Plymouth’s economy was limited by its geographic location. The lack of good port facilities limited trade. Additionally, Plymouth’s settlers lacked the necessary capital and contacts with English commercial circles to expand their economy. The Plymouth economy was influenced by the sea. Fish and whale oil were popular exports, though the trade was generally only coastal rather than transatlantic. Shipbuilding and associated trades were also important in Plymouth. There also was limited success with ironworks and some local industries, including grain and sawmills.
Agriculture was primary to the colony. Communal grazing lands supported a variety of livestock. Edward Winslow, one of the original colonists, made several trips between England and the Plymouth Colony. In 1624, he returned to the colony with three heifers and a bull for the entire community. This livestock would prove to be essential. With the arrival of the Puritan settlers at Massachusetts, the sale of livestock to colonists there became a major source of revenue. An additional source of revenue for the colonists was the export of beaver skins to England. The government regulated the economy. The primary ways it exercised this power were through setting general prices and wage levels and by granting monopolies that served the best interest of the public as a whole.