In biblical times, although there was limited irrigation, most crops relied solely on the ‘early rains’ in October (autumn) to break a six-month summer drought. This lead into the heavy winter rains, followed by the ‘latter rains’ of April (spring) which brought the grain to maturity. Wars normally took place during the harvest period so the invading army could live off the land.
The ploughed fields produced wheat and barley with bread forming a large part of the diet. The grain crops were harvested by cutting with a sickle, and the stalks bound together in sheaves. Thrashing often employed animals being driven over the sheaves to loosen the grain and chop up the stalks. Winnowing took place by tossing the crushed stalks up into the air, with the wind separating the light chaff from the heavier grain. The straw was used for animal feed. Pastoral farming, provided meat, skins and wool. Plagues of locusts attacked the crops. Vineyards and fruit trees, especially olives were common with flax grown for cloth.
Many of the parables and illustrations that Jesus used were of a farming nature and so the people could relate to them easily, such as the parable of the sower or His claim to be “the true vine” (Mt 13:3-9; Jn 15:1).