The Bolognese plains underwent a gradual transformation from the mid 17th to mid 19th century, as the cultivation of rice and the practice of using wage labor emerged alongside the traditional sharecropping and “bread and wine economy” of the area.
In the sharecropping system, the landowner (padròn) provided the farmland, including the house, stables, well, oven, rows of trees and grapevines, and trenches. He also provided half of the seed and half of the draught animals. The tenant farmer contributed the manpower, farm equipment and the other half of the seed and animals necessary to work the land.
The sharecropping contract stipulated that the landowner and tenant farmer were each entitled to half of the yield from the farm. In addition, the tenant farmer also owed the landowner supplementary income paid in-kind (capons at Christmas, hens for Carnival, eggs at Easter, geese for All Saints), in services (transport, ditch digging) or in cash (rent for the house).
Landowners spent the period between the wheat and grape harvests on their large farms. This allowed them to supervise the final phases of the growing season as well as the division of the yield.