From the Ancientfoods weblog, this little gem from European monasteries:
“They placed these abbeys in all sorts of marginal areas to cultivate,” said study researcher Philippe De Smedt, a soil scientist at Ghent University in Belgium. In the High Middle Ages between the 12th and 14th centuries, Europe’s population was growing, De Smedt told LiveScience. Monk labor provided a solution to the crowding by making the land livable.
Indeed. Monks as agricultural pioneers is a bit of a trope through the world.