Māori were essentially an agricultural people, with a large portion of their time and attention being given to cultivation.
According to tradition, the original inhabitants (ngā iwi taketake) of Aotearoa or those who were descendants of the gods who often came from the heavens to this land in times past, possessed no cultivated food products. They existed entirely on the natural products of the forest, inland waterways, and the sea.
The voyagers who came from Hawaiki to Aotearoa, brought food plants with them, such as kumara (sweet potato), hue (gourds), taro, and yams, as well as the rituals and tools they used for cultivation.
Each village was surrounded by gardens, and everyone was involved in cultivation. Homage was paid to the god of cultivated food Rongomatāne, to ensure good crops. There was little idleness. Chiefs and their families set the example of labour, which was followed by all.