The Garo is essentially a cultivator. "Cultivating the soil," says Major Playfair, "with him is the beginning and the end of his life's work, and the occupation to which he devotes all the energy he possesses."
Like the other hill-tribes of Assam they follow the destructive jhumming method of cultivation. An extensive area covered by valuable trees is chosen each year for an entire village, the trees are felled and after allowing sometime for the timber to dry the entire area is destroyed by fire. After manuring the land in this fashion, seeds are broadcast. Similar treatment is given to another area the following year. As land in the possession of a particular village is limited in area the villagers have to go back to the same land after some years (the jhumming cycle) and destroy once again the trees which in the meantime have grown. Because of growth of population the jhumming cycle is gradually becoming shorter and shorter, from ten or twelve years to five or even three years. The soil erosion caused by this method of cultivation is enormous. Unless this devastation of virgin forests can be stopped by replacing the present methods of cultivation by permanent ones, such as terracing as practiced by the Angami Nagas, most of these hill areas will turn, in the not distant future into the deserts unfit for human habitation.
Millets, maize, vegetables, ginger and indigo are grown extensively. Cashew- nuts and tapioca have been recently introduced. But the most important crop next to rice is cotton, abundant cultivation of which gives the Garos an economic advantage over the other hill- tribes of Assam. By far the largest part of the wealth of the Garos comes from this product. Lac is also cultivated in several parts of the district.