Faial’s early economic growth was propelled by cultivation and processing of “woad”: a blue-colored dye produced from a plant of the same name (in Latin, Isatis tinctoria). It was the only source for blue dye until the end of the sixteenth century when Portuguese trade routes started bringing indigo from the far east. Economic and population growth was also spearheaded by many legends of tin and silver perpetuated by members of the Portuguese court.
The economy of the island generated some prosperity until 1957, when the Capelinhos Volcano erupted in the western part of the island which propelled emigration to North America. The emigration was supported by promises of aid made by Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy to the affected populations.
The main agricultural resources of the island are potatoes, cereals, fruits, and wines, along with cattle (which makes up its dairy and meat industry). The city of Horta is the center of commerce and services of the island.
In the 1970s after the “Revolution of the Carnations” Portugal experienced economic growth and an airport was opened. With the opening of the airport came an increase tourism. After Portugal’s entry into the European Economic Community the standard of living rapidly grew and today the population generally prospers.