The text of The Reformed Husband-man was communicated to Hartlib three years before its publication, and was perhaps written by Cressy Dymock (catalogue no.62 ). Its principal concern was the English habit of ploughing too deeply and leaving furrows which were too broad, leading to the waste of seed. The author was worried about the shortage of pasture and woodland, and hoped that improved methods of ploughing and sowing might release land for these purposes and for the poor. Writing in the context of a succession of bad harvests between 1648 and 1651, the author hoped that publication would encourage Parliamentary support for his plans and raise money to make practical his vision of a new distribution of farming lands and a new method of ploughing.
Both the anonymous tract, and its preface, which was written by Hartlib, argued that the current situation in England presented a providential opportun ity for agricultural reform. In part, this was simply a reflection on the volatility of contemporary affairs, in particular in the land market. But it also demonstrated the belief of Hartlib and his friends that husbandry was a God-given activity, which might be enhanced providentially at the moment of greatest need for God’s people. Thus, Hartlib comments in the preface that husbandry is ‘the most profitable Industry unto Humane Society; wherein the Providence, the Power, the Wisdom and the Goodness of God, appeares unto man more eminently then in any other way of Industry whatsoever’ (sig. A2verso)