The Ancient Egyptians were one of the first farmers. Each farmer's year was centered around what happened with the Nile River. Once every year, the Nile River flooded the parched land for a few weeks. As the water receded, it left a layer of fertile mud to enrich the soil. Therefore, farmers never needed fertilizer because the flooded soil was so rich. Low floods caused starvation among the Egyptian people because the unfertilized soil could not grow enough crops. The farmers were responsible for the wealth of Egypt because they produced enough food to support the rest of the population.
The Egyptians divided the year into three seasons. The three seasons were: "flood time", "seed time", and the "time of harvest". The "flood time" lasted from July to October. It was a time when farming work stopped, and the farmers went to work on the pharaoh's pyramid. "Seed time" usually ran from November to February and was when the farmers planted their seed. During this time the crops would grow. Canals and ditches that had been filled during the flood season carried water to the fields. Finally, the "time of harvest" was when the crops were harvested or picked, and this usually lasted from March to June.
The Egyptians began planting seeds when the Nile's annual flood had subsided. The main crops planted were wheat and barley, vegetables, figs, melons, pomegranates, and vine plants. Farmers used oxen to pull the plow and hoe through the soil. A hoe was used for heavy digging and a plow turned the soil easily. Plowing and sowing took place together. The Egyptians used their hands to scatter the seeds onto the moist topsoil. The seed was then either plowed into the soil or animals trampled the seed into the soil.
Crops grew in the field during seed time. The boundaries of fields were marked by large stones and were kept watered by canals that had been filled during the flood season. The water from the canal was raised over the canal bank to the field with a tool called a shaduf. A shaduf was made by using a wooden pole with a bucket on one end and a counterweight on the other end. The counterweight was made out of clay, and it balanced the bucket while it was in use.
At harvest time, every healthy villager worked in the field. Men used a flint-edged tool called a sickle to cut down the ripe crop. Women never handled tools with blades. Women and children bound the cut crops (stalks) into sheaves. Then the crop was taken to the threshing floor where oxen and cattle trampled on the cut stalks to remove the grain. The women tossed the grain into the air so that the wind blew away the light, useless chaff. The heavier grain fell to the ground.
Farmers were required to pay part of their crop to the pharaoh as tax. During the "seed time", officials inspected the fields and decided the amount of tax to be paid. After harvesting, the farmer's grain that was being used to pay the tax was stored in a granary. This grain was used by the pharaoh. It was also used to help feed the pyramid workers, and to feed people in times of famine.