In 1900, Staten Island had as many as 300 farms. The island was primarily agricultural, and remained so far later than the other boroughs, with working farms into the 1960s. Oystering in the waters surrounding Staten Island was active and profitable. In 1885, an estimated 200 men or 150 families in Staten Island were supported by the oyster industry. The 1880 estimate of the production of oysters for Staten Island was 130,000 bushels a year, perhaps going up to as much as 200,000 by the 20th century.

Early black communities organized around oyster fishing in Tompkinsville, Stapleton,
West Brighton and Sandy Ground, and grew after the Civil War.

Greeks worked truck farms near Bull's Head in central Staten Island until the mid-1960s.