Farming was a low priority for the profit-minded Virginia Company, who instructed the settlers to gain sustenance through peaceful trade with the Virginia Indians. In return for English copper, tools, beads, and other commodities, they received corn, meat, and other foodstuffs. This exchange provided the support that allowed the Jamestown settlement to gain a foothold within this powerful chiefdom.
Evidence of corn (Zea Mays) has been found in many contexts at James Fort – from pollen recovered in the soils (as individual charred or burned kernels) and even as whole cobs excavated from submerged contexts. Two types of corn were known to have been grown by Virginia Indians in the pre-contact era and have been found in contexts at James Fort: Eastern eight-row (Flint corn), and high-row, Southern Dent (Gourdseed or Shoepeg corn). In general, Flint corn is found in areas north of Virginia and Southern Dents are found to the south. The fact that both have been recovered in excavations at James Fort may indicate an overlap in the two zones in which the different types were cultivated.