The coming profession for boys[edit | edit source]
In order that as little as possible may seem to be taken for granted or as mere expressions of the opinions of the author, we cite the views of specialists as to the possibilities of this field, so new in this country, of intensive agriculture.
These will show that the conviction has become general that, as workers, as teachers, and as discoverers, there is no career more inviting or more lucrative or more dignified than that of the skillful foster-father of plants.
"Children brought up in city tenements tend to become vicious and sickly, but if transported to country homes they may grow up strong and self-respecting men and women.
"There are hundreds of applicants for every position in the cities,and competition forces the pay down to the lowest level. Living expenses are heavier. The risk to health from sedentary occupations,long hours in ill-ventilated offices, stores, and workshops is serious.
"There are few inducements to out-door exercise. Even if he lives at home, the boy who is forced to the street or into the factory before he has the strength or education to do good work remains an unskilled worker all his life.
"Manufacturing is upon a larger and larger scale. The division of labor is greater and greater. Not only does the gulf between capitalist and laborer widen, but with it the gulf between skilled and unskilled labor." ("What Shall Our Boys Do for a Living?" Charles F. Wingate.)
It is the city that breeds or attracts most of the pauperism and crime. The country has its own healthy life.
Every one is born with some natural gift, and it is a good thing to discover early in life what one's natural gifts are so that each may be educated in the direction suited to natural capacity.
How are you to treat a lad who has naturally an inclination for the work on the farm? In the first place do not provide him with any spending money unless he earns it. The prime thing necessary is to give the boy a personal interest in what is going on upon the farm.
Give him a plot of land as his own, let him understand that anything he may grow upon this land shall belong to him, but do not give him this plot and say, "There, take that; do as you like with it," he will wonder what to do with it. He will need somebody to help him by teaching him what he is to do. Enter into a partnership with him at the start, give him some instruction as to what it is best for him to do with his plot. Find out his inclinations; give him sympathy and help. Bring out his natural aptitude for farming life, teach him method in his work; teach him to think his way out; and, best of all, teach him to work for definite results; that is what is wanted in any line of life, especially in farm life.
Let the work of the boy have a meaning and a purpose. Let him understand that certain results cannot be accomplished in any other way, and give him chances to go outside and see what other people are doing. Let him see good scientific agriculture and be encouraged to pursue such methods.
Provide for him the very best reading that can be found in agricultural journals and books. Let him have three or four years at an agricultural college. All the influences there point to agriculture as the best calling for a young man who is fit for it,whereas in other colleges the influences are all in the opposite direction. At our agricultural colleges a youth has all the necessary advantages of general education, and also an education in the lines fitting him especially for the calling he has selected.
(United States Department of Agriculture, Bulletin 138, condensed.)
"Among farmers and gardeners not enough thought is given to the whys and wherefores, or cause and effect; as a rule, they go on year after year without profiting by the personal opportunity afforded them of observation, or by the results of experiments at scientific stations.
"With rare exceptions the young farmer and gardener takes up his work, not from the scientific side, but strictly from the labor side; and he begins at the bottom, meeting the same difficulties as did his father and too often not acquiring information beyond what his father possessed.
"This should not be; agriculture should be taught in all our public schools in country districts, as it has been taught for years in Germany and Austria. It should be elevated as an art; in its higher estate it is already an art. No pursuit possesses a greater scope for development; the field is almost unoccupied by leaders,scientific and practical." (Burnett Landreth, in _999 Queries and Answers._)
In accordance with these ideas, the Baron de Hirsch Agricultural School at Woodbine, New Jersey, is giving practical courses in agriculture to Jewish boys, on the principle of individual plots--all free where necessary.
The trustees of the State Agricultural College of New Jersey, at New Brunswick, have established winter courses in agriculture, open to all residents of New Jersey over sixteen years of age. Courses will be for twelve weeks, and only a small entrance fee is required; few books will be needed.
Other states are doing likewise; all will need many teachers and experimenters. At present all who know anything about intensive agriculture are snapped up by the numerous government experiment stations at good salaries. The land like that of the Rockefellers, the Paynes, the Cuttings, on which farming is carried on by unnecessarily expensive methods, needs the services of trained agriculturists and professional foresters. The Division of Forestry at the start employed eleven persons, but now it has in the field as many hundreds of employees, including a lot of trained foresters.
The railroads also see the profit in teaching farming, and are devoting more and more money to experiments and lectures to show the farmers that they can get more and better crops with the same effort by intelligent selection of seeds.
The Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railway Company ran its first Seed and Soil Special over the entire system in the winter of 1904-1905, and has lectured to hundreds of thousands of farmers since.
They report to us that "there is no doubt that the lectures did a great deal of good, and necessarily the larger increase of crops which followed is due to the scientific methods of farming expounded by the various professors." The late President James J. Hill wrote much about the small farms' large yields.
The hundreds of thousands of "war gardens" unskillfully conducted and glutting the local markets with crops all matured at about the same local time will unreasonably disgust many with intensive cultivation, especially those who work but do not think. The remedy is more instruction. The effect the agricultural colleges and experiment stations is plain to the eye in the better appearance of farms as we near the centers of instruction.
Some years ago a clergyman published a book upon the Adirondacks; it was full of poetry, and he sent men up there who afterwards became known as "Murray's Fools." They knew nothing about the life and had no suitability and little preparation for it. We do not wish to bring out a crop of "Three Acres and Liberty Fools." We are telling what has been done and what can be done again. It does not follow that every man can or will do it, much less teach it or advance the art, but the field is a large one and holds out great promise to those who persevere and excel in it.
If any one thinks that the profit of the earth will come to the cultivator without very intelligent and steady work, he is mistaken.
No owner of land, unless others require it to live upon, can make money by neglecting it.
Says _Maxwell's Talisman:_ "The greatest good that can be done to the American farmer to-day is to teach him to make the greatest possible profit from the smallest tract of land from which a family can be supported in comfort. A great influence operating to-day against keeping the boys in the country is that the boy does not have money enough to buy a farm. It is unfortunately true that in some places there is a trend in the direction of absorbing farms into still larger farms with a consequent diminution of population, as in Iowa and other sections. The remedy for this is to demonstrate that if the value is in the boy rather than in the farm, and the boy is taught intensive, diversified, scientific farming, a good living with a surplus profit that will provide amply for old age, may be made from a comparatively small tract of land. The tract may be, say, ten acres, with ample cultivation, irrigation, and fertilization, or even without irrigation because a hoe and a cultivator in the hands of a scientific farmer may bring as good and better results in providing moisture for growing plants as can be had from a ditch and unlimited water in the hands of an ignorant farmer."
The field of discovery is always limitless, and it is to those boys or girls who devote their attention to this that the greatest return will come. "What a fine thing it would be to find even one plant free from rust in the midst of a rusted field. It would mean a rust-resistant plant. Its off-spring would probably be also rust resistant. If you should ever find such a plant, be sure to save its seed and plant in a plot by itself. The next year again save seed from those plants least rusted. Possibly you can develop a rust proof race of wheat! Keep your eyes open." ("Agriculture for Beginners," by Burkett, Stevens, and Hill, pages 76-78.) So you may pluck gain out of loss.
If you want to do experiments, the influence of ether on plants is one new and wonderful field. It seems to induce artificial rest, so that lilacs, for instance, can be made to bloom twice by a treatment, the last time near Christmas. E. V. Wilcox says in _Farming _that in 1899 a small quantity of durum or macaroni wheat was introduced into this country for trial.
It was found profitable in localities where there was too little rain for ordinary wheat. Six years later, 20,000,000 bushels per year of the wheat was grown in the United States. Its production has increased greatly every season and has added materially to the total of the wheat crop.. Thorough fall cultivation has been found to increase the yield, and in some parts of the wheat belt one in five of tile farmers has already adopted the practice. In certain states where manuring has been thought unnecessary, experiments have demonstrated that the yield may be be increased 60 per cent by this simple practice. The wheat production of Nebraska was increased more than 10,000,000 bushels by the introduction of a hardy strain of Turkey red wheat. Swedish select oats in Wisconsin have greatly augmented the oat yield of the state. In 1899 six pounds of the seed was brought to the state and from this small beginning a crop of 9,000,000 bushels was harvested five years later.
"Mr. Gideon, of Minnesota, planted many apple seeds, and from them all raised one tree that was very fruitful, finely flavored, and able to withstand the cold Minnesota winter. This tree he multiplied by grafts and named it the Wealthy apple. It is said that in this one apple he benefited the world to the value of more than one million dollars. You must not let any valuable bud or seed variant be lost." ("Agriculture for Beginners," page 61.)
"This fact ought to be very helpful to us next year when planting corn. We should plant seed secured only from stalks that produced the most corn. If we follow this plan year by year, each acre of land will be made to produce more kernels and hence a larger crop of corn, and yet no more expense will be required to raise the crop." (Same, page 71.)
_The World's Work_ tells how the country got a new industry.
Mr. George Gibbs, of Clearbrook, Wash., has made his "stake" by growing tulip and hyacinth bulbs. He had a little place on Orcas Island, in Puget Sound. He did not know anything about growing flowers, but he did know that certain varieties of bulbs brought good prices in the East. He was observant enough to see that the moist, warm, climate and rich soil of the Puget Sound country were peculiarly favorable to flowers. He had bad luck with his bulbs; that only meant that he still had something to learn. He kept his nerve even when he went bankrupt. His friends told him he was wasting time, but they could not shake his faith.
In twelve years he found that he was right. His wonderful gardens were making him rich. Other men have gone into the business, but he was first and has kept his lead. He has made the Puget Sound country the greatest rival of Holland in the sale of flowering bulbs.
Quantities of wild herbs, fruits, and roots that no one eats are good; the Jesuits had a list of over two hundred kinds that the Indians ate, but it was lost. Some one can do a great service by making it up again by research and experiment. Thousands more of the wild things must be good for dyes, fabrics, and fodder.
Fame like Burbank's and fortune awaits the one who is a good self-advertiser and can find the use of the poetic daisies,goldenrod, and thistle, the all-pervading "pusley," and such other vegetable vermin.
An interesting experiment is conducted in growing tea with colored child labor, at Tea, South Carolina, by the aid of education and machinery and the cooperation of the Agricultural Department at Washington, who will furnish particulars. Whatever may be its outcome, this will give an opening to some intelligent cultivators,and it points the way to other fields.
Those who are first in raising new or improved plants find a waiting market for them.
_The Market Growers Gazette, _of London, England, reports that Mr.
A. Findlay, Mairsland, Auchtermuchty, Scotland, sold one season to five leading growers whose names are given five seed potatoes at L 20 each (which would be, perhaps, $500 a peck). He says enthusiastically: "It is as perfectly round-shaped a potato as can be imagined. There is a slight dash of pink on the outer rim of the eye. My stock of it is very small, only 126 lb. and I do not care to sell any. If next year's crop yields as well as this year's, we shall have twenty times that quantity." Mr. Findlay has other seed potatoes, just as high priced, for which he wants $125 per lb.,which, he says, "means that I do not want to sell any."
This shows what progressive people think of the real value of good seed.
It is worth mentioning that "The land on which these are grown is not highly manured; the only artificial manure that it has received is about 200 lb. of potash per acre. It has the drawback of being rather stony."
Of course this is "a fad"; it is doubtful if it will pay any one to give such prices for seed except to sell to some bigger fool than himself. Of course, also, the market for a particular fancy thing may soon be overstocked, but it seems to be a nice thing for the Findlays meanwhile, and it does good in teaching people to appreciate good things.
Yet the average potato patcher prudently saves his small potatoes for next year's seed, which is just as if a breeder were to keep the colts that were too poor to sell, to be the parents of his herd. In the dark ages of farming--to wit, in 1881, for this is a true story--a minister of the Gospel came into possession, by inheritance, of a fifteen-acre farm a short way from Philadelphia. He found the soil a reddish, somewhat gravelly clay, and so worn out from years of cropping that it did not support two cows and a horse.
City born and bred, he was encumbered with no knowledge of agriculture which had to be unlearned. He began a careful and systematic study of the agricultural literature, and ultimately developed a novel system of dairy farming to which he adhered religiously.
The farm Iying near the city is high-priced land; for this reason, and because of the limited acreage, the cows were kept in the barn the year round. For six years his bill for veterinary services was $1.50, while the income from the milk of his seventeen cows was about $2400 a year. In addition, from four to six head of young cattle were sold annually, netting about $500 a year. As the stock on the farm was stall fed every particle of plant food contained in the stable manure, liquid as well as solid, was utilized. No fertilizer was ever purchased. Yet all of the "roughage" for thirty head of stock was raised on the thirteen acres of available soil.
Only $625 a year was expended for concentrated feeding stuffs. The net earnings of the farm for the period averaged more than $1000 a year. And this was during the early days of his experience; later he made more. Professor W. J. Spillman, of the Agricultural Department, visited him in 1903, and studied the methods employed. Then, he says, the rush to see the farm became so great that the owner had to give it up. Few people who know nothing about it, and won't learn, can take even three acres and make anything off it. To get the phenomenal yields takes capital--sometimes large capital, wisely spent. Sometimes we read of immense products "per acre"; this often means the product of a single rod of ground, this gives at the rate of so much "per acre," or might, if extended.
But any one can take a little bit of ground and use it thoroughly and increase his borders and his knowledge as he goes on. He will find plenty to pay him for doing or teaching whatever he has learned to do that no one else has done "If a man make but a mousetrap better than his fellows, though he makes his tent in the wilderness,the world will beat a path to his door."
The mission of this book is accomplished if it interests you to consider the possibilities of making a living on a few acres and leads you to investigate. It is not written as a textbook, for, as has been shown, there are authorities enough cited to supply all the technical information needed. Its sole object is to show what has been done and what can be done on small areas and to show that life in the country need not be so laborious if the same methods are used which make successes of business in other lines.
If it does this and is the means of checking in any degree the reckless trend of people from the country to the cities, the author will feel that his efforts have been well repaid.