Hoe Agriculture: A Primitive Form of Farming Without Ploughs

Hoe Agriculture: A Primitive Form of Farming Without Ploughs
External Guest Writer
July 15, 2022

What is Hoe Farming?

Hoe farming was coined by Eduard Hahn during the early 1900s, referring to primitive forms of agriculture practiced without ploughs. Manual tools for digging and tilling include tined hoes, prong hoes, bent forks, and split hoes - hoes that have two or more tines at the shaft.

Areas where ploughs were not introduced during the agricultural boom are called the Hoe Cultivation Belt. These are generally in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Maritime Southeast Asia, where hoe farming is the most efficient method of growing crop resources without having to use electrical, gas, or animal power.

The History of Hoe Farming

Hoe farming cultures stemmed from the earliest form of agricultural practices, dating all the way back from the fifth millennium B.C. Cave paintings depict a forked stick resembling a hoe being used to prepare lands for agricultural use. These cave drawings presented the first uses of a hoe: for removing weeds, harvesting crops, and creating trenches for planting.

Over time, the use of the hoe and other manual tools have been limited to horticulture and gardening as commercial farmers make use of modern farm equipment and machinery in plant cultivation. Hoe farming practices can be observed in an urban vegetable garden, as well as in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa where modern machines are difficult to operate and procure.

For many rural farmers, hoe farming is a part of everyday life. For urban gardens and micro-farms where large machinery is impractical to use, the hoe becomes an essential tool to dig around the garden for planting crops.

Amish communities continue to use simple, non-mechanical farming tools in their plots of land to remove weeds, till the soil, and prepare the land for subsistence farming. However, they may also use animal-driven ploughs to create arable land, so their farming methods are not limited to using only simple tools.

How Does It Work?

Hoe farming goes hand in hand with long-fallow systems, which leaves the cropland field bare for part of the growing season. This allows the soil to retain water, as well as regain essential nutrients to cultivate effectively.

Small row distances line hoe farms, allowing farmers to utilize the area of the land which is often limited in size. Farmers would strike the soil with a long-handled hoe to till the land, making it easier for plants to push through the soil. They may use a short-handled hoe to remove weeds, and dig holes in which seeds are planted.

The Pros and Cons of Hoe Farming


While the plough appears to have revolutionized the agricultural industry, simple manual tools continue to be used in areas where plough farming is possible. Hoe farming provides a way for rural areas to continue growing food and resources without needing to purchase and operate expensive farm equipment. Other pros include:

  • Versatile Tools
  • Organic Farming
  • Intermittent Farming

Overall, the hoe is a versatile tool used in many farming practices. Hoes can be used to shape the soil in piles around planted crops, digging shallow trenches to prepare the land, and remove weeds from blank fields. Hoes are also organic tools that require no electrical energy or gas to operate, making it a simple tool to use.

Hoes and other simple farming tools allow for intermittent farming, also known as long-fallow systems, as farmers have slower productivity than commercial farms that use industrial machines to rotate crops. This allows the soil to have a period of inactivity where it can regain the nutrients lost from the previous harvesting period.


The introduction of the plough has advanced the agricultural revolution, sparking new systems on how people farm for resources. The cons of the hoe generally include hard, manual labor, which the plough had eased as the invention spread. Cons include:

  • Hard Physical Labor
  • Back Pain and Body Aches
  • Difficult to Remove Weeds

Short-handled hoes often lead to back pain and body aches for farm workers, and hoes may be difficult to use in removing weeds as farmers will need to bend close to the ground to remove the weeds at the root. 

Plough Through Farming

Today, the hoe and other primitive farming tools are used primarily in urban gardening, small-time farms, and in rural areas where access to modern farming tools and techniques is limited. The plough sparked the agricultural revolution, and farming methods are constantly advancing to keep up with the demand for human resources.

Still, the hoe is a simple tool that requires less gas and resources to use. It provides an alternative for farm workers to perform farming operations manually, and is the only practical type of tool to use in micro-farmlands.