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Part of Three Acres and Liberty
Type Book
Keywords agriculture, public domain, farming, food
Authors Steve Solomon
Charles Aldarondo
Published 2021
License [ Public Domain]
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"If we get every one out on the farms, then there will be an over-production of farm products and a fall in prices."

True, but there are farmers who could do better in towns; what we want to do is to make it easy for people to get on the land about the cities, then it would be equally easy for those farmers who are better adapted for city life to get near the cities.

Under present conditions, where the worker is forced out fifteen or twenty miles from the town by the high price of land and the large amount of land required, the farmer is as much cut off from the city as the city dweller is cut off from rural life.

We need not be afraid to teach men better ways; there will always be plenty too stupid or too old or too isolated to learn; these will remain a bulwark against too sudden change.

Dr. Engel, former head of the Prussian Statistical Bureau, informs us that "Scientific farming succeeds because a given amount of effort, when more intelligently directed, produces greater results.

Inasmuch, then, as the amount of food which the world can consume is limited, the smaller will be the number of farmers required to produce the needed supply, and the larger will be the number driven from the country to the city. It has already been observed that if 34 scientific methods were universally adopted in the United States,doubtless one half of those now engaged in agriculture could produce the present crops, which would compel the other half to abandon the farm." This is "Engel's Law."

This "argument" assumes that we are now utilizing all the land possible and that every one is fully supplied with food. But when we consider the great masses of people in the slums of all cities who are always underfed and whose constant thought is about their next meal; when we see hundreds of able-bodied men waiting in line until midnight for half a loaf of stale bread, surely it seems that there is a possibility of keeping all of the present farmers at work, if not of finding new fields for others, if we make our conditions such that there will be opportunities for every able-bodied worker to labor at remunerative employment.

Professor L. H. Bailey, a most industrious and accurate observer,says: "Dr. Engel's argument rests on the assumption that agriculture produces only or chiefly food; but probably more than half of the agricultural products of the United States is not food.

It is cotton, flax, hemp, wool, hides, timber, tobacco, dyes, drugs,flowers, ornamental trees and plants, horses, pets, and fancy stock,and hundreds of other non-edible commodities. The total food produce of the United States, according to the twelfth census, was $1,837,000. The cost of material used in the three industries of textile, lumber and leather manufactories alone was $1,851,000,000.

"Dr. Engel thinks that the outlay for subsistence diminishes as income increases; but comforts and luxuries increase in intimate ratio with the income, and the larger part of these come from the farm and forest. Dr. Engel, in fact, allows this, for he says that 'sundries become greater as income increases."' We have already abundance of information about almost every county in the Union, published by Boards of Trade and land boomers, like the following about "Oxnard, Ventura County, the center of the famous lima bean district in California. For a year the returns from farm products alone, in this vicinity, are estimated at over $2,000,000. The sugar factory, which uses 2000 tons of beets every twenty-four hours, requires the yield of about 1900 acres every season. The beet crop is rotated with beans, and the factory's supply is kept good by systematic methods. Two thousand head of cattle are being fattened at the present time in the company's yard on the beet pulp. Much of the pulp is also sold to local stockmen,who value it highly for feed. The factory turns out 5000 bags of sugar every day." And again:

"Eastern farm lands steadily declined in price up to about 1902, so that Eastern land sold for less than Western land of the same quality and of like situation; but the tide seems at last to have turned, and much money is now being made in buying up cheap farms and especially in sub-dividing them for small cultivators."

That sort of thing is interesting; but it is not what a man wants to know--he is anxious to learn how much he can make and where and how to do it.

The man who seeks a comfortable living will do better to rent on long lease or buy a few acres convenient to trolley or railroad communication with a city; besides the returns which will come to the farmer from the use of a few acres, if he is the owner he will get a constant increase in the value of the land, due to the growth of the city. If the city grows out so that the land becomes too valuable to farm, he will be well paid for leaving.

(Although progress is continually forcing laborers back upon less desirable land, their loss, unless they are the owners, is the landowner's gain.)

The amount of product to be grown for one's own use depends on the size of the family and its fondness for vegetables.

"An area of 150X100 feet [about two fifths of an acre] is generally sufficient to supply a family of five persons with vegetables, not considering the winter supply of potatoes; but the acres must be well tilled and handled." (Bailey, "Principles of Vegetable Gardening.")

"The produce that could thus be obtained from an acre of land well situated would abundantly supply with nearly all the vegetables named, nineteen families, comprising in all 114 individuals."

In our garden we must know what we want and know how to get it.

(It is impossible to treat exhaustively of the various crops in a book of this kind. On onion culture alone there are four standard books, besides seven or eight recent experimental station bulletins.

"In a family garden 100 X 150 feet (which equals six New York City lots), the rows running the long way of the area, eight or ten feet may be reserved along one side for asparagus, rhubarb, sweet herbs,flowers, and possibly a few berry bushes. A strip twenty feet wide may be reserved for vines, as melons, cucumbers and squashes. There remains a strip seventy feet wide, or space for twenty rows three and one half feat apart. This area is large enough to allow of appreciable results in rotation of crops; and i! it is judiciously managed, it should maintain high productiveness for a lifetime." (Bailey, "Principles of Vegetable Gardening."))

"The things to be considered in the home garden are: (1) a sufficient product to supply the family; (2) continuous succession of crops; (3) ease and cheapness of cultivation; (4) maintenance of the productivity of the land year after year.

"The ease and efficiency of cultivation are much enhanced if all crops are in long rows, to allow of wheel-tool tillage either by horse or wheel-hoe."

The experience of the Vacant Lot Gardeners (Chapter IV) shows that if the land be near a large market where the product can be peddled or sold by the producers or by those (as in Mr. Rowe's case), with whom he directly deals, more than twenty-five dollars capital is not necessary, but Peter Henderson ("Gardening for Profit") estimates that to get the best results, $300 capital per acre is required for anything less than ten acres.

Where the land is favorably situated a fortune may be made in cultivation of a few acres--with brains.

Quinn says ("Money in the Garden") that he knows a large number of market gardeners worth from ten to forty thousand dollars each, none of whom had five hundred dollars to begin with.

If one has not enough money to get all that can be gotten out of his plot, it is best to put part of the land into clover to fit it for later use or to use it for raising grass.

Results undoubtedly come from hard work; but it is not necessary, in order to cultivate a little land successfully, that you should work all day on your hands and knees; if you can raise fruit or nuts,this is not needed at all.

But for vegetables a certain amount of it is necessary--when there is a large job of that kind of weeding to be done, you can hire Italians or other foreigners to do it better and cheaper than you can do it yourself. Those who will read this book can earn more with their heads than their hands; but when weeding is needed after a sudden shower and there is no one else, you must do some of it yourself; the weather will not wait for you to "get a man," and if you are not willing to do such things, your chances of success are greatly lessened.

Here is the experience of one who "got a man":

"My garden, to begin with, was in the most rudimentary condition,having been allowed to run to grass. After digging up a spot about ten feet square in the turf, taking the early morning for the work,I decided that it would require all summer to get the garden fairly spaded up, so I hired a stalwart Irishman to do the work for me,which he did in a week, charging me nine dollars for the job. As he professed to be also an expert in planting vegetables, I bought a supply of seeds in the city and intrusted them to him, assuring myself that once in the ground the rest of the work would fall to me; if I could not keep a garden patch fifty feet square clear of weeds, I had better abandon the business at once, and all hopes of making a living out of scientific gardening. The beginning was an unfortunate one. The weather happened to be first very wet, and then so dry and hot that my vegetables were unable to break their way through the baked earth. When my peas and beans still gave no signs after being in the ground for two weeks, I discovered that the whole work would have to be done over again. A Presidential campaign was beginning, which kept me in town often late at night, so that the chief labor of the garden fell to my faithful Irishman, who got far more satisfaction out of it than I did. The vegetables finally did come up above the surface, and many an evening I finished a hard day's work by pumping and carrying hundreds of gallons of water to pour upon potato plants, tomatoes, beans, and other things which a friend of mine, an expert in such matters, assured me were curiosities of malformation and backwardness. My Irishman told me that it was all for want of manure, and by his advice I bought six dollars' worth of manure from a neighboring stable, and had it spread over the ground. The bills for my garden were meanwhile mounting up. I had begun the spring with a garden ledger, keeping an accurate account of every penny spent, and hoping to put on the other side of the page a tremendous list of fine vegetables. The accounts are before me now, and I presume that every one who has been through the same experience has preserved some such record." (Naturally, if he began that way.) ("Liberty and a Living," by P. G.

Hubert.)

If your idea of farming is to bury "some seeds" in untilled ground,regardless of suitability, and "wait till they come up," you will wait in vain for a decent crop.

Says Professor Roberts in the "Farmstead" (Macmillan), "Mushrooms sell at fifty cents per pound; maize for one half cent per pound.

Why? Because anybody, even a squaw, can raise maize, but only a specially skilled gardener can succeed in mushroom culture."

But enough has been said to show that you must cultivate with brains. The Germans say, "What your head won't do, your legs have to."

"We'll have a little farm,A pig, a horse and cow And you will drive the wagon While I drive the plow,"

is very pretty. The horse and the pigs are practical, if you can take care of them yourself; pigs are good farm catch-alls. If you have to pay a man to do it, you had better hire your horses and buy your pork.

Two well-groomed, healthy cows, one calving in the spring and one in the autumn, can be made a source of profit, and of valuable manure,if you have land enough in a neighborhood where up-to-date parents are willing to pay ten to twenty cents a quart for pure milk for their infants or even for family use. But your land and your own baby's care and milk will probably be enough for you to attend to promptly and thoroughly every day--and night.

It is an age-old experience that if we take care of a little land,the land will take care of us. In Ferrero's "Grandezza e Decadenza di Roma" is an interesting account of Marcus Terentius Varro's "De Re Rustica." Varro wrote in the year 37 B.C., and as he was then eighty years old, he had seen the transformation of Italy from an agricultural to a manufacturing, trading community and the accompanying wreck of the old agricultural system, which, of course,he laments.

The growth of vast landed estates largely held by imperial favorites, as Pliny said, destroyed Italy. So fearful has the destruction been that it is only in our generation that the Campagna at Rome, which was once an intensely fruitful quilt of garden patches, has been reclaimed from the fever-smitten swamp to which vast landlordism had reduced it.

In the third book of "De Re Rustica," Varro recommends as his remedy, intensive cultivation close to the cities, and the breeding of "fancy stock," including pigeons' snails, peacocks, deer, and wild boars.

He tells how an aunt of his made 60,000 sesterces ($3000) in one year by raising thrushes for the Roman market, at a time when an excellent farm of about 200 acres only yielded 30,000 sesterces per annum. He quotes another case of one who made 40,000 sesterces per annum from a flock of one hundred peacocks, by selling the eggs and the young. Those old Roman women weren't so slow.

Ferraro calls Varro's work one of the most important for the history of ancient Italy and says historians have made a mistake in not reading it.

At the time of the migration of the barbarians (350 to 750 A.D.),the lot of each able-bodied man was about thirty morgen (equal to twenty acres) on average lands, on very good ground only ten to fifteen morgen (equal to seven or ten acres), four morgen being equal to one hectare. Of this land, at least a third, and sometimes a half, was left uncultivated each year. The remainder of the fifteen to twenty morgen sufficed to feed and fatten into giants the immense families of these child-producing Germans, and this in spite of the primitive technique, whereby at least half the productive capacity of a day was lost. (From "The State," by Franz Oppenheimer, p. 11.)

In the Orange Judd prize contest, merely for the clearest account of a garden, not for results at all, a number of the contestants raised produce at the rate of $150 to $400 per acre and over, even in semi-arid regions; for instance, L. E. Burnham says that he raised on his first garden of about one third of an acre in eastern Massachusetts, garden stuff which he sold to summer cottagers for $61.69.

This took about eight days' work, nearly all with a wheel hoe.

Remember about the present increased and changing prices and costs? At the present writing, 1917, the advances in costs and prices would probably average about three quarters, and those of common labor perhaps one third over those given in the text. In other respects,the instances and authorities, still pertinent, have been retained in this revision.

It would have been waste, not thrift, to get a new authority to tell us that straw makes the cleanest mulch for strawberries; that's the reason they were called strawberries; and they grew just the same way ten years ago.

L. E. Dimosh of Connecticut raised on one quarter of an acre $146.21, of which over $85 was profit.

In other cases the profits were $142 (Gianque, Nebraska) per acre;and over $295 (Dora Dietrich, Pennsylvania); with the rather exceptional profit at the rate of $570 (Mrs. Hall, Connecticut).

Some showed a loss.

Some of the town or city lots yielded very high profits; one of a third of an acre gave a profit of $224.33 (Edge Darlington, Md.).

The summary "based upon the reports of five hundred and fifteen gardens in nearly every state and territory and in Canada and the provinces, may be considered accurate and reliable. Covering such a vast territory local conditions are avoided." It shows that "the average size of farm gardens was 24,372 square feet, or about half an acre, the average labor cost $26.34, the average value of product was at the rate of $170 per acre, and the net profit over $80 per acre."

To get results we must first learn and then teach what we know. The finest game in the world is to teach. No one ever knows anything thoroughly till he tries to teach it.

When you tell a person how to do a thing, he doesn't know how to do it himself. When you show him how to do it, still he doesn't know that he could do it himself. But when you get him to do it himself,then he knows.

Country boys will believe that early tomatoes can be raised by starting them in the house; but like the rest of us they don't know how to do it, and when spring comes and it is time to do such things, they are busy on the farm. There are several schools trying the experience of allowing the children to plant in window boxes in early April and are showing them how to do it. But as there is not room for all the children to plant in these window boxes, there is a new idea which originated in the country, where the children are engaged in the fall and the spring assisting their parents at agricultural work.

It was hard to get up any interest in school gardens, but it was all the more important that they should have agricultural instruction in the winter time.

At Berkeley Heights, N. J., we devised this simple plan, and it works. We made a number of wooden boxes, one foot wide, two feet long, so they will just fit on the ledge of a school desk. They are only three inches deep, with a bottom of tin, turned up at the edges, or of well painted pine, white-leaded at the joints. There is no drainage, since we discovered that if they are not watered too much, they do better without drainage. The holes usually made in the bottoms of flower boxes carry off a lot of plant food with the water that runs through.

Now, how to store these boxes when they are not in the sunny places near the windows? Why, we set up four posts of one-inch stuff at the four corners, so that the box looks like a kitchen table turned upside down (see illustration). Now the boxes filled with earth and with the young plants growing can be stored at night, one on top of the other, by the wall of the schoolroom.

If it is going to be cold, and over Sundays, the pile of them can be covered with newspapers, which keep them from getting chilled and from drying up, or the boxes can be covered and carried home by the children. We found that for most plants nine inches is high enough for the posts, and that well-seasoned one-inch lumber is heavy enough not to warp if it is painted inside and out, and it is not too heavy to lift.

By the way, better paint the joints before the sides are nailed together. It makes them more water-tight. Four screws at the corners will make them still tighter.

The scholars raise lettuce, parsley, onions, and strawberries, and all kinds of small plants, as well as flowers, in the winter; and when the plants get too big or two crowded for the boxes, they are separated and transplanted into other boxes to be taken home.

This was so successful that we devised a big window box which is suited for home use also; it is just as wide as the window and half as long again as it is wide. But this box does not stand outside on the window sill; if it did, the plants would freeze. One end only rests on the inside window sill where it gets the sun; the end is supported by two legs of the same height that the window sill is from the floor.

When a nice warm day comes, the other end of the box is pushed out of the window and the sash closed down on it to keep it from falling out. A couple of cleats or nails in the window jamb help to hold it in place.

Of course, the box has to be watched and taken in if it turns cold,but it's astonishing how much can be raised and how much more can be learned out of season by the school desk boxes and the home window sliding boxes.

Try it and see for yourself.

The children can learn as much about some things from a box 2X1 ft.

as they can from a children's garden. Here are a couple of samples of what the kids themselves in a city school think of it.

"DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

_"Office of the Principal of Public School No. 7_

"VAN ALST AVE., ASTORIA, QUEENS

"I inclose a few compositions that were written by some of our boys and girls of the Fourth Year. You will recognize the descriptions of your Garden Trays for classroom use Unfortunately the free space in the classroom is limited, so we have found it necessary to allow each pupil only part of a box.

"The children themselves are delighted, as you can see by their compositions.

"Very sincerely yours, (Signed)"

AGNES A. CORDING

"Asst. Principal."

P. S. No. 7

Grade 4 A--April 2l, 1915.

Arthur Miller, Age 10

OUR GARDEN

At first we planted radishes then onions and lettuce and beans and sunflowers. Each one of us have 1/4 of a box. When we had finished that we brought them up to the front of the room and then watered them and went home.

Anna Duerr, Aye 8

MY GARDEN

I have a garden. It is a box. I have a quarter of a box for my very own. My garden has five rows. In the first there are radishes, in the second lettuce, in the third onions, in the fourth beans, in the fifth sunflowers. I hope my garden grows up.

Of course these are only preparatory for profitable work. We have cases in which $2000 has been recorded from sales in one year from one acre, and many cases in which at least $1000 worth of produce has been sold from an acre. These are sales, not profits.

Such results are not due to the boundless and fertile soil of the new world nor to small farming alone--they are due to intelligence.

Professor Ronna gives the following figures of crops per acre at Romford (Breton's Farm): 28 tons of potatoes (say 952 bushels), 16 tons of marigold, 105 tons of beets, 110 tons of carrots, 9 to 20 tons of various cabbages, and so on.

It was suggested to the Agricultural Department that it might fix standards of what is a good attainable crop.

On every golf links we have what is called a Bogie score posted up.

That is a score that a certain mythical Captain Bogie, supposed to be an average good player, could make on those links. On one typical club-course, for instance, the Bogie score is 42. Though it has been done in 37, the ordinary player congratulates himself when he gets down to the Bogie score.

Now, if there were standards attainable to ordinary intelligent and good cultivation set in each section, it would enormously encourage farmers to reach them, which may be of great importance.

One of the heads of the Department replied as follows:

'"In regard to fixing a standard for each farmer to strive to attain, I think that a very good idea; but the standard for each crop in each particular locality would necessarily be somewhat different from that in every other locality. Persons who have had experience in experimental work keenly appreciate these points. The work which is done upon one soil formation under different climatic conditions in one season, does not necessarily find a duplicate in any other locality, and the experience is that what is accomplished in one year would not be duplicated on the same soil and under the same management again in several years, for the conditions under which agriculture is carried on are so many of them outside of the control of the operator that it is very difficult to predict results or to attain any fixed standard. This is necessarily so with an operation which has so many uncertain factors to deal with as agriculture. Humidity of the atmosphere and of the soil, the available plant food in the soil, methods of tillage, fertilizers used, recurrence of frosts, amount of sunlight, the altitude and latitude of different localities, all have a bearing upon crop production. It is, therefore, very difficult to fix any approximate standard or average production for any particular locality without basing it upon a long series of years. I think, however, that it is a subject worthy of agitation, and it might inspire agriculturists to better work were such an ideal fixed upon."

This indicates that each experiment station or progressive farmer or teacher of agriculture might advantageously establish the local "Bogie score" of what might fairly be expected.

We know how misleading averages are. The man who tried to wade across a stream whose average depth was two feet, was drowned. "The writer used to go to a fishing club of which Cornelius Vanderbilt was a member. One of the standard jokes there was that the thirty members are worth on an average over two million apiece, that is,Cornelius sixty millions, and the rest of us (comparatively) nothing. Which are you to be? A Vanderbilt among cultivators, or the other fellow who makes the 'average'?" ("Money Making in Free America," by the Author.) But even making all allowances we see that we must cultivate much better than the "average," to make anything more than the farmer's hard living off the land. Peter Dunne tells us what kind of a grind that is.

"This pa-aper says th' farmer niver sthrikes. He hasn't got th' time to. He's too happy. A farmer is continted with his farm lot. There's nawthin' to take his mind off his wurruk. He sleeps at night with his nose against th' shingled roof iv his little frame home an'dhreams iv cinch bugs. While th' stars are still alight he walks in his sleep to wake th' cows that left th' call f'r four o'clock. Thin it's ho! f'r feedin' th' pigs an' mendin' th' reaper. Th' sun arises as usual in th' east, an' bein' a keen student iv nature he picks a cabbage leaf to put in his hat. Breakfast follows, a gay meal beginnin' at nine an' endin' at nine-three. Thin it's off f'r th'fields where all day he sets on a bicycle seat an' reaps the bearded grain an' th' Hessian fly, with nawthin' but his own thoughts an' a couple iv horses to commune with. An' so he goes an' he's happy th'livelong day if ye don't get in ear-shot iv him. In winter he is employed keeping th' cattle fr'm sufferin' his own fate an' writin' testymonyals iv dyspepsia cures." ("Mr. Dooley Says.")