Arable farming in Marsden will always have been limited by the climate and the steepness of the slopes. Although oats, in havercakes and porridge, were a staple of West Riding diet, by 1788 they were already being imported from the Vale of York13. In 1849, according to the 1849 Tithe Apportionment Survey14, only 50 acres of Marsden-in-Huddersfield were cultivated as arable land. Tithes of grain (due to the Lord of the Manor) were worth only 1 shilling gross rent charge when apportioned, while tithes of all other produce (due to the Vicar of Huddersfield) were worth £18.00. The estimated quantity of grain produced - 170 bushels of wheat, 304 of barley, and 438 of oats, would only fill a room about 12ft x 12 ft x 8ft, so possibly the local corn mills, for example at Hay Green, also milled imported grain.
Other crops grown may have included flax or hemp, potatoes, pulses (beans and peas), and "turnips" (swedes), used as winter fodder for cattle and sheep. A "Turnip Field" on Hades Farm is mentioned in the 1838 Rates Evaluation Survey15.
Vegetables and fruit must surely have been cultivated to supplement the diet. Thirty-seven gardens are listed in the Marsden in Almondbury 1801 Survey, mostly small plots attached to houses. In 1863 a cucumber weighing three pounds was grown by Jabez Hirst, a mechanic16.
There was little more woodland in 1801 Marsden than there is today, and in 1838 it was rated at only 5 pence an acre, compared to 24 to 55 pence for pasture, so it must have been of little economic value. However, there was one large "plantation" above Crowther’s Laithe, which has been replanted recently as Ellen Clough Wood.
Sheep, highly visible in Marsden today, were kept in the 19th Century, although moorland wool was too coarse for cloth other than for domestic use, and much wool was imported wool from counties further south17. There were Sheep Gates on some moorland pastures (a "Gate" is the right to graze a fixed number of animals), and the Censuses between 1841 and 1901 show a few shepherds, especially in Wessenden, the top of Puleside, at Gilberts, and at Dean. Sheep were removed from the moor in winter and sent to lower pastures, sometimes in Derbyshire, since "bottom land" was limited in Marsden.
Cows were more likely to have been kept by the average smallholder, for regular supplies of milk, homemade butter (sometimes used to oil wool) and cheese. In summer the cows with their calves were also turned onto the common moorland pastures to graze (a few farmers had their own enclosed rough pastures), while the meadows and hillside pastures were cut for hay. Hay mowing is commemorated in the 1801 field names "Long Daywork" and "Halfday mowing": a "daywork", the area one man could mow in a day, was around an acre. In the winter cows could shelter in the mistals, to which there was often an access door to the fields.
Pigs and poultry were also kept: Joe France, born 1882, recalled that in his childhood nearly everyone kept a pig, and in 1861 it was reported in the paper that a pig owned by Joshua Farrar weighed 37 stone 6 lb when slaughtered18. Cows, sheep, and pigs appeared at the Spring, Summer, and Autumn Fairs in Marsden.