The fall of 1623 marked the end of Plymouth's debilitating food shortages. For the last two planting seasons, the Pilgrims had grown crops communally. But the disastrous harvest of the previous fall had shown, something drastic needed to be done to increase the annual yield.
In April, Bradford had decided that each household should be assigned its own plot to cultivate, with the understanding that each family kept whatever it grew. The change in attitude was stunning. Families were now willing to work much harder than they have ever worked before. In previous years the men tended the fields while the women tended the children at home. "The women now went willingly into the field," Bradford wrote, "and took their little ones with them to set corn." The Pilgrims had stumbled on the power of capitalism. Although the fortunes of the colony still teetered precariously in the years ahead, the inhabitants never starved again.
-Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower