Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History

Explore the extraordinary past of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through the pages of the book 'Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History.' Uncover political events, economic development, and cultural heritage of these Banat towns through richly documented stories. Follow the evolution from the earliest days to the present, delving into the intricate threads of political intrigues, economic transformations, and cultural ascensions. Experience the past through the eyes of the author as the pages of the book unfold before you, providing a unique perspective on the life and legacy of these significant locales.

Evolution of Agriculture in Novi Bečej

Evolution of Agriculture in Novi Bečej: From Livestock to Farm Machinery

The estate of Novi Bečej has the shape of an irregular geometric figure. It stretches from north to south for a length of 26.2 km and from east to west for 24.8 km. The longest axis of the estate extends from the southwesternmost point of Pearl Island to the northeasternmost point and measures 30.5 km. It is characteristic that the estate extends on both sides of the Tisa River, covering a small part of the Bačka region. The total area of the estate is 282 km², or 28,311 hectares. The largest part of the estate is on the Banat side, occupying an area of 24,220 hectares. Parts of the estate extend along the right bank of the Tisa River: Pearl Island with 2,678 hectares, Medenjača with 909 hectares, and Karakter with 504 hectares.

The insecurity of life under the Turks and the relatively small number of inhabitants led the population to engage in animal husbandry. This was the case in the early years after the expulsion of the Turks. Agriculture was practiced only enough to meet the needs of households.

Animal husbandry had an advantage over agriculture because it facilitated a nomadic way of life, allowing people to move from one place to another more easily.

Cattle and sheep were the main types of livestock. Sheep were used for wool and milk, while cattle were used for traction and slaughter.

Efforts were made as early as the second half of the eighteenth century to introduce high-quality merino sheep, but without success. Among the peasants, the local breeds remained dominant, eventually completely replacing the older Hungarian breeds.

During the last wars with the Turks, cattle farming was ruthlessly destroyed because the Austrian army was poorly supplied and simply plundered the population wherever it went. The situation improved with the acquisition of cows from Transylvania and the colonization of Germans who brought the French red cattle to Vojvodina, which was later crossed with Podolian and subsequently with Simmental cattle. With the increase in population, the importance of cattle farming grew, as the demand for meat and milk could not be met in the previous manner.

Pig farming began to develop only after the expulsion of the Turks. The colonization of Germans gave pig farming a stronger impetus, especially in Banat, which was known for its pig fairs in Temišvar.

In the early nineteenth century, a larger breed of pigs emerged from Serbia, where the "Serbian Šumadija Mangalica" was bred. Pig farmers from Serbia drove whole herds to fairs across the Sava and Danube rivers, and their journey lasted several weeks or even three to four months. It is recorded that in 1833, Prince Miloš sent, as a gift, 10 sows and 2 boars of "white Serbian Mangalica" to Archduke Joseph. They showed excellent results, and large landowners were practically fighting over them. This Mangalica completely displaced the old Hungarian pig breeds.

Unlike other forms of livestock farming, horse breeding developed mainly due to state initiative. The state was guided by military reasons and established the first military stud farm as early as 1785. The state encouraged municipalities to establish stud farms and keep purebred stallions. Peasants were encouraged by receiving one forint in cash for each mare covered by a state stallion, and after the fourth covering, they received a foal mare as a gift. In addition, these peasants were exempted from cart taxes, while the best ones received special premiums. Thus, Vojvodina laid the foundations of its horse breeding, which represented an advanced branch of animal husbandry until the Second World War.

Count Mersi, the governor of Banat, established a silk factory in Temišvar in 1733. Italians and Spaniards were settled there to cultivate silkworms. Silk farming was encouraged, among other ways, by law. The law required every man in Bačka to plant and cultivate several mulberry trees before getting married. In Novi Bečej and Vranjevo, there were fields planted with mulberry trees, called "mulberry orchards," until the 1930s. Mulberry trees were the most commonly seen trees in yards, streets, and roads until the Second World War.

The settlement of Vojvodina during the eighteenth century narrowed the space for livestock farming. Wastelands, even during the time of Maria Theresa, were plowed along with other free land. Thus, agriculture took the first place in the economy of Banat by the end of the eighteenth century, understandably in Novi Becej and Vranjevo as well.

Land cultivation at the beginning of the eighteenth century was primitive. Plowing was done with a plow once a year. The plow quickly disappeared from these parts and gave way to the wooden plow, which gradually acquired iron parts.

In the development and application of agrarian techniques, our regions had the fortunate circumstance that colonization by various peoples led to a wide exchange of experiences, and the land, after the expulsion of the Turks, was practically untouched and extremely fertile, generously rewarding every effort. Indeed, cultivating the land required much hard work, but it all paid off multiple times.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, agriculture was based on the cultivation of wheat. Fields were manually sown with grain for two consecutive years, followed by one year of fallow for pasture. Smaller plots were sown with hemp or vegetables, but all of this was only for household needs.

However, it must be emphasized that as early as 1722, three reputable farms for vegetable cultivation were established: in Timisoara, Vinga, and Modos (Jasa Tomic). Vegetable farming also developed in Becsej, Akas, Csoka, Sanad, Kanjiza, and some other places.

Corn was first mentioned in Vojvodina in 1716, in Srem. Its appearance meant significant changes not only in agriculture but especially for livestock farming. Pig farming could switch from acorns, which were becoming scarce due to deforestation, to corn. In agriculture itself, there was a shift from monoculture, which greatly depleted the soil, to a two-field crop rotation.

Corn, however, was not accepted until the second half of the nineteenth century. Partly because of the continuous demand for wheat, but the main reason was that it required considerably more work than wheat.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, German colonists introduced potatoes to our regions.

For quite some time, almost until the middle of the nineteenth century, the two-field system was applied. In some areas, fallow land was not plowed. Plowing was done with oxen very slowly, and the plows were heavy and cumbersome, harrows were rarely used, and only a small number of households had them. The roller was hardly used; instead, there were so-called rollers (two planks lined with half-branches) or "branes" woven from twigs, used to drag the wheat (after manual sowing, covered with soil). Fertilization was poorly used, and only a few did so-called "torisanje" by letting livestock graze in the fields.

Sowing was done by hand, and harvesting was done with a sickle or scythe. Threshing was done with horses on a prepared threshing floor. There were no grain silos; farmers stored wheat in pits, rooms, or chests, and most of it was sold to grain merchants immediately after harvesting. The yield per hectare ranged from ten to twelve measures (one measure equals 56 kg).

The real revolution in agricultural production was the introduction of mechanized processing. The first reapers and threshers arrived in Hungary, and indeed in that whole part of Europe, in the early second half of the nineteenth century from England and America.

Novi Becej had the honor of being a pioneer in Hungary in this regard. Novi Becej native Josef Feher bought the first reaper in Hungary from the English company Clayton Shuttleworth in 1852. It was a 310 reaper produced in the factories of the mentioned English company. This reaper worked until 1900 when it was transferred to the museum in Budapest, where it remains today.

There was great resistance to corn or potatoes, which means that crops requiring a lot of work for hoeing and hilling were avoided. It is interesting to note how authorities fought for the acceptance of certain crops: "In Nadalj, in 1818, 31 households were punished with two days of imprisonment in chains for opposing the cultivation of potatoes". In Mosorin, in 1819, 142 households were punished with three days of road and levee repairs for not hoeing corn, not plowing fallow, or not clearing meadows.

Livestock farming also did not receive the necessary attention. It was difficult to persuade farmers to raise purebred cattle; instead, cattle that did not require special care persisted for a long time. Most of the cattle were destined for sale (for slaughter), and until the middle of the nineteenth century, cows were hardly milked in order to secure better calves.

Agriculture long represented the basis of Austria's economic life. Therefore, it is quite understandable that immediately after the liberation of Banat from the Turks, efforts were made to turn it into a province with exceptional status and the most advanced agriculture in Hungary.

For quite a long time after the liberation from the Turks, until the 1770s, livestock farming was the basis of trade, and only the nobility disposed of agricultural products. Even as the population increased with the colonization of Germans and the resettlement of border guards from Bačka and Pomoravlje, cereal production barely met the needs of the population, and in the best year, it only met the needs of the standing army in the territory of Banat. If there was a surplus one year and even two or three years in a row, there were still times of crop failure and hunger, so reserves had to be taken into account. It was only from 1795 onwards that several very fertile years appeared in the Veliki Kikinda district, which, in the conditions of war with Napoleon and the high demand for livestock and crop products, provided the population with a chance to get rid of debts. This contributed to the fact that by 1801, all outstanding obligations arising from taxes and other levies had been settled in the Veliki Kikinda district.

There were still droughts, so-called "hungry years", later on, and one such was recorded in Becsej and Vranjevo. Novi Becej and Vranjevo suffered a severe drought in 1863. From spring to late autumn, not a drop of rain fell. The lower marshy lands cracked and completely dried out, while the owners of the upper lands did not have yields even equal to the amount of seed used during sowing.

As early as 1775, the land consisted of old land used as arable land or meadows, and marshy land (iberlanda). There was also a third type, the so-called reserve land, which was actually old land but of poor quality. In the Veliki Kikinda district, there were 58,583 hectares of old land, and in 1814, over 90,000 hectares of marshland were measured.

According to some data, even in 1795, some families were forced to take over old land just to collect more taxes, in order to obtain funds for the war with France.

There were numerous examples where individuals wanted to get rid of land and handed it over to others for the lowest possible compensation, and not infrequently, for free. Later, their descendants futilely sought to reclaim that land. For example, Zivan Krompic from Vranjevo demanded on May 29, 1802, that his entire sesija, which he had gifted to Timotej Jankovic from Vranjevo in 1794, be returned to him. Zivan Ilicic from Kikinda transferred the entire sesija to Anta Kontric, and both burdened the sesija with outstanding taxes.

A particular type of land was represented by the wastelands. This was land used solely for livestock farming. They were leased through auctions. For example, on May 1, 1780, until April 30, 1781, Pavle Černovič de Mača leased the Arač wasteland in Vranjevo for 1,054 forints. The Arač wasteland consisted of 3,117 acres, mostly of good quality soil. Since Černovič hadn't paid the entire lease by March 1, 1782, the magistrate decided to confiscate his livestock at the Torda wasteland. On March 14, 1791, Petar Birimac from Bašaida, a former senator of the District, leased the Arač wasteland for 1,325 forints.

In Vranjevo, on May 1, 1831, 731 households enjoyed the iberland, of which only 41 were not Serbian. Those who paid over 100 forints in rent and municipal expenses included: Todor Bunjevac 486, Toma Boberić 255, Arsen Glavaš 208, Tadija Glavaš 174, David Glavaš 293, and Isak Glavaš 80 forints.

For the year 1853, 757 house numbers were recorded in Vranjevo, of which 452 were paying tithe. Out of these 452, only 6 were not Serbs. No one owned more than two sessions, and only two farmers, Todor Bunjevac and Kuzman Kikić, had even two.

Through the regulation of the Tisa River, by building embankments and cutting off meanders, a considerable portion of the floodplain in the Novi Bečej and Vranjevo areas was reclaimed.

Novi Bečej had relatively little old land, which is why border guards from Bačka, when relocating to Banat, settled in Vranjevo where there was significantly more such land. In Novi Bečej, lands like Borđoš, Berek, and Garevac could be classified into this type of land, while everything else consisted of meadows, marshlands, and ravines. Vranjevo had more old land, but it also had a lot of so-called iberland. According to data, in 1784, Vranjevo had 5,532 acres of old land (constitutive), 8,492 acres of iberland (marshland), and 11,397 acres of marshes, which, through embankment construction and regulation of the Tisa River, as well as building drainage canals, were converted into arable land or pastures.

Novi Bečej, as a spahi, was bought in 1782 by Pavle Hadžimihajlo, and his descendants (through the female line Rohonci and Šojmoš) remained owners until the Second World War.

The dowry Rohonci received from the Hadžimihajla-Sisanji family was located on Biserno Ostrvo (Pearl Island) covering an area of 650 katastral acres. The Rohonci family were very advanced farmers; Lipot's heir Gida, among other things, kept racehorses, which were famous even beyond the borders of Austria-Hungary. They won first places in many races and received valuable prizes throughout Europe.

The estate had cattle (Podolian cattle) and breeding stock of Mangalitsa pigs. Rohonci was renowned for his products: outstanding vegetables, fruits, grapes, and wine, known even in Szeged, Novi Sad, and Budapest.

The crop rotation on the Rohonci estate in 1911 looked like this: nine cadastral acres with white pineapples used for jam production, exported to Germany and Russia. Two acres were planted with raspberries for the production of raspberry juice and jam; ten acres with twenty exceptional varieties of peaches; ten acres with cherries, sour cherries, pears, apricots, and apples; twenty acres with special varieties of melons, including the famous "Tisza pearl"; a hundred acres were vineyards with a hundred and twenty varieties of delicate grapes; from the grapes, excellent wine was produced, bottled in delicious bottles and found its way to Szeged and Budapest; ten acres were devoted to vegetables, and forty acres were under lucerne for the needs of their own stud farm.

The yields per acre in 1911 were: wheat 11 metric centners, barley 12 quintals, and oats 13 quintals. In 1910, the corn yield was 15 quintals per acre, with an average ten-year yield of 15 quintals.

Fruits, grapes, and wine, as well as Rohonci's melons, were of exceptional quality, significantly above the produce of any household in Novi Bečej until the 1930s, i.e., until the outbreak of the great agricultural crisis when it was difficult to sell such high-quality fruit, grapes, and melons at the Novi Bečej market. So, in the 1930s, melons completely disappeared from the Rohonci estate, and fruit and grapes reappeared after the crisis, but due to the high price, it was difficult to find buyers in Novi Bečej.

Under the influence of the Rohonci estate, more attention was paid to fruit growing and viticulture in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo. In the thirties of this century, the first nurseries were established (Farkaš and Sekreš). Rohonci's vines and fruits were also accepted in Bačko Gradište, Kuman, Čurug, and other surrounding villages.

Elemer Šojmoš's estate was located in the immediate vicinity of Novi Bečej. Šojmoš was a descendant of Pavle Hadžimihajlo's granddaughter, and the estate was inherited by his ancestor, Đula Urban, as a dowry. It consisted of seven hundred katastral acres and was located from the Tisa River, where the nursery is now, to the road leading to Kumane and to the south — towards Kumane to the road to the Sokolac agricultural estate, which branches off from the road to Kumane. Economic and residential buildings, as well as the castle, were located at the site of today's nursery and the lock on the canal (the canal emerges from the Tisa

River, bypasses the town, and empties into the Tisa on the south side of the town).

On the 1911 cadastral plan, there was a fruit tree nursery, and vineyards were shown between the nursery and the road to Kumane. According to the information of one citizen, on this estate, the production of vines was started, but not with the purpose of mass distribution, but as a secondary occupation for the cultivation of noble varieties of vines and the sale of grapes to the Novi Bečej winery.

In Novi Bečej and Vranjevo, 180 hectares of land were planted with new varieties of vines; the French variety was also grown. The first wine cellar in Novi Bečej was built by János Urban, a wine producer, and winemaker. He produced up to 100,000 liters of wine annually. Urban had a large vineyard in the west of the town and planted various varieties of vines on 20 hectares of land. He produced the most wine from Italian Riesling, followed by Furmint, Müller-Thurgau, and Muscat Ottonel. Urban's winery was in operation from 1945 to 1974.

Related Articles

Graphic Industry

Food Industry

Footwear Industry