From prehistory until the mechanical cultivation of the land, the agricultural economy went through various stages at a very slow pace.
Under Ottoman rule, the land was exploited according to a system which was in force throughout the Ottoman Empire. Serfs (doulopariki), living in rudimentary accommodation provided by the landowner, worked the large estates (γiftliks) under the watchful eye of overseers known as dragoumani. Other γiftliks followed the system of sharecropping, where tenant farmers rented the land and gave the owner a portion of their produce.
When Thrace was incorporated into the free Greek state, the Ottomans’ large estates were bought by wealthy Greeks. The Greek smallholders grew pulses, maize, sugarcane, sesame, flax, sorgo, tobacco, and, especially, cereals for their own needs. Although wheat and barley were the staple crops for centuries, the farmers were often unable to grow enough to meet the needs of their families, and so they exchanged other products for extra supplies.
In Evros prefecture, the distribution of land to the landless began in 1933. Much later on, there was a certain amount of reparcelling, accompanied by flood control, drainage, and irrigation work, which yielded new arable land for more profitable crops, such as beet, maize, and cotton.