During the last ice age, glaciers carved the hills and valleys of Newfield. When these glaciers melted, they left behind soil deposits composed mostly of rock and clay. The predominant soil types in Newfield are Lordstown, Canfield, Wooster, Volusia, and Chenango.

Source: Cornell Extenison Bulletin, no. 121, June, 1925,"Soil and Crop Management for Tompkins County, New York," by F.B. Howe

The first settlers arrived in Newfield around 1800. Early agriculture, from 1810 to 1825, was mainly subsistence farming. This was due to the fact that efficient transportation systems had not yet been established for marketing crops. However, in 1825, the opening of the Erie Canal provided an outlet for the crops of Tompkins County, taking them to new markets. Canal boats could be towed north on Cayuga Lake to the Cayuga and Seneca Canal, and then entered the Erie Canal.

Mills and Creameries

  • Local flour mills processed wheat and corn.
  • Tompkins County was part of the granary of the United States.
  • There was a creamery that once stood where the Newfield Elementary School is today.
  • Wagon loads of milk were taken from Barnes Hill and Irish Hill to be sold in Ithaca and Cayuta every day.

The old Newfield Grange sign hangs in the Newfield Historical Society on the top floor of the Newfield Public Library.
(photo by G. Emerson)

The Newfield Creamery once stood on what is today the lawn in front of the Newfield Elementary School. 

The picture above shows Newfield in 1890. Notice how bare the hillsides are.
    Reasons for the Abandonment of Farms and the Decline of Population in Newfield (1850-1870):
  • There was a poor wheat crop in 1850. This was due to the midge insect ruining central New York's crops. Also, the soil was showing signs of exhaustion from being overworked.
  • There was competition from western wheat farms in the Ohio territory. This forced eastern wheat prices down, causing many farmers to go into debt.
  • The Civil War depleted the population of Newfield when 225 men were needed to fight for the Union army.
  • These factors resulted in a significant drop in land being cultivated. It fell from 34, 892 acres in 1850 to 25,000 acres in 1878.

-from Newfield- 150 Years, (1822-1972)


Theodore Roosevelt's Visit To Newfield:    Agricultural Issues

President Teddy Roosevelt spoke from the balcony of the Newfield Hotel. He is in the doorway, just above the small American flag on the left of the balcony. The hotel was damaged by a fire in 1926 and the balcony was replaced. The building still stands on Main Street.

The following is an excerpt from the Ithaca Journal dated October 24, 1910:

Colonel Roosevelt and his party arrived here at 11 o´clock. There was a big crowd to greet him. Stores were decorated with flags and the Newfield band was out. He received a big ovation as he stepped onto the balcony of the hotel to speak to the crowd that had gathered.

His address was along agricultural lines. He urged the people to use modern implements and methods and make an effort to bring up their lands to their former productiveness. He said:


"I don't want to see the farmer sag behind. I want to see him take his place, not only with the professions, but at the top where he belongs."

He told of C. A. Schmidt who came to Connecticut Hill to take up one of the abandoned farms, and is now getting good results and making a good living.

The Colonel then went into a lecture about good citizenship telling the people that if they were to get anything in life they had to do their work well. He advised fathers to bring up their children, not to avoid work, but to do work.

After the speech in the village, Roosevelt and his party visited two of the abandoned farms in Newfield. They also attended a picnic held by local farmers on Irish Hill.
More Information on Teddy Roosevelt's visit to Newfield

Around 1900, immigrants from Finland and Czechoslovakia moved to Newfield. They were escaping from the shops and factories of New York City and the mines of the west. The country living in Newfield was just what they were looking for. The Finns settled in the hills of southeastern Newfield, near North Van Etten Road. The Czechs inhabited the valley of Poney Hollow. Both groups proved to be hard workers and with the help of local farmers and the Cornell Agricultural College, these newcomers turned out to be successful farmers. The crops grown in Newfield included wheat, oats, corn, and buckwheat. In the 1930s, the federal and state governments bought up hundreds of acres of poor and abandoned farmland in Newfield. This land was then used for reforestation and wildlife conservation.

                                       ---Source: Newfield, 150 Years (1822-1972)


Source: Cornell Extenison Bulletin, no. 121, June, 1925,"Soil and Crop Management for Tompkins County, New York," by
F.B. Howe, p. 32.

Present Day Agriculture

Today, Newfield's agriculture is focused primarily on dairy farming. To support this, most of the crops are grown for consumption by dairy cattle. These feed crops include hay, corn, oats, soybeans, and barley. Wheat is the only cash crop currently cultivated.

As of 1996, there are seven dairy farms in Newfield. They range in size from around 40 to 80 cows. These farms are owned by the Emery, Holub, Makela, Maki, Mazourek, Tudi, and Yaples families. Milk from these farms goes to one of three manufacturers of dairy products. They are Polly-O in Campbell, Leprino Foods in Waverly, and Crowley Foods in Binghamton. Newfield milk is used to produce Italian cheeses and other dairy products.

Content provided by Laura Teeter
(Black & white photos courtesy of the Newfield Historical Society)


George Finley, et. al. Newfield, 150 Years (1822-1972). Ithaca, NY: Art Craft of Ithaca, Inc., 1972. Chapter VII (pages 41-48) of this book discusses the soil and early farming efforts at Newfield. It is available at the Newfield Historical Society on Main Street, Newfield, NY. This book provided a lot of the information about early farming in Newfield and the abandonment of farms. It also tells about the Finns and Czechs arrival in the early 1900s.

Ithaca Journal, October 24, 1910. This newspaper contains an article about Teddy Roosevelt's visit to Newfield. It is available on microfilm at Cornell University's Olin Library in Ithaca, NY.

Howe, F.B."Soil and Crop Management for Tompkins County, New York: June, 1925." Cornell Extension Bulletin no. 121. Ithaca, NY: NYS College of Agriculture at Cornell University, 1925. A copy of this report is in the files about Newfield at the Newfield Historical Society.

Mary Beth Holub. "Farming in Newfield Today." This short article provided the information about present day agriculture in Newfield. It is available at the Newfield Historical Society. The Holub family still operates a farm in Newfield.