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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]
Ported from
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What an acre may produce[edit | edit source]

We have shown what an acre has produced. You must figure out for yourself what you can make your acres produce and what the product can be sold for.

All progress in agriculture has come heretofore through experiments,made mostly by uninformed and untrained men. What may not be done by practical learning and applied intelligence?

The wonderful recent advances have been made in just that way.

"The modern improved methods in agriculture, known collectively as intensive farming, have nearly all had their origin in the hands of truck farmers and market gardeners. No class of the rural population is more alert in utilizing the newest researches and discoveries in all lines of agricultural science, and none keeps in closer touch with the agricultural colleges and experiment stations." ("Development of the Trucking Interests," by F. S. Earle.)

Still, it is not advisable for the ordinary city dweller, however intelligent, without other means and without either experience or study, to cast himself upon a small patch of ground for a living;but if he can give it most of his time mornings and evenings, or if he sees, as many do, that he will be forced out of a position, it would be well for him seriously to consider intensive cultivation as a resource.

It would be the greatest blessing to our day laborers if they could secure an acre of land which they could till in conjunction with their other labor. If time and change 90 works upon society as to put the laborer out of a job, he will be safe in his acre home and can live from it and be happy and contented.

The time required to cultivate an acre is much less than is generally supposed.

The maximum time required seems to be that given in the University of Illinois Experiment Station at Urbana, Bulletin 61, by J. W.

Lloyd, at the rate of 140 hours (say 14 days) with one horse and 250 hours (say 25 days) for hand labor. With a great variety of crops,or with poor labor add one half to this time allowance. The results vary greatly.

An acre of northeastern Long Island will produce 250 to 400 bushels of potatoes at a selling price of fifty to seventy five cents per bushel, which wholesale, at those figures much below present prices,bring an income of $125 to $300 to the grower. The actual cash outlay in one instance was:

Seed Potatoes


Commercial Fertilizer


Spraying for blight and pests




250 bu. selling at the minimum price


Less the cash outlay


Income to the grower from an acre


A production of 400 bushels costs no more cash outlay per acre,while the income is big wages to the farmer.

If but one acre be grown and hand labor is used, the labor might cost an average of $40 per acre, with wages at $1.35 to $1.50 per day, and if the produce is shipped any distance by rail and consigned, it would cost $40 to $50 to pay selling charges, leaving you a profit of about $30 per acre on this crop. Other crops in the rotation might not be so profitable, hence it is not fair to figure an income on one. But, of course, in the above estimate, we are considering mainly the cases where the gardener does the work and earns the wages himself.

An acre will bear if devoted to each crop, of:

Blackberries, 10,000 qt., which at 7 cent a qt., would bring $700.00 Dewberries, 9,000 qt., say at 7 cent a qt. 630.00 Gooseberries, 250 bu. at $2.00 a bu. 500.00 Strawberries, 8,000 qt. at 5 cent a qt. 400.00 Currants, 3000 plants yield 6000 bu. 200.00 Raspberries, per acre 200.00 to 600.00 Peaches, per acre 200.00 to 400.00 Pears, per acre 200.00 to 500.00 Apples, per acre 100.00 to 500.00 Grapes 100.00

Five, or even three acres will give a good living if this can be approximated:

An acre will produce in vegetables--either

Asparagus, 3000 bunches at 20 cent a bunch, would be $600.00 Cauliflower, 100 to 300 bbl. at $1.50, say 450.00 Onions, 600 bu. at 75 cent per bu. 450.00 Cabbage Seed, 1000 lb., at 40 cent a lb. 400.00 Brussels sprouts, 3000 qt. at 10 cent a qt. 300.00 Celery, 600 bunches at 5 cent a bunch 300.00 Parsnips, 300 bu. at 1.00 a bu. 300.00 Lettuce, 9000 heads at 3 cent a head 270.00 Lima Beans, 50 bu. at $5.00 a bu. 250.00

We may hope to get from an acre, respectively in

Potatoes, 300 bu. at 75 cent a bu, would be $225.00 Cabbages, 20 tons at $10.00 a ton 200.00 Carrots and Beets, 200 to 400 bu 150.00 Tomatoes, 200 crates at 75 cent a crate 150.00 Early Peas, 50 bu. at $2000 a bu. 100.00 Turnips, 400 bu. at 25 cent a bu 100.00 Spinach, 100 bbl. at 50 cent a bbl. 50.00

Mr. D. L. Hartman, whose experience in the North is given on a later page, has since moved to Little River, Florida. He writes in 1917:

"I have recently sold the last strawberries of a small plot. Owing to a combination of circumstances it produced, I think, the largest value per area of any crop I have ever cultivated. The main factors were high prices realized and heavy yield.

Area of plot, a trifle over one fifth acre. Total yield, 2295 quarts, total receipts, $ 4703.80.

First berries picked January 2nd; last berries picked June 26th;Variety, Brandywine.

"This shows a yield of 11,107 quarts per acre worth at the same rate, $3398.00.

"The fruit was all sold to stores in Miami (five miles distant) and brought an average you notice of 30-2/3 cents per quart for the crop, the highest bringing fifty cents per quart. The average price during the ordinary seasons is about twenty cents per quart. My ordinary average yield is less than half of this yield or about 5000 quarts per acre, and that is much above the average of most yields of other growers. The crop was started with northern plants, set just as for matted rows in the North, then early in November plants were dug up and set out in order in rows 12 inches apart and 8-1/2 inches apart in the row, leaving every fifth row vacant for paths.

It is super close culture; one plant per square foot for the total area or a little more.

"I often think that if I were operating in the North again I would like to try strawberries the same way, except that I would do the transplanting September 1st instead of November 1st as here, since I would expect them to grow larger and of course I would plan to mulch them during the winter. It would take a lot of planting but I think it would insure a tremendous yield. I find that the digging and planting including watering of 1500 plants makes ten hours' work with elimination of all waste motion."

You will not get as good results as Mr. Hartman's average, unless you learn as much as he has learned; he has succeeded by well-directed work in different places and circumstances

The South and West are not the only places in the United States where a man can live on one acre of ground, by intensive culture and with irrigation. The Eastern and Middle States can present just as good, if not better, opportunities, especially where land in small tracts is available near the large cities.

_The Farmers' Advocate _(Topeka, Kansas) says of lands which ten years ago were among the much advertised "abandoned farms" of the eastern states: "All over the eastern states where farming twenty years ago was pronounced a failure under Western competition there has sprung. up this intensive cultivation. Violets are grown in one place and tuberoses by the acre in another. Celery is making one man's large profit near Williamsburg. Special fruits are cultivated.

Currants are grown by the ton and sold by the pound, yielding a profit. This is in progress over the entire range of farming."

At Hyde Park, a little village three miles north of Reading, Pa.,there is a small farm owned by Oliver R. Shearer, who may be said to be one of the most successful farmers in the United States. This farm contains 3-1/2 acres, only 2-1/2 of which are cultivated, but they yield the owner annually from $1200 to $1500. From the profits of his intensive farming, Mr. Shearer has paid $3800 for his property, which, besides the land, consists of a modern two-story brick house, with barn, chicken-yard, and orchard, the whole surrounded by a neat fence. He has also raised and educated a family of three children.

There are no secrets, Mr. Shearer says, about his method of farming.

A study of conditions, the application of common-sense methods and untiring energy, he asserts, will enable others to do what he has done, but that most men would kill themselves with the work.

In an agricultural exchange a small farmer tells that he makes a living and saves some money from a ten-acre farm. Before he was through paying for his land, which cost $100 an acre, building his house, fences, and outbuildings, he went in debt $1300, having about the same amount to start with. He is near a good market, and in five years has paid off the debt, and has been getting ahead ever since.

He raises poultry and small fruits, and says that it is a good combination, as most of the work with poultry comes in winter, while he can do nothing out of doors. He maintains that a ten-acre farm rightly managed will bring a good living, including the comforts and some of the luxuries of life, and says: "This I have fully demonstrated, and what I have done others may do."

_Maxwell's Talisman _says:

"E. J. O'Brien of Citronelle, Alabama, received $170 clear from an acre of cucumbers shipped to the St. Louis market. He was two weeks late in getting them on the market. He says those two weeks would have meant nearly double the net returns. He does not consider this an extraordinary return and hopes to do better next year."

"Professor Thomas Shaw writes of a plot of ordinary ground in Minnesota comprising the nineteenth part of an acre, which for years kept a family of six matured persons abundantly supplied with vegetables all the year, with the exception of potatoes, celery, and cabbage. In addition, much was given away, more especially of the early varieties, and in many instances much was thrown away."

"In the market-gardens of Florida we see such crops as 445 to 600 bushels of onions per acre, 400 bushels of tomatoes, 700 bushels of sweet potatoes; which testify to a high development of culture."

We select from Bailey's "Principles of Vegetable Gardening" the following general estimates:

_Beets--_Average crop is 300-400 bushels per acre.

_Carrots--_Good crop is 200-300 bushels per acre.

_Cabbage--_8000 heads per acre.

_Potatoes--_The yield of potatoes averages about 75 bushels per acre, but with forethought and good tillage and some fertilizer the yield should run from 200 to 300 bushels, and occasionally yields will much exceed the latter figure.

_Rhubarb--_From 2 to 5 stalks are tied in a bunch for market, and an acre should produce 3000 dozen bunches.

_Salsify--_Good crop 200-300 bushels per acre.

_Onions--_A good crop of onions is 300-400 bushels to the acre, but 600-800 are secured under the very best conditions.

The price per ton for horseradish varies from ten to fifty dollars,and from two to four tons should be raised on an acre, the latter quantity when the ground is deep and rich and when the plants do not suffer for moisture.

Averages are very misleading and it would be better to pay little attention to them. They are like the average wealth possessed by a class of twenty schoolchildren. The schoolmaster who had $20 asked what was the average wealth of each, if the total wealth of the class was $20. The brightest boy answered, "One dollar." The schoolmaster asked Tommy at the foot of the class if he did not think they would be a prosperous class. He answered, "It depends on who has the 'twenty.'"

But, all the more, good averages imply some wonderful yields. The following are actual averages in the United States Twelfth and Thirteenth Census Report, respectively.

Flowers and plants, $2014 and $1911; nursery products, $170 and $261; sugar cane, $87 (4 tons per acre) and $5540; small fruits, $81 and $110; hops, $72 (885 lb. per acre) and $175; sweet potatoes, $37 (79 but per acre) and $55; hemp, $34 (794 lb. per acre) and $54;potatoes, $33 (96 bu. per acre) and $45; sugar beets, $30 (7 tons per acre) and $54; sorghum cane, $21 (1 ton per acre) and $23;cotton, $15 (4-10 bale per acre) and $25.70 flaxseed, $9 (9 bu. per acre) and $14; cereals, $8 and $11.40.

Specialties, however, often do much better. For example, R. B.

Handy, in Farmers' Bulletin No. 60, United States Department of Agriculture, tells us that a prominent and successful New Jersey grower says:

"I cannot give the cost in detail of establishing asparagus beds, as so much would depend upon whether one had to buy the roots, and upon other matters. Where growers usually grow roots for their own planting the cost is principally the labor, manure, and the use of land for two years upon which, however, a half crop can be had.

"The cost of maintaining a bed can only be estimated per acre as follows:

Manure (applied in the spring) $25.00 Labor, plowing, cultivating, hoeing, etc 20.00 Cutting and bunching 40.00 Fertilizer (applied after cutting) 15.00

Total $100.00

"An asparagus bed well established, say five years after planting,when well cared for should, for the next ten or fifteen years, yield from 1800 to 2000 bunches per annum, or at 10 cents per bunch (factory price) $180 to $200."

"If the rent, labor, etc., for a crop of asparagus is $200 per acre,and the crop is three tons of green shoots at $100 per ton, on the farm, the profit is $100 per acre. If we get six tons at $100 per ton, the profit, less the extra cost of labor and manure, is $400 per acre." ("Food for Plants," by Harris and Myers, page 19.)

Around Bethlehem, Indiana, the farmers raise hundreds of tons of sunflower seed every year, and the industry pays better than anything else in the farming line. A good deal of the seed is made into condition powder for stock, occasionally some is made into so-called "olive oil" which is said to surpass cotton-seed oil.

Large quantities are used for feeding parrots and poultry, or consumed by the Russian Hebrews who eat them as we would eat peanuts.

A careful investigation made in 1898 of the value of certain productions taken from farms in New York State shows that the culture of apples is very profitable. From twenty adjoining farms in one neighborhood in western New York, the report gave an average annual return of $85 per acre at the orchard, covering a period of five years. Another report gave an average of $110 annual income per acre for three years, and these results were obtained where only ordinary care was given to the orchard. But note this.--

One orchard, where the trees had been well sprayed to protect the fruit from insect injuries, and the soil well cultivated and properly fertilized, gave a return in one year of $700 per acre, and for three years an average income of $400 per acre.

One man bought a farm of 100 acres in Central New York with a much-neglected orchard upon it of 30 acres, paying $5000 for the whole. He cultivated the orchard, pruned and sprayed the trees thoroughly, and in seven months from the time he purchased the farm,sold the apple crop from it for $6000 cash.

"Peanuts: Culture and Uses," by R. B. Handy in Farmers' Bulletin No.

25 of the United States Department of Agriculture says:

"According to the Census the average yield of peanuts in the United States was 17.6 bushels per acre, the average in Virginia being about 20, and in Tennessee 32 bushels per acre. This appears to be a low average, especially as official and semiofficial figures give 50 to 60 bushels as an average crop, and 100 bushels is not an uncommon yield. Fair peanut land properly manured and treated to intelligent rotation of crops should produce in an ordinary season a yield of 50 bushels to the acre and from 1 to 2 tons of excellent hay. (Of course better land with more liberal treatment and a favorable season will produce heavier crops, the reverse being true of lands which have been frequently planted with peanuts without either manuring or rotation of crops.) Besides the amount of peanuts gathered, there are always large quantities left in the ground which have escaped the gathering, and on these the planter turns his herd of hogs, so that there is no waste of any part of the plant."

Tobacco is a paying crop if the soil is just right. Two thousand pounds per acre can be raised on favorable sites. Connecticut tobacco brings, in ordinary times, from twenty to thirty cents a pound; from four to over six hundred dollars being the possible return.

Some Connecticut soils raise Sumatra tobacco equal to the imported crop that sells in this country at fancy prices. The Department of Agriculture claims that the Cuban type of tobacco can be closely approximated in Pennsylvania and Ohio. But it must be remembered that the soil is of paramount importance in tobacco raising. The Department has prepared soil maps of most of the important tobacco districts of the United States. If you think your land may be suited to tobacco, apply there for information. You may make your land invaluable.

D. L. Hartman, _Rural New Yorker, _gave the following facts and figures: "During last season the sales from one acre of early tomatoes amounted to $454, and from a trifle more than two and one half acres, including the acre of 'earlies,' the remainder mid-season and late plantings, the total sales amounted to over $900. From a little less than one acre and a half $555 worth of strawberries were sold, while the returns from early cabbages during the last few years have been at the rate of about $300 per acre.

These statements are not made in the spirit of challenge. The results are gratifying to me, because larger than anticipated; but much greater values can be and are produced. In fact, the limit of value that may be grown on an acre of land no one can tell. I have a small plot of ground containing less than one sixth of an acre,planted one year with radishes and lettuce, followed by eggplant and cauliflower, and the next year to radishes alone, followed by egg-plant, and each year the total sales amounted to over $200, at the rate of $1200 per acre. Greatly exceeding even this was a smaller plot, measuring 20 X 65 feet, last year, planted first to pansies, plants sold when in bloom, followed by radishes, of which one half proved to be a worthless variety (it lay idle long enough to have produced another crop of radishes), then half was planted to late lettuce, the other half being sown for winter cabbage, plants yielding no cash return. Yet the total sales for the season from this small plot, less than one thirty-second of an acre, was $86.78 at the rate of the surprising sum of $2780 per acre, and could easily have been raised to the rate of $4,000, and that without the use of any glass whatever, Truly the possibilities of the soil are unknown."

The cooperative features used by Northeastern Long Island intensive farmers are worthy of imitation. In the community of Riverhead a club buys at wholesale rates commodities which the farm and household require. The club does a large business, and has a high rating in the commercial agencies. In another instance at Riverhead an association markets the crop of cauliflower, sending cars of such produce to Cincinnati and Chicago. These are the best forms of cooperation.

"In the market-gardening sections the banks show prosperity. In the towns of Riverhead and Southold there are savings banks with deposits of $4,000,000 each, and five business banks which are doing a thriving business. In this stretch of thirty miles on eastern Long Island the farms are mostly free from encumbrance of any kind.

" It should be noted, however, that their towns have the open Sound with its bays which furnish open ways for transportation and an unowned field for work." (From circular of the Long Island Guild of New York City.)