In early times the land around Cowfold appears to have been used mainly for woodland pasture and orchards, although various parks established over the parish may have been used for hunting. Much of the land around Cowfold was owned by six manors, Beeding, Ewhurst, Shermanbury, Streatham, Wallhurst and High Hurst, and each of these had farms in the area; for example Ewhurst Manor had nine farms in including, Baldwins, Brownings, Capons, Cratemans, and Picknowle (now Parkminster); Shermanbury Manor also had nine including Bulls, Eastridge, Homelands, Lidford and Gervaise; Streatham Manor had ten including Cotlands, Potters, Eastlands and Godshill; and Beeding Manor had twelve including Denwood, Drewitts, Drodges (the cottages below Crabtree), Graffield and Singers.
Agriculture and the wealth it generated impacted greatly on the development of Cowfold village including improvements to St Peter’s Church, and the building or extension of some of the houses in Cowfold.
Agricultural work, and its connected occupations including shepherds, sheepshearers and gamekeepers, was the dominant occupation in the area for many centuries; in 1871 for example, agricultural occupations accounted for 40% of employment in the Cowfold area. This remained the case up to the middle of the 20th century when other occupations, including retail and light industry and commuting to work outside the area, increased.