Farming is Coming: A Look at Agriculture in Game of Thrones

Seldom seen farmers in Westeros grow the crops and livestock that feed dragons and make celebrations possible in the world within Game of Thrones. ( Helen Sloane, HBO )

The conflict in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros is nearly coming to an end and the hit television show Game of Thrones has more links to agriculture than the series lets on. Farming isn’t shown very often in the series and is occasionally mentioned in the books, but the economies of Westeros and Essos both depend on agriculture more than dragons.

The most well-known kingdom for farming is the Reach, where grain, fruit, wine and livestock are all raised. The Reach is ruled by House Tyrell, who are the second wealthiest house of the Seven Kingdoms behind House Lannister. The Tyrell’s gained their wealth because of the fertile land in the Reach. A masquerade is held the night of the harvest moon at the castle Highgarden to help celebrate the bountiful harvests of the Reach.

“The Reach is aptly named: we are the ones who give people’s hands something to do at the table. As the most fertile region of the Seven Kingdoms, we grow the lion’s share of the grains and fruit that feed this country, especially now since the ‘rebels’ have burned down the other fields,” says Margaery Tyrell, who was once Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

Lady Olenna Tyrell, nicknamed the Queen of Thorns, was the matriarch of the family and a shrewd business woman. When the Tyrell and Lannister Houses decided to join forces Lady Olenna knew exactly what the Reach was bringing to the table. To help survive the wars to come and winter, House Tyrell supplied the capitol city of King’s Landing with a million bushels of wheat, half a million bushels each of barley, oats, and rye, 20,000 head of cattle and 50,000 sheep.

While not all of the Seven Kingdoms are as fertile as the Reach, many have some tie to agriculture.

  • The southernmost kingdom of Dorne is known for its prized Dornish wine.
  • The Iron Islands has some of the poorest soil which forced the Ironborn to be more like a Viking-type culture. This is made even more evident by House Greyjoy’s words “We do not sow.”
  • While the North is often associated with winter, the kingdom does have a number of farms. For instance, a region known as the Gift serves as a farming area for the Knights Watch to sustain itself while manning the Wall.
  • Pumpkins grow largest in the Vale, while wheat, corn and barley are also found in the kingdom.
  • In addition to having fertile bottom ground for crops, the Riverlands serve as the major grain transporter of Westeros because the centralized rivers lead to many of the port cities of the Seven Kingdoms.

The Riverlands is also home to a character only known as “Farmer” and his daughter Sally in the show who are struggling to keep raiders off their farm. The farmer takes in Sandor Clegane, aka the Hound, and Arya Stark as they are traveling. He offers to give the Hound a job working on and protecting the farm, but later has his silver stolen by the Hound. Eventually the show reveals that Sally and her father have died several years later from starvation and this leads Sandor to burying the people he had once robbed.

Across the Narrow Sea to the east on the expansive continent of Essos there are plenty of opportunities for agriculture.

  • The Dothraki Sea isn’t actually a body of water, but rather an ocean of grass. While there isn’t any formal ranching operations ran by nomadic warrior tribes of Dothraki, there is the potential to graze lots of livestock with the hundreds of types of grasses growing on the prairies.
  • Lhazar is home to sheep herders who often fall prey to Dothraki.
  • In the slave city of Meereen the Mother of Dragons pays for the losses of shepherds who have goats and even children killed by her dragons.  

In the real world Game of Thrones has had impacts on actual farmers. A specialty livestock raiser in Northern Ireland was able to save his farm because of the HBO show. Kenny Gracey, who raises animals native to the British Isle was approached by showrunners from Game of Thrones to use some of his unique livestock. Animals appearing in the show include English Longhorn cattle, Jacob Sheep and British Saddleback pigs.

The series finale for Game of Thrones will air on HBO at 9 pm EST (8 pm CST) on Sunday, May 19.