livestock market in Tjouwert is an important Economic as well as social occasion. In the seventeenth century, peat working became an important economic pursuit as well, when demand for cheap fuel increased because of the introduction of industrialization throughout the Netherlands. Although peat is no longer the marketable item it once was, its exploitation had a number of important effects upon Friesland: reduction of arable land, the building of canals throughout the region for the inland shipping of peat, and the expansion of the inland shipping industry itself. The tourist industry is well developed, catering to vacationers from Holland, as well as from the rest of Europe. Frisian towns were and are trade and crafts centers.


Industrial Arts. Frisian industry includes clock making, tile working, building construction, and the production of dairy products. A traditional craft, distinctive to Friesland, is the carving and painting of ulebuorden or "owl boards"—barn gables that were once a standard part of barn construction but are no longer so common.

Trade. From very early on in the history of the Frisian People, trade was an important aspect of the economy. The location of Friesland made the Frisians admirably placed for participation in a trading network that extended from Brittany to Scandinavia, and their seafaring skills gave them a great deal of influence within that network. Early Frisian trade goods were furs and hides. Later on, agricultural produce was added. With the introduction of money, which dates back to Roman times, Frisian trade gave place to Commerce. Peat was an important commercial item during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


Division of Labor. Except for the association of women with the domestic arts, there is no strict division of labor by sex. Both male and female family members participate in the work of the family farm, and in the towns women participate in merchant and craft activities along with the men.

Land Tenure. Land is privately owned, and it can be bought, sold, or leased.


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