The Dales have been farmed for thousands of years. Without farming, woodland would cover all but the highest moorland. There would be no drystone-walled fields, no hay meadows, no isolated field barns. In the Middle Ages, Italian merchants came to buy wool from Fountains Abbey and Bolton Priory. Later farmers kept cattle to supply cheese and butter to the industrial towns surrounding the Dales. In winter cattle were kept inside field barns and fed on hay cut from the surrounding meadows. Changing agricultural practice means most field barns are now redundant. For information on farming today, see the Farming pages in the Living & Working section of the website.