The Young Farmer
Some Things He Should Know
THOMAS F. HUNT
Imperial man! Co-worker with the wind And rain and light and heat and cold, and all The agencies of God to feed and clothe And render beautiful and glad the world! —Stockard
NEW YORK ORANGE JUDD COMPANY
LONDON KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRUBNER & CO., Limited 1913
ORANGE JUDD COMPANY
Entered at Stationers' Hall LONDON, ENGLAND
PRINTED IN U. S. A.
CHAPTER PAGE I ESSENTIALS OF SUCCESS 1 II MEANS OF ACQUIRING LAND 14 III FARM ORGANIZATION 31 IV OPPORTUNITIES IN AGRICULTURE 44 V WHERE TO LOCATE 57 VI SIZE OF FARM 64 VII SELECTION OF FARM 71 VIII THE FARM SCHEME 88 IX THE ROTATION OF CROPS 101 X THE EQUIPMENT 109 XI HOW TO ESTIMATE PROFITS 117 XII GRAIN AND HAY FARMING 135 XIII THE COST OF FARMING OPERATIONS 148 XIV THE PLACE OF INTENSIVE FARMING 162 XV REASONS FOR ANIMAL HUSBANDRY 172 XVI RETURNS FROM ANIMALS 185 XVII FARM LABOR 195 XVIII SHIPPING 210 XIX MARKETING 220 XX LAWS AFFECTING LAND AND LABOR 233 XXI RURAL LEGISLATION 248 XXII RURAL FORCES 268
THE YOUNG FARMER: SOME THINGS HE SHOULD KNOW
ESSENTIALS OF SUCCESS
Columella, the much traveled Spanish-Roman writer of the first century A. D., said that for successful farming three things are essential: knowledge, capital and love for the calling. This statement is just as true today as it was when written 1900 years ago by this early writer on European agriculture.
Every man who loves the calling and has an ambition to become a successful farmer should understand that no two of these essentials are sufficient, but that all three are necessary. Although this is so simple as to be almost axiomatic, it is indeed surprising how few people believe a knowledge of farming is really essential to success.
America is strewn with cases of failure, in farming, by men investing capital acquired in other business. In nine cases out of ten failure has been due to lack of knowledge of farming.
There is known to the writer an expert mineralogist and metallurgist. On the subject of coal and gold mining he can give the most valuable information. His advice is constantly sought on all such matters. Instead of investing his money in mining, on which he is a recognized authority, he has invested it in a farm, about which he knows next to nothing. He has not even had the advantage of being raised on a farm, since his father was a railroad man.
A mechanical engineer remarked that if he had $25,000 he would invest it in a farm. This man is supposed to be an expert in business methods as applied to manufacturing in general, and he is especially conversant with the manufacture and trade in automobiles. About all he has seen of farming he has observed from the window of a Pullman car or from the steering wheel of an automobile. Instead of investing his earnings in some manufacturing business, about which he has spent years of study and in which he has had some training, he would invest it in farming, of which he has only the most rudimentary knowledge, if only he had sufficient capital. As a matter of fact, he is more in need of knowledge than of capital.
Even farmers of experience do not always realize the training required to succeed in farming. A letter was received by the dean of a certain agricultural college saying that a graduate of another agricultural college had taken one of the poorest farms in his neighborhood and was raising better potatoes than anyone else could raise. The letter asked that information be sent by return mail as to how this young man could be beaten in raising potatoes. Of course the answer had to be sent that while information upon raising potatoes could easily be supplied, although not in the limits of an ordinary letter, the training in observation, judgment and reasoning faculties essential to meet the daily problems as they arise could not be supplied.
There is no objection to men of other vocations adopting farming as an avocation if they can afford it. It is a rational form of pleasure for wealthy people, and one in which they can often be of great service. This cannot be said of all forms of relaxation. Wealthy men have been of special service to the cause of agriculture by promoting the breeding of improved live stock. Men in other callings should clearly understand, however, that if they have a farm merely as a place to spend a week end, that they may expect to find the financial returns unsatisfactory.
To no one is there more significance in the old school aphorism "knowledge is power" than to the young man who is to become a farmer. While it is not necessary to be educated in schools in order to gain knowledge, yet the schoolroom with all its limitations is usually the most economical and most efficient method of acquiring certain forms of knowledge essential to every successful man or woman. A farm-to-farm canvass of a certain region of the state of New York discloses the fact that farmers with college training are obtaining a higher income from their farms than those whose school days ended with high school. Similarly, those who have finished the high school are more prosperous financially than those who never advanced beyond the grades. The investigation showed, for example, that with the farmers under observation the high school education was equivalent to $6,000 worth of 5% bonds. Farming is an occupation requiring keen observation, sound judgment and accurate reasoning, all attributes which are strengthened greatly by proper education. This is so true that many men, perhaps most men, are forty before they have grasped the problems which the truly successful farmer must solve.
A considerable part of the knowledge essential to success in any pursuit is acquired by actually working at the occupation, or, as we say, by practical experience. Some features of any occupation can be obtained in no other way. A preliminary education may, however, greatly reduce the time necessary to acquire even this practical experience. For example, a course in shop work as taught in technical high schools and colleges, requiring two hours a day for five months, may shorten the time of apprenticeship by one or more years, in acquiring the trade of carpenter or iron worker. In the same manner a course in butter making, cheese making or floriculture, may shorten the time required to obtain the necessary practical details by ten months or even more. Eventually, also, the man thus trained will be the better man.
If the industrial activities of the world be divided into farming, mining, manufacturing, trade and transportation, it will be noted at once that farming is the only one which deals with living things. In fact, the definition of agriculture, in its broadest sense, is the economic production of living things. The farmer is thus brought face to face with some of the most difficult and intricate problems with which the human race has to grapple. It is this fact that makes farming, in some ways, the most uncertain as well as the most fascinating occupation known to man. The fact that the farmer is dealing with living things puts his occupation in a class by itself for a number of reasons, one of which is germane to the subject of this chapter.
In most occupations a larger part of the knowledge necessary to success can be acquired by doing than is the case in farming. Locomotive engineers are trained for their responsible duty while firing the engine. The brakeman becomes a conductor by assisting the latter. A bank cashier is usually a promoted bank clerk. Each obtained the knowledge essential to success largely by oft-repeated performance.
While, of course, there is much the farmer can learn only by experience, there are many things essential to his success that the mere performance of the necessary farm operations will not teach him. Spreading manure will never teach him that stable manure should be supplemented with phosphoric acid in order to get the best results. The growing of clover will not teach him that mineral fertilizer may keep up the fertility of the soil where clover grows luxuriantly and occurs in the rotation at definite intervals. Feeding cattle will not teach him that a good ration for milch cows is one containing one pound of digestible protein to seven pounds of digestible carbohydrates, provided it is palatable and, at least, two-thirds of the total ration is digestible. Nor will the feeding of such a ration teach the farmer how to calculate the most economical ration from feeding stuffs at current prices. The cause of potato blight and the methods of combating it cannot be learned from the operation of planting and cultivating potatoes.
These are only a few illustrations—they might be multiplied indefinitely—to show that farming is peculiar in that performance of the daily duties does not give the knowledge essential to success in the same measure that it does in such occupations as banking, trade and transportation. Yet, curiously enough, while no man would undertake to run a locomotive engine or perform the duties of cashier of a bank without thorough training, there are many who will undertake to farm without education or knowledge of the business.
The young man who intends to become a farmer should fully understand that if farming is not a business worthy of a thoroughly educated man, it is not a business worthy of him; because every young man is worthy of a thorough education, provided he is a man of clean habits and good purposes. Do not allow yourself to be persuaded that you lack ability to acquire a good education. All you require is opportunity, determination and honesty of intention.
Farming is worthy, moreover, of the most highly educated as well as the most capable. If lack of means prevents a young man from taking a four-years' training in agriculture, he will find a two years' course offered by many of the state agricultural schools. While it is obviously impossible to give in two years as much training as in four years, these two years' courses contain the more technical subjects and are usually very thorough and efficient. No young man, no matter how thorough his previous training, need hesitate to pursue one of them.
There are, however, young men who cannot spare the time and expense of even two years' training. For such many state agricultural colleges offer winter terms of eight to twelve weeks. These courses are arranged to allow the student to specialize along some particular line. The better prepared the man is who enters these winter courses the more he will benefit by them. This leads to the caution that such courses should not be substituted for the education offered in the public schools, but should only be sought after all the opportunities for education at home have been exhausted.
For the somewhat older young man who is now farming and cannot leave his farm or for the younger man as a preparation for the short courses, one or more correspondence courses will be found useful. Not all colleges conduct correspondence courses, but fortunately those who do will accept students from other states on equal terms. There are many persons who will testify to their helpfulness.
Every young farmer should have a carefully selected library of standard books on agriculture, not only for reading but for reference. An instance of the value of a standard book of reference came recently to the attention of the writer. An educated young farmer in Iowa paid $2.50 for a peck of crimson clover seed which he sowed in the spring in his oats. A reference to any standard publication on forage crops costing less than the peck of seed would have disclosed to him the probable hopelessness of success under the conditions named.
The books to include as well as to exclude from a select list will depend upon the previous training of the man making the purchase, the character of the farming to be pursued, and, to some extent, to the section of the country where the farm is located. Any bookseller can secure catalogs issued by firms making a specialty of publishing agricultural books. For the average reader these catalogs are sufficient to enable one to make intelligent purchases.
Every farmer should take one or more agricultural journals. At present journals are published on every phase of agriculture and many of them are of high character. Publishers are always glad to send sample copies free of charge. By examining these copies intelligent selection may be made.
The writer of this book has had rather unusual opportunity during more than a quarter of a century of observing the influence of education upon the success, financial and otherwise, of those who engage in farming. As the result of these observations he wishes to urge every young man to allow no one to persuade him that because he is to be a farmer, he does not need a thorough education. Remember that you have but one life to live, and if you let the golden opportunity pass, the mistake can never be rectified. No man ever regretted that he had too much education—thousands have regretted the lack of it.
Every young man, no matter what his occupation is to be, should receive some school training, however little it may be, every year until he reaches the age of majority. Otherwise the age of majority should be changed. In no occupation is this more important than in farming, because the operations involved in farming fail to develop certain attributes necessary to the largest success.
A man cannot have a mind too well trained, although it is possible that he may have too much undigested information. The mental condition may not be unlike the physical condition of the man who is burdened with too many clothes. When in action he may need to strip his mind of unnecessary information in order to make the most efficient mental effort.
MEANS OF ACQUIRING LAND
Of the three essentials to successful farming—capital, knowledge and love for the calling—only the first can be obtained on credit, and this only in part. Usually when a man desires to buy a farm he must have, at least, one-third of his desired investment in cash. The amount to be invested will include, not only the cost of the land, but the cost of the necessary equipment of the farm. The percentage of the total capital which may be borrowed, however, will depend on many circumstances and is usually a matter of first importance. No man should borrow more than a banker or other reputable business man considers a safe investment.
Usually there is no better counselor as to a safe investment than the local banker. The banker should, and generally does, stand in much the same relation to the financial welfare of the community as the physician to its physical, the minister to its moral and spiritual welfare. The inexperienced person, even if he does not need to borrow money, would do well to consult some responsible banker in the neighborhood before making an investment in farm lands.
The young man should, as early as possible in life, open an account with the local bank, not merely for the sake of the habit of saving which this will encourage, but in order to come into personal business relations with the banker. Instead of concealing from the bank his business operations, he should seek the advice of his banker on all important financial matters.
On an average, every farm changes hands at least three times in a century. Every farm, therefore, must be acquired by purchase, inheritance or gift at more or less irregular intervals. In the neighborhood in which the author was born, there is not a farm but has changed hands since he can remember. In many cases the farm is now in the possession of a son; in some instances in that of a grandson of the owner as known by the writer in his boyhood days. In this particular community the acquirement of a farm by a person not related to the former owner has occurred in relatively few instances.
As a rule, when the farm has been acquired by a son, the latter has operated the farm as tenant or partner for a period previous to his ownership and during lifetime of the father. In some instances the son has boarded with the parents or the parents with the son and his wife; or, in the case of a daughter, with the daughter and son-in-law.
Where there are several heirs, as is apt to be the case, the son operating the farm is required to purchase or rent the interest of the other heirs, unless the farm is large enough to be divided, which is less seldom the case than is popularly supposed. Thus, if there are 200 acres of land worth $50 an acre, and five heirs, the young farmer may inherit $2,000, and be required to assume the remaining $8,000 as an obligation. He may borrow this money at the bank, placing a mortgage upon the farm, thus settling with the other heirs at once. Or he may pay the other heirs rent on their share of the farm. In any case he will, if successful, gradually cancel his obligation and become owner of the farm. That no heir is willing to assume this responsibility is the most common reason for a farm changing from one family to another, and the disruption of community interests.
The customary, or normal, method of acquiring land has been and still is a combination of tenancy, inheritance and mortgage. Without some tenant system and without the farm mortgage, it would be impossible for the average young man to acquire a farm. That men are constantly advancing from farm tenant to landowner is shown by statistics giving the percentage of tenants by ages. The majority of farmers under 30 are renters. Most farmers over 45 are owners of farm land. Thus in Illinois, in 1900, approximately 75% of the farmers under 25 years of age rented their farms, while less than 20% of the farmers over 55 years of age were tenants.
The question for the young man to consider is not what effect the tenant system has upon the welfare of the nation or what political ills may be connected with farm mortgages, but how to make use of these necessary and beneficent agencies for the acquirement of a farm. A system of tenancy which leads to absent landlordism and a permanent tenant class is thoroughly vicious, while a practice which enables a man to become, within a reasonable period, a land-owning farmer is a thoroughly approvable and, indeed, necessary method of acquiring land.
As already indicated, most young men will need in some form or other to employ more capital than they possess when they start farming. They must, therefore, determine what is the best form of obtaining the necessary capital, viz.: whether to borrow the money on a farm mortgage, or whether to use the capital someone else has invested in a farm by paying him rent for it. The conditions of tenancy in this country are often not the most fortunate, yet the young man of character may well find, for a time, at least, it would be best for him to rent a farm and invest his own capital in the necessary machinery and live stock to conduct it properly.
Much will depend on the character of the arrangement which may be made. Usually more favorable terms can be secured from landlords owning large numbers of farms than from the owner of one or two farms. The large landowner is content with a moderate income from each farm, because in the aggregate his income is sufficient for his needs, while the retired farmer who must live off the proceeds of a single farm is apt to drive a hard bargain and may not be over particular concerning the maintenance of said farm. The writer knows a farmer who owns a good farm purchased from the proceeds of a rented farm. He continues to live on the rented farm and rents his own, because, it is said, his landlord is willing to make him more favorable terms than he makes to his tenant.
The more capable the tenant the more favorable the terms he may exact. Certain tenants are in demand and can have their choice of farms. A prosperous-looking man was pointed out recently as an example of a tenant capable of buying a farm in one of the most highly developed counties in the United States. It was stated that as a renter he could have his choice of any farm in the county, but that he did not have a dollar invested in farm land. Possibly he invests his surplus earnings in stocks and bonds.
It is not the present purpose to determine the relative merits of the different systems of land tenure, but to try to be helpful to the beginners by discussing the usual practices in order that he may know whether the arrangement he is considering is customary and whether it is likely to prove satisfactory.
Every third farm in the United States is rented under one of three methods:
1. A definite money rent may be paid, ranging from $2 to $6 an acre for land on which the ordinary, staple crops are raised. Perhaps $3 to $4 is more commonly paid for such land.
2. In the South it is common for the landlord to require a definite number of pounds of cotton per acre or a certain number of bales of cotton for a one or two-mule farm, as the case may be. This is classified by the census authorities as "cash rent," but will here be called "crop rent." Crop rent is less common than either cash or share rent in the northern and western states, although perhaps the most common form in the South. Crop rent, however, is met with in some sections, as in western New York where certain large landowners require a definite number of bushels of wheat, oats or maize and make certain stipulations as to hay and straw. They charge a cash rent for pasture.
3. Much the most common form of tenancy, however, is that where a certain percentage or share of the product is given the landlord for the use of the land.
Before entering into a discussion of the customary conditions under which land is rented on shares it may be helpful to point out the fundamental differences between cash rent, crop rent and share rent. In case of cash rent, the landlord takes no risk, either as to the price or the amount of product. In the case of crop rent, he shares the risk as to the variation in price, but not as to the amount of crop raised. The latter may depend upon the clemency of the weather or upon the industry and skill of the tenant. In the case of share rent, both landlord and tenant share equally as to variation in the price and the amount of product.
Three forms of share rent may be recognized:
(a) Where landlord furnishes only real estate (land and buildings), the tenant supplying everything else, including teams, machinery, labor, seeds and fertilizers. Under these conditions it is customary for the landlord to receive one-third and the tenant two-thirds of the crop raised or the product produced.
(b) The second form of share rent is where the landlord furnishes the real estate; the tenant supplies teams, tools and labor, while the landlord and tenant own equally all live stock other than teams, and bear equally all other expenses, as for seeds, fertilizers and cost of threshing. Under this system, it is customary for landlord and tenant each to receive one-half of all sales. As each owns one-half of all the live stock (teams excepted), each shares equally in all increase. The landlord pays for the cost of permanent improvements such as new buildings, fences, repairs and drainage. The tenant, in making these improvements, in some cases, agrees to furnish two days' labor for one day's pay. The theory is that, while the increased value of the real estate is of advantage only to the landlord, the improved facilities are of some benefit to the tenant. Since he can do this work at odd times when not otherwise employed, he can afford to take a generous view of the matter. It is obvious that if he remains on the farm long enough the tenant will come into his share of the benefit, while if he intends to leave the farm soon he may not. There is in the mind of the writer a prosperous tenant who, after eighteen years on a single farm, declared he had no desire to make a change, and doubtless there are thousands of similar instances.
Under the plan in which the tenant furnishes everything except the real estate, the tendency of the farm is apt to be downward both as to the improvements and the crop-producing power of the soil. The interests of the landlord and tenant are not mutual. This condition of tenancy leads to growing only those crops which can be readily sold from the farm and to frequent changes of the tenant, with its accompanying auction sales of property. In one region, where this system prevails, it has been facetiously remarked that each tenant has a sale every year to determine how much he is worth. It is less trouble than taking an inventory.
In the second form of share rent, the interests of landlord and tenant are more nearly mutual. Under this system, animal husbandry is possible, which, generally, involves pasturing and feeding a considerable part of the crops upon the farm, and even the purchase of nitrogenous by-products. All this leads to permanency of tenant, since the landlord and tenant are both interested in the live stock and other personal property, which cannot be divided, with economy, each year. It is interesting to note that the house is the least likely to be kept in repair. The improvement of the barns and fences or the laying of tile drains increases the landlord's income, but he has no financial interest in the house, so long as the tenant is willing to live in it.
There are, of course, many variations in the arrangement of details between the landlord and tenant. On many dairy farms in the northeastern states it is customary for the landlord to own the cows. While the landlord and tenant share equally from the sale of milk, butter or cheese, in such cases the increase in the herd belongs to the owner of the land. Hence, money from the sale of any animal, old or young, goes to him. This is because the landlord must keep up the herd. If a cow is sold, he must furnish another to take her place.
(c) The third type of tenant farming is where the tenant furnishes nothing but his labor and managerial ability, and receives a share of the sales, which may be one-third. This is rather an unusual type of tenancy, since, where the landlord furnishes all the capital, it is much more common to employ a farm manager at a monthly wage. The wage varies greatly, but is seldom below forty dollars or above seventy-five dollars per month without board, especially to those who have not hitherto had much managerial experience.
Various attempts at profit sharing have been made. A recent instance is of a young married man taking 160 acres of tillable land where the landlord has a fairly well-stocked farm. The young man is to have a house and everything in the way of living the farm can furnish. He is to receive $20 a month and one-half the net proceeds, or, what is called in Chapter XI, the farm income. In considering a contract of this kind it is necessary to make a careful distinction between: (1) Gross sales, (2) net proceeds, viz.: the gross sales less the expenses of running the farm, and (3) profits, which may be defined for the purpose of this discussion as the net proceeds less the interest on the investment.[A]
Assuming 160 acres of land, all tillable, devoted to dairy farming in eastern United States, gross sales may be estimated at $20 an acre, or an annual gross income of $3,200, and the net proceeds at $10 an acre, or $1,600. Under these conditions the young man's income would be $240, received as wages, plus $800, as his share of the net proceeds, or a total of $1,040 a year.
Generally speaking, probably a more satisfactory method, both for landlord and the farm manager, would be to pay the latter as nearly as may be what his services should be worth and give him in addition one-half the profits; that is, one-half of that which was left after deducting the expenses of running the farm and interest on the capital invested.
Merely for illustrating the method of calculation, let us assume this farm with its equipment to be worth $100 an acre, or $16,000. Let the farm manager be paid $840 a year. Assume the same gross income, $3,200, and the same cost of operating, $1,600, to which add $600, the additional salary of the manager. The total expense is then $2,200, and the net proceeds $1,000. If 4%, or $640, was charged on the investment, there would be $360 to be divided between landlord and manager, making the salary of manager $1,020. A simple calculation will show that if 5% were charged, the salary of the manager would be $940 a year, and if 6%, $860 a year. The advantage of the latter method of employment is that the young man runs less risk, while both receive equally any surplus beyond fair wages and fair interest on the investment.
In this connection it is important to consider how much may be reasonably paid for managerial ability. A study of the figures on page 133 will show that the labor income from a considerable number of farms of the better class was about 7% of the capital invested in the farms. The inference is, therefore, that if a man has $10,000 wisely invested in a farm he may pay $700 for a working manager; or, to put it in another form, before the owner of a farm can afford to pay $1,200 a year for a farm manager, he should have about $17,000 invested. Moreover, this investment must be in a form calculated to return an income. If part of it consists of investments for pleasure or fancy, such investment will not only not add to the income, but will detract from it by increasing the cost of maintenance.
This is scarcely less important to the employee than it is to the employer, since if the owner pays a higher salary than the manager can earn, he quite surely will sooner or later discharge his manager. This may result disastrously for the discharged young man, not merely on account of the loss of employment, but because his failure may militate against his securing satisfactory employment elsewhere. When an employer is seeking a man, he looks for one who has succeeded. There is an old saying, "Nothing succeeds like success," and it is only too true that nothing fails like failure.
[A] Profit is sometimes defined as that part of the product which the producer can consume without reducing his means of production.
In the last chapter were discussed the most common methods by which a young man acquires an opportunity to engage in farming. This chapter will discuss some less common arrangements by which may be bridged that period between the time the son is ready to go into the business and the time he may assume the complete control of the ancestral or other farm. It will also suggest a method for the continuous business management of a farm enterprise.
As stated, the most common reason for a farm changing from one family to another is the fact that no heir is willing to assume the obligation which is involved in paying for the interest of the other heirs. Connected with this problem is the further fact that the father is not usually ready to give up the management of the farm at the time one of his sons reaches the age to go into active business.
The reason for this state of affairs is made clear by the results of insurance statistics. The period that a man may be expected to live can be obtained by taking the difference between his present age and 90 and dividing the remainder by two. Thus, a young man who is 20 may reasonably expect to live 35 years, or until he is 55 years old. A man at 50, however, still has an expectation of life of 20 years, and the man of 70 of 10 years.
A farmer of 50 will usually have one or more sons ready to go to farming if they ever expect to engage in farming. But, as has been shown, a man of 50 has a reasonable expectation of 20 more years of life and cannot turn over the farm to his son, completely, without destroying his own opportunity for earning a livelihood. As things are usually arranged, therefore, there is no place on the average farm for the son, except as a hired hand, which is not desired permanently by either father or son.
Frequently the father fails to appreciate the earning power of his son, and, what is more important, that the boy has grown into a man. One day a teacher called a student of agriculture to his office, when the following conversation occurred:
"The Bureau of Soils at Washington," said the teacher, "has asked me to recommend several of our students to them for positions as field assistants. If you desire to have me do so, I would be glad to recommend you for one of these positions. The compensation is $1,000 a year and field expenses."
"I do not believe that I can accept," said Mr. Manning, "my father is in poor health and needs my help on the farm."
"Does your father want you to take charge of the farm and manage it so that you can make your training count?"
"No; my father expects to continue to manage the farm. He wishes me to work for him."
"How much does your father expect to pay you?"
"Thirty dollars a month."
The teacher found it extremely difficult not to interfere, but he merely said, "This is a case of filial duty which you must settle for yourself. I must have nothing further to say."
The young man returned to the ancestral home and is probably still there. It is, of course, impossible to determine the merits of an individual case, but this incident represents a type of cases where the son makes two important sacrifices from the sense of duty.
First, he sacrifices present, and, perhaps, future opportunity to earn the wages of which he is capable and to which he is justly entitled. And, second, and more important, he sacrifices the opportunity to develop his own powers and make concrete his own abstract self.
There are two things that every young man should do. One is to earn a living. A man that cannot or does not earn a living is of no value to himself or to anyone else. The other is to develop within himself his latent possibilities. He must apply himself to some problem, or problems, and through them develop his own personality. There is no place where more intricate and satisfying problems may be found than in the development of a successful farming enterprise. In the instance cited, the father may have been unable to pay his son the wage he might have obtained elsewhere, but he did not need to dwarf his son's development by treating him merely as a hired hand. His willingness to do so was probably due to his failure to appreciate that his son had become a man.
Sometimes a father is astute enough to reorganize his business so as to retain a place for himself while giving to his sons that opportunity which every man must have who develops himself normally.
An Ohio farmer once came to the Dean's office. He had a son in college who was just completing the first year of a two years' course in agriculture.
"I should like to have you find a place for my son in a cheese factory during the coming summer," said Mr. McKinley.
"I own a farm of 130 acres on which I have a herd of Jersey cattle," continued the father. "I have two sons and one daughter. I would like to have my sons about me, but there is no place for them on my farm because I am there and cannot get away. In fact, I do not desire to give up the management of the farm and the development of the herd of cattle."
"Not every father sees the situation as clearly as you do," interjected the Dean.
"This is my plan. After my son has spent a summer in a cheese factory, I want him to come back to your school for another year. I want him to learn, especially, all you teach about dairying. I will then build a cheese factory on my own farm and my son will make into cheese the milk of my own herd, and also from the herds of our neighbors. By the time he has completed his work with you, my younger son will have finished the high school. He has some liking for trading, and he will sell the cheese at wholesale and deliver it to the surrounding towns where markets are unexcelled. As for the daughter," continued this practical man, "she will get married and that will take care of her."
What became of the daughter is not known to the writer, but the rest of the program was carried out successfully and continued for many years.
A German came to this country and settled in New Jersey, where he established a large orchard. In course of time his two sons grew into manhood. While, of course, requiring plenty of laborers, the orchardist did not need the sons in the management of his farm. He, therefore, established one of these sons in the commission business in Philadelphia, thus, at least, keeping the profits on the sale of the products of his orchard in the family. He also needed cold storage for his fruit. The other son started a cold storage plant, which plays an important part in the profitable management of the orchard. Thus both sons have independent employment requiring managerial ability and the orchard is much more profitable than it otherwise would be.
Our land laws, our traditions and our practices are based upon the idea that a farm is to provide activity and support for but one family. In order, therefore, that the son may marry and begin to develop his life in his own way, it is essential to reorganize in some manner the method of managing the farm or to enlarge or, perhaps, specialize its activities. This may be accomplished on a simple partnership basis, or it may be in some such line as outlined in the illustrations which have been given. In other occupations such co-operative effort is the rule rather than the exception. That it is more difficult to effect satisfactory arrangements in farming must be conceded, else they would be more common. Doubtless it will often tax the ingenuity of father and son to devise the plans best suited to meet their particular problem.
There still remains to consider another form of business relation as applied to farming which has become almost universal in trade and transportation. The following incident may illustrate and emphasize the problem better than abstract discussion: One day a man walked into an office and stated that a friend had a half million dollars to invest in farming, provided that he could be convinced that the money would be invested profitably.
"Does your friend desire to buy land in any particular locality?"
"Yes," replied the promoter, "he wishes to buy land near ——. He has some sentiment about it. He was born in that neighborhood."
"Well, that is a rather bad beginning. Farming on sentiment is dangerous, especially when the sentiment is in no way related to the business."
The facts were that the region indicated was recognized to be one of the most unpromising sections of the state.
"If you undertake to invest a half million dollars in one neighborhood," continued the adviser, "you will pretty certainly fail to earn interest on your investment."
"Why?" inquired the promoter.
"Before you could possibly buy any considerable part of the land the owners of the farms you desire to buy would have doubled or perhaps trebled the price asked for their holdings. It is one thing to earn interest on an investment of $30 an acre and quite another to earn an equal per cent on $60 or $90 an acre.
"In the second place, farmers are content to accept less per cent on their capital than they would if it was loaned at interest, because the farm furnishes a home as well as a business. When you buy up all these farms and convert them into a single enterprise you will destroy their home value. You cannot hope to compete with the man, who, because his farm furnishes him a home, is content with an otherwise small return on his investment."
There were other reasons, of course, why such an enterprise would fail, which the speaker did not stop to explain.
"You are mistaken," challenged the promoter. "I intend to meet both your objections. My plan is to form a corporation and issue both preferred and common stock. The preferred stock shall bear 5% and that will belong to my friend who furnishes the money. I will retain the common stock. Five per cent is all the owner of the money is entitled to, while if the business returns more than that amount, it will be due to my management. I, and those associated with me, are entitled to all that is made above five per cent. By retaining the common stock the surplus income will come to us. Neither will I destroy the home value, because I shall associate the former owners with me in the conduct of the estate and may give them some of the common stock, so that they will be interested with me in making a profitable return. If they wish to keep their money invested in the farm, they will be given preferred stock in place of cash for their farms."
It is needless to say that the promoter never convinced his friend that he could successfully invest for him a half million dollars along the lines indicated. Nevertheless the corporate plan is not without merit. For example, if a father should incorporate his farm, he could provide for the inheritance of the preferred stock, among the heirs, as he desires. He could give to the son who operates the farm all the common stock, together with what preferred stock he is entitled or the father may desire him to have. The common stock would provide the means by which the income from the farm, which was due to the sons skill and management, might go to him. As time went on the son could acquire additional preferred stock from the father or other heirs, or he could invest his earnings elsewhere, as might seem most expedient. On the death of the parents, the preferred stock would be distributed as inheritance or the will provided without in any way interfering with the continuity of the farm enterprise. If at any time the son desired to discontinue the management of the farm, all he would need to do would be to dispose of his interest in the common stock at whatever he might be able to secure from the man who succeeded to its management. He could sell or retain his preferred stock.
Farming is the one remaining great industry that has not been organized so that a single enterprise may have a continuous existence. A corporation never dies, but at least three generations of men occupy the farms of the United States each century.
OPPORTUNITIES IN AGRICULTURE
Some years ago, a prominent magazine contained an article entitled "The American Farmer's Balance Sheet," in which a descendant of the second and sixth Presidents of the United States was shown to have made in one year a profit of over $19,000 from a 6,000-acre wheat farm in North Dakota, and over $50,000 from a 6,000-acre corn farm in Iowa. A few months later there appeared in the same magazine another article, the purport of which was that great wealth, whether it be obtained from farming, the mining of coal, the manufacture of steel or the selling of merchandise, is the exception, while the man, in whatever calling, who rears and educates a family and at the same time lays by a small competence is the normal American product. The moral is that a $500-a-year-income farm is a more important factor to the national welfare than a $50,000-a-year-income farm.
In the latter article the writer tells of two brothers who had been reared on a Michigan farm. Reuben was tired of the country. He went to the city and apprenticed himself to a harnessmaker. Against the advice of young friends, Lucien bought sixty acres of land and ran in debt for it.
In a year Reuben was earning a dollar a day. He wore a white shirt and pointed shoes, not because they were more comfortable, but because other people did. He had no debts. Lucien had fair crops, but they yielded no more than enough to pay interest on the mortgage. He wore a ragged shirt, patched breeches and cowhide boots. People said that Reuben was making a gentleman of himself and learning a trade in the bargain.
In two years, Reuben had completed his apprenticeship. He was now earning $10 a week. He lived in a house that had a fancy veranda and green blinds. His clothing improved. Lucien was still ragged, but he paid his interest and $300 each year upon the principal. People said that Reuben, the harnessmaker, was bound to come to the front.
In ten years more, Reuben was still foreman of the shop at $50 a month. He lived in the same house, and smoked Havana cigars. Lucien built a new house and a barn. He smoked a pipe. The neighbors saw that every year he made some improvement on the farm. He wore a white shirt when he went to town, and he had a pair of button shoes. People said that Lucien was becoming a prominent man. His word was good at the bank.
Reuben began to complain that harnessmaking was too confining. His health was breaking down. The proprietor was selfish. He would not die and leave the business to him. Harnessmaking was not what it used to be. Lucien bought more land. He went fishing when he wanted to. Reuben came out now and then to spend Sunday. The birds seemed to sing more sweetly than ever before and the grass was greener. Lucien endorsed Reuben's note.
Lucien has pigs, and cows, and sheep, and chickens, and turkeys, and horses. He raises potatoes and beans, and corn, and wheat, and garden stuff, and fruit. He buys his groceries and clothing and tobacco. Reuben buys everything. At the close of the year Lucien puts from $100 to $300 in the bank or takes a trip to Washington. Reuben does well if he come out even. Lucien does not fret; Reuben grumbles.
The picture is true to life. It has been enacted and re-enacted in every one of the older communities of the United States.
It has always seemed to the writer, however, that the author of this suggestive story left out two important personages. They were Sarah, the wife of Reuben, and Mary, the wife of Lucien. Sarah liked to make tatting and to go to pink teas. Mary preferred to raise flowers and fluffy little chickens. Nothing is to be said for or against the taste of either. Each has a right to her preference, but their point of view cannot be left out of the problem when a young man is considering his future occupation.
It has been said, and probably with considerable truth, that most congressmen would not hang around Washington if it were not for their wives.
No one must mistake this story as an attempt to compare harness making with farming, much less to compare living in the city with life in the open country.
What it does is to compare the struggle and the development of the man who goes into business for himself with the man who accepts employment at wages.
Because of less responsibility and less sacrifices at the beginning, the tendency is for young men to work for wages rather than to engage in business for themselves. This is becoming more and more true as industrial methods make it more and more difficult for the young man to command the requisite capital.
The man who works for wages usually has the larger income and appears the most prosperous during the earlier years as compared with his brother who enters business. The business man, however, who, while young, economizes and invests his savings in his business gradually outstrips his wage-earning brother. During later life he is able to enjoy the fruits of his earlier economy and investments, while failing powers and keen competition of younger and better trained men restrict the opportunities of the wage earner, who has generally spent his wages in better living, or at least in more outward show.
This is well shown by the fact that it is customary to make provision by means of pensions for wage earners of all sorts, while no such arrangement is made for men who engage in business, be that farming, trade or transportation.
For many reasons, however, young men will continue to seek employment at wages, even if only for a few years, or until some capital has been acquired which may be invested in business.
The question arises, therefore, what opportunities there may be for the young man who desires to engage, eventually, in the business of farming to work for wages along lines that will not be too far removed from the business in which he is subsequently to engage. It will be assumed that the young man has prepared himself in that same painstaking way that he would if he were preparing to become an engineer, a lawyer or a physician.
There is a constant demand for men with proper training as managers of farms. As stated elsewhere, the wages are seldom less than $40 nor more than $75 a month to beginners, although for men of experience $5,000 a year has been paid in exceptional cases for the management of large enterprises. These positions often constitute ideal opportunities for capable young men. They require, however, not only an intimate knowledge of farming, but the ability, also, to manage men.
The ability to manage men requires the combination of decision and tact, not possessed by all, and not easily acquired by education or practice. Not only must the farm manager be able to manage workmen, but oftentimes he must manage his employer, who may have little knowledge of farming but still insists upon having his own ideas executed, as he, of course, has a perfect right to do.
Another danger is the fact that where the farm is owned by a man engaged in other business, many circumstances may arise to cause the owner to change his plans or sell his property. There is often, therefore, a lack of permanency in these positions.
The United States Department of Agriculture employs upward of 5,000 people. There is a constant demand for young men to recruit this service, including experts in soils, plant production, animal husbandry, dairying, chemistry and forestry. Beginners receive from $800 to $1,000 a year. When they are sent out of Washington into field service, as many of them are, they receive their expenses, including subsistence in addition. Young men may rise rather rapidly by promotion to $1,600 a year, then more slowly to $2,000, while an occasional man is promoted to the more responsible position paying $3,000 to $4,000 a year.
The positions are all filled through the competitive civil service examinations. Examinations are held at more or less irregular intervals, usually several times a year, in various sections of the country. A letter addressed to the United States Civil Service Commission will secure the necessary information concerning openings and the general requirements for the examinations.
Employment in the United States Department of Agriculture often affords opportunity for varied experience and wide observation of farming methods throughout the country. Such employment is generally to be considered desirable if not continued for too long a period. As a matter of fact, men are constantly leaving the service to engage in practical or other work, a fact which makes the demand for young men greater than would otherwise be the case.
The various agricultural colleges and experiment stations are constantly seeking men. It would seem that the demand would eventually be satisfied. As a matter of fact, however, it grows greater year by year, both because these institutions continue to grow and because young men are attracted more and more to practical work. It is stated that in one institution there were 46 graduates in the course in animal husbandry and that 44 went into practical work and only two sought employment in college or station. The salaries are about the same as in government positions.
Agricultural newspaper work offers an attractive field for young men who are properly trained and have a taste for this kind of work.
There is also beginning to be quite a demand for teachers of agriculture in the high schools. As a rule a man is wanted who can teach, in addition, the sciences usually taught in secondary school. The customary salary is from $70 to $100 a month on an eight to ten months' basis. An experience of one or two years as a teacher in a high school, or even the lower grades of the public school, should be invaluable to the young man who expects subsequently to engage in farming. This is particularly true if he has not had the opportunity of a college training.
It is, perhaps, unnecessary to state that the salaries mentioned in this chapter are obtained only by young men who possess certain qualifications. To secure them, they must be men of ability, integrity, virtue and industry. No man who is not willing to make the preparation necessary to master his subject can expect to succeed. He must, also, be a man of absolute honesty, and he must lead a clean life. It was Bismarck who said, of German university students, "One-third die out; one-third rot out; the other third rule Germany." Every man who will may choose whether he will belong to Bismarck's second or third class.
The question for the young man of 20 is not merely as to the morrow, but what is likely to be the trend of events during the next 35 to 50 years.
"In 1800 the United States nowhere crossed the Mississippi and nowhere touched the Gulf of Mexico." In 1850 the country west of the Mississippi River was agriculturally largely an undiscovered region. Since 1870 we have much more than doubled our population and our agriculture. Since that time we have subdued more of the open country to the uses of man than we had been able to do in 250 years of our previous history.
During the past 300 years we have prided ourselves upon being an agricultural people. We have been an agricultural people, but our problems have not been chiefly those of the agriculturist, but those of the engineer.
Our problem, in the past, has not been to make two blades of grass to grow where but one grew before. Our problem has been to harvest and transport two bushels of wheat or two bales of cotton with the labor previously required to harvest one. Our crops have been so abundant that the agricultural problems connected with the growing of them has been secondary to the engineering problems of their harvesting and transportation. The self-binder and the steam locomotive have been our achievements.
If the writer mistakes not, the future problem will not be so much the harvesting and transporting, as the growth of the crops. In the future, young men will be needed who have studied the science of living things in order that they may make, literally, two blades of grass to grow where but one grew. To men who will be able to do so, will come success and honor.
WHERE TO LOCATE
Unless the young farmer expects to return to the ancestral home, the first question he must settle is where he is going to locate. Indeed, one of the most common questions asked is, What do you think of this state or that state or this region or that as a place to farm? There are few questions harder to answer. This is due, among other reasons, to the fact that every place has its advantages and disadvantages. The sum of the advantages may be greater in one place than in another, but if these advantages are known they must generally be paid for.
New adaptations, however, may change materially the value of the land in a given locality as, for example, the discovery that a region is especially adapted to raising alfalfa, onions, cabbages, apples or peaches. Changing conditions, as the growth of population or better transportation facilities, may materially affect the attractiveness of a region from the standpoint of the farmer.
The competition of other regions which grow similar crops is a potent factor in determining the desirability of a region. For example, the farmers east of the Allegheny mountains during the nineteenth century competed with the farmers of the central West who had free, fertile, easily tilled land on which to grow maize, wheat and oats. Cattle and sheep were pastured on the open range. The twentieth century has found the land of this region settled and capitalized in some instances beyond that of the eastern states; thus one factor at least of competition has been eliminated.
While farm values readjust themselves in time, it often happens, especially in the older settled regions, that farm values are slow in reflecting these changes in economic conditions. Changed conditions often call for a change in farm methods which the habits and traditions of even one generation prevent. To the man who is able to apply the proper methods the region may be a desirable one, although under existing conditions the results may be unsatisfactory. The young man, however, is cautioned at this point not to be overconfident of his own ability. Under such circumstances it is well to study the problem with great care, because the methods which seem unwise to the casual observer may, after all, be found to be based upon sound economic principles.
A man of 25 who is looking for a location should not only study the present conditions of the locality, but try to predict what is likely to be the future of the region during the next third of a century, since this is the period in which he may reasonably expect to be personally interested, although later in life he will find himself quite as much interested in the more distant future on account of his children.
Nothing is more self-evident than that one should choose a region, especially as regards soil and climate, which is adapted to the crop or crops to be raised, yet there are probably more failures due to a lack of crop adaptation than to any other cause that is not personal to the man himself. Not only do apples, for their best success, require certain soil types, but different varieties of apples require for their best development, distinctly different types of soil as, for example, Rhode Island Greening, Baldwin, York Imperial and Grime's Golden. Each reaches its best development on different types of soil and some require different climatic conditions. In like manner apples and peaches require distinctly different types of soil for the best success of each and for this reason peaches are not desirable as fillers in apple orchards.
If at the proper season of the year one goes from Pittsburg to Chicago via Columbus and Indianapolis, he will see great fields of winter wheat and a considerable number of permanent pastures. From Chicago to Omaha he will see only occasionally a field of wheat and scarcely any permanent pasture. Oats have taken the place of wheat. In parts of Eastern Kansas and Oklahoma the predominant crop is winter wheat. Throughout the whole region from Pittsburg to Topeka, Kansas, the characteristic crop is maize or Indian corn. Between St. Paul and Fargo, the main crops are spring wheat and oats. One may travel from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Calgary, Alberta, a distance of over one thousand miles without seeing a field of maize. In some portions the main crop is wheat, in others it is oats.
These are illustrations of the crop adaptation over large areas, which has come about unconsciously, as has most crop adaptation. In other parts of the United States are to be found even more striking examples of crop adaptation, although the areas are much smaller, as in the case of tobacco, potatoes, celery, onions, apples, peaches and other fruits. Regions containing residual soils are more variable in crop adaptation than drift soils and require more careful watchfulness on the part of those who may wish to buy land.
As previously stated, advantages, if known, must usually be paid for. It comes about, therefore, that if a region or a farm is adapted to the raising of a certain crop which is more profitable than the average, such as maize, tobacco, alfalfa, celery, apples or peaches, this land will, other things being equal, command a higher price than land which does not possess this characteristic.
There is an underlying economic principle which the man who goes out to choose a farm should clearly understand. The principle has been stated by Fairchild as follows: "The normal value of products capable of indefinite multiplication tends always toward the value of least costly. On the other hand, if any production cannot be largely extended, so that the supply barely meets the requirements of the purchasers, the tendency of normal values is toward the cost of the most costly part of the product required to meet wants."
This principle explains why land especially adapted to raising maize is higher priced than land primarily adapted to raising wheat. Maize which enters into commerce is raised almost exclusively in ten states of the United States. Wheat is harvested practically every month of every year in different parts of the world. The young farmer should consider, therefore, whether he is undertaking to raise crops in which there is unlimited competition, or whether soil or other conditions cause the output to be relatively limited.
SIZE OF FARM
The size of the farm is another of those questions on which there is endless debate and to which no general answer can be given. There are, however, certain rather definite principles which may help in settling an individual problem.
The size of the farm is related to the income per acre. If one's ideal or purpose is a gross income of $1,000 or $3,000 or $5,000 a year, he must consider how large a farm will be necessary to bring this return.
Assume, for the sake of discussion, it is desired to obtain a gross income of $4,000. In the eastern United States 200 acres of tillable land devoted to general farming may bring this amount. If the land is especially adapted to potatoes, and this crop takes a prominent place in the rotation, 100 acres might be sufficient to return the income named. Likewise a 100-acre retail milk dairy farm may produce a similar result. Forty acres devoted to truck farming or market gardening may be sufficient.
There is another way that the size of the farm needed may be estimated. There is a general relation between the gross income and the amount invested. In 1900 the gross income of the farms of the United States was 18 per cent of the total investment, which includes land, buildings, tools, and live stock. The average gross income varied for the different types of farming common to the northern United States from 16 to 19 per cent. This represents, of course, a great deal of very poor farming. The income of prosperous farmers must be somewhat better than this. If we assume that by careful methods the gross income is 25% of the total investment, then an investment of $16,000 will be required to bring a gross income of $4,000. While it is true that the gross income has no necessary relation to net income or profit, yet it is well to remember that a gross income is a necessary antecedent of a net income. The net profit from the production of a bushel of wheat, a dozen of eggs, or a pound of butter is of comparatively small consequence unless a sufficient quantity is produced.
A recent investigation by the Cornell station appears to show that with the type of farming now existing in Tompkins and Livingston counties, New York, where the investigation chanced to be made, the larger farms yielded the most profitable returns and that while present conditions exist, the size of farms is likely to increase rather than decrease. The fundamental reason seems to be the substitution of horse-drawn machinery for hand labor.
The following table shows the labor income on 586 farms operated by the owners, classified according to size:
Number Average of size Labor Acres farms (acres) income 30 or less 30 21 $168 31 to 60 108 49 254 61 to 100 214 83 373 101 to 150 143 124 436 151 to 200 57 177 635 over 200 34 261 946 —— —— Average 103 $415
While the larger the farm, the more prosperous was the operating owner or tenant, the size of the farm did not seem to affect the profit of the landlord.
The amount of land one individual may own is unlimited; the size of the farm unit is limited. After a farm unit has reached a certain size, depending upon the type of farming, the general arrangement of the farm and the skill in management, any further increase will increase the cost of operation, and as the increase continues eventually cause a decrease in profits. Assuming this to be true, it follows as a mathematical necessity that as the farm increases in size the total profits will increase as the farm increases up to a given point and then the profits will decrease. The following table illustrates this law:
Size of A B farm Net profit Net profit Net Profit Net Profit acres per acre per farm per acre per farm 160 $5.00 $800 $5.00 $800 200 4.50 900 4.75 950 240 4.00 960 4.50 1,080 280 3.50 980 4.25 1,190 320 3.00 960 4.00 1,280 360 2.50 900 3.75 1,350 400 2.00 800 3.50 1,400 440 1.50 660 3.25 1,430 480 1.00 480 3.00 1,440 520 .50 260 2.75 1,430 560 — — 2.50 1,400
In both case A and case B it is assumed that the greatest net profit per acre is to be obtained with 160 acres, and that the net profit per acre when the farm is of that size is $5. In case A it is assumed that the net profit would decrease $1 for each 80 acres added, while in case B the decrease is assumed to be only one-half as rapid. In the first instance the net profit per farm increases until 280 acres are reached, when the net profit per farm decreases, until at 560 acres no profit would be obtained. In case B the net profit per farm increases until 480 acres are reached. Everyone is cautioned not to accept these figures as representing what would actually happen. All that can be said is that as the farm unit increases in size there will come a point at which the net profit per acre will decrease because of the physical difficulty of managing a large area, and, therefore, there is a limit to the size of a single farm. Fifteen thousand acres may lay in one tract and be owned by one individual, firm or corporation, but its economic management requires for purely physical reasons, not to mention others, that it be managed in several units more or less distinct from one another. Just what the size of this unit will be no one knows and it will vary with the type of farming, the type of farmer and many other circumstances. For example, a very common unit for a tenant cotton farm is between 20 and 50 acres, both the product and the farmer being a limiting factor.
Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from a study of this table is that it is wise for some men to operate a farm of 320 acres, others of 160 acres and still others of 80 acres, because each size of farm presents a task suited to different abilities. It would be as futile for one fitted to operate only an 80-acre farm to attempt to manage 320 acres as it would be unwise for the man capable of conducting 320 acres to confine his attention to 80 acres. Unfortunately while this principle is not difficult to perceive and is easily stated, it is practically impossible to make any application of it to an individual case. Only time and the inexorable laws of competition will adjust men to their several tasks.
It will be of interest to note what influence in actual practice the type of farming has upon the size of the farm. The census reports the average size of all farms in the United States as 147 acres, with the different types as follows: Vegetables, 65 acres; fruits, 75 acres; dairy products, 120 acres; hay and grain, 159 acres; and live stock, 227 acres. Speaking in a very general way, only about one-half the land on these farms is in cultivated crops, while only 40% of the income may be from the products which cause the farm to be thus classified. The young farmer will do well to have these figures in mind when he starts out in life, for while they are not to be followed literally, they give him a measuring stick with which to compare his operations.
SELECTION OF FARM
Having some of these preliminary questions settled, or at least well in mind, the young farmer is ready to inspect individual farms with a view to purchasing or renting. He should examine each farm from four general aspects, namely: (1) The character and topography of the soil, (2) the climatic conditions, including healthfulness and water supply, (3) the location, and (4) the improvements.
It may be well at the outset to emphasize the advantage which even a small difference in fertility may bring. Suppose one farm is capable of raising fifteen bushels of wheat per acre and another twenty bushels. If wheat is 80 cents a bushel, then the gross income is $12 and $16 respectively. If it is assumed that it costs in either case for seed, labor and interest on investment $8 an acre to raise and harvest the crop, then it will be seen that an increase of five bushels an acre doubles the profit. The comparison is perhaps not quite fair, since it costs slightly more to harvest the larger crop, but it serves to illustrate the point.
Neither the crop adaptation nor the crop-producing power of the soil can be determined by taking a sample and submitting it to a chemist for analysis. These factors can best be determined by the character of the vegetation, both domestic and wild, and by a knowledge obtained through observation or reading as to what this particular soil type usually does. Every type of soil has certain characteristics which under like conditions it may be expected to reproduce, much in the same manner as each species of animal reproduces its characteristics.
The first essential is to be able to recognize the different soil types. This can only be done by close observation and study. The second essential is to determine what the crop-producing characteristics of these types of soil are. This knowledge may be obtained by personal observation; but as most persons' opportunities are limited in this direction, it should be supplemented wherever possible by a study of the soil surveys of the United States Department of Agriculture wherever these are available. When this is not possible samples of soil may be submitted to the Bureau of Soils of the United States Department of Agriculture or to the soil division of the state experiment station, together with a suitable description and such knowledge of the history of the land as is obtainable. In this way you may obtain information as to the natural adaptation of the particular type of soil.
There will still remain the question of the present condition of the land. For example, the Pennsylvania station obtained in a certain season 42 loads of hay from nine acres of land. The same season, from exactly the same soil type, the station obtained eight loads of hay from 20 acres. The condition of the soil was different, which the previous history of the two tracts of land fully explains.
It is of the utmost importance, therefore, to distinguish between the natural fertility of the soil and the condition of the soil. A further example will help to illustrate this point. At the Rothamsted Station a certain type of soil has for over 60 years produced annually about 12 bushels of wheat an acre without fertilizer, while with a complete fertilizer the same type has produced 30 or more bushels. The 12 bushels may be said to represent the natural fertility of the soil, while the additional 18 bushels may be said to represent the condition of the soil due to fertilizers or to other conditions. On the other hand, the natural condition of some other soil type might be only eight bushels, or still another type might be 16 bushels.
This principle is of considerable practical importance, especially in the eastern third of the United States. Generally speaking, clay and silt soils have a greater natural fertility than sandy soils; limestone soils than those that are deficient in lime. Thus soils that naturally grow chestnut trees, indicating a low lime content, have a tendency to deteriorate under exhaustive cropping much more rapidly than limestone soils. More fertilizers and other methods of soil improvement are necessary in the case of chestnut soils than in the case of limestone valley soils. One of the first questions to ask, therefore, concerning an unknown farm in Pennsylvania is whether or not chestnut trees grow naturally. It does not follow, however, that chestnut soils are undesirable. Much will depend upon the crop or crops it is desired to raise. For example, in some regions they are well adapted to potatoes and peaches. In these cases the cost of the fertilizers necessary to keep the soil in proper condition is small compared with the total return from the crop.
The pioneer's best guide as to the value of new land was and is the vegetation growing upon it, and, especially in a wooded country, the native trees. Basswood, crab apple, wild plum, black walnut, ash, hickory and hard maple generally indicate a fertile soil. White oak indicates only a moderate soil; bur oak, a somewhat warmer and better drained soil. Beech indicates a rather poor soil; a heavy clay, lacking in organic matter. Certain species of elms, maples and oaks, as red maple and the Spanish swamp oak, indicate wet soils.
The occurrence and vigor of certain herbaceous plants are especially indicative of fertility of the soil, as, for example, ragweed, bindweed, certain plants of the sunflower family, such as goldenrod, asters and wild sunflowers. Soils adapted to red clover and alfalfa are usually well drained and contain plenty of lime. Alsike clover will grow on a soil too wet or containing too little lime for either of the former. Soils that produce sorrel and redtop when red clover and timothy are sown need drainage or liming or both. Sedges usually indicate a wet soil, although certain species grow on dry, sandy soils. The point of this paragraph, however, is not to give comprehensive advice but to cause the young farmer to observe the conditions and make his own applications, which will vary in different regions and under different circumstances.
Perhaps the one feature that the young farmer is most likely to overlook in the selection of a farm is the relative proportion of tillable land. One farm of 200 acres, may, on account of stony land, wet land, comparatively unproductive woodland, or because of the arrangement of fences and roadways, contain only eighty acres of tillable land, while another may contain 160 acres. This is one reason why a 160-acre farm in the central West may be more valuable than a farm of the same size in the northeastern United States.
Columella says with regard to the selection of land that there are two things chiefly to be considered, the wholesomeness of the air and the fruitfulness of the place, "of which if either the one or the other should be wanting, and notwithstanding anyone should have a mind to dwell there, he must have lost his senses and ought to be conveyed to his kinfolk to take care of him."
In selecting a farm do not fail to inquire whether there has been any recent illness, and if so the nature of it, either among the persons living there or the domestic animals kept.
Aside from healthfulness, climate is a fundamental and controlling factor, both in productiveness and economic farm management. Temperature and rainfall affect the number of days that work can be performed upon the land and hence affect materially the economy of labor. It is this fact that prevents the systematic organization of labor so common in manufacturing and transportation. The climate also affects the cost of producing live stock by modifying the food and shelter required.
The climate of a region is best studied from the reports of the United States Weather Bureau rather than from the statements published by interested parties. So far as the production of crops is concerned the distribution of rainfall is more important than the annual amount, as may be shown by comparing the rainfall in such places as Columbus, Ohio, and Lincoln, Nebraska.
The average temperature during the growing season is, of course, of more importance from the standpoint of crop production than the average annual temperature. Maximum and minimum temperatures or the range of temperature must be considered as well as the average temperature.
One of the most practical questions to determine is the average date of the last killing frost in the spring and the date of the first killing frost in the autumn; in other words, the length of the growing season. Both altitude and topography enter into this problem. In a given locality killing frosts will occur on a still night in the valley before they do on the elevations, because the air as it cools becomes heavier and flows down into the lowest places just as water would do. On the other hand, as the altitude increases the growing season shortens.
Whenever I am asked a question involving the production of farm crops by a Pennsylvania farmer before answering, I ask three questions: (1) Where are you located? (2) Do chestnut trees grow naturally upon your land? (3) What is your altitude?
One factor that is often overlooked by the young farmer needs only to be mentioned to be thoroughly appreciated. It is the amount and character of the water supply. Not only is this of the utmost importance from the standpoint of the household, but it is fundamental to the best farm management. Thus, if the water supply is limited the amount of live stock kept will be curtailed, and thus the proper utilization of farm products prevented and maintenance of the fertility of the soil made more difficult.
The young farmer should recognize that some kinds of farming are more dependent upon the climatic conditions than others and should, therefore, select the location best suited to the type of farming desired or else modify his type of farming to suit the climatic conditions. If one studies critically the types of farming in various parts of the United States, it will be seen that they have already been adjusted in large degree, either consciously or unconsciously, to the climatic conditions. The young farmer should be careful that he does not undertake to butt his head against a stone wall.
Having found a farm that suits our ideal as to the natural conditions, such as the crop adaptation, fertility, topography and climate, what may be called the artificial conditions must be studied.
The location may be studied, both as to local and distant markets and the means of reaching each, which includes roadways and shipping facilities. Here again much will depend upon the products which are to be sold. The man who raises tobacco, hogs or beef cattle does not suffer any great economic disadvantage by living ten miles from a shipping station, but a man does who produces milk, peaches, potatoes or hay.
In these days there is not much danger that the character of the roadway will be overlooked by the intending purchaser of the farm, although sufficient importance may not be given to the advantage of really good roads, both as to grade and surface. Perhaps the one most important question to consider in connection with the transportation facilities is whether products may be shipped without change from the shipping station to the market it is desired to reach.
Although at first glance we may not like the thought, it must be conceded that neighbors are not only important morally and socially, but they also may have economic advantages and disadvantages. While it may sometimes happen that it will be wise to raise in a given neighborhood some product that no one else has undertaken to supply, yet as a rule, if a given neighborhood is raising Jersey, or Guernsey or Holstein cattle or Chester White, Berkshire or Poland China hogs, or Southdown or Shropshire or Cotswold sheep, it will be wise to raise the breed commonly raised instead of the least commonly raised breed, as it is sometimes supposed. The more potato growers or cabbage growers or celery raisers or orchardists in a locality the better for all concerned, for a number of reasons, among which may be mentioned (1) the more and the better the products raised the more buyers will seek the region and hence the higher will be the price obtained for the product; (2) the more of a given product there is to ship the better the shipping facilities for that product are likely to be; (3) all the necessary supplies for the type of farming can be more readily and cheaply obtained; (4) there will be a better knowledge of the business when more men have had experience in raising the particular crop.
These principles apply in all classes of business; thus we find woolen factories in Philadelphia, silk factories at Paterson, N. J., cotton factories at Lowell, Mass., plow factories at Moline, Ill., and steel mills at Pittsburg. Many of these centers possessed originally some natural advantages which caused the location of the first factory, but others have been drawn there on account of the principles enunciated. The farmers of a given region have a community of interest as well as railroads. The young farmer should recognize this fact and if necessary should exert himself to develop such interest in his community, both for his own benefit and that of his neighbors.
There are two classes of farms for which the purchaser is in danger of paying too much, one on which there are extensive improvements and one on which there are none at all. A farm with just barely enough improvements for the conduct of the type of farming it is proposed to develop can usually be purchased most advantageously. The purchaser should understand clearly that the previous cost of the improvements has no necessary relation to their present value, any more than the value of a second-hand suit of clothes is dependent upon its original cost. All depends on how badly they are worn and how well they are adapted to present conditions. The value of farm improvements is not unlike those in other business enterprises in this respect. Their value depends upon present and prospective earning capacity and not on former cost.
No rule can be laid down as to the relation which should exist between the value of land itself and the value of the improvements. In practice it varies greatly. In the United States the farm improvements constitute on an average 21% of the total value of land, being as high as 45% in Massachusetts and as low as 15% in Texas. The young farmer may well consider, therefore, whether he can earn interest on his investment when the improvements cost more than 25% of the total value of the real estate. Certainly when it becomes one-half it is excessive. The man who runs a farm as an avocation usually errs in putting too much money into permanent improvements for the farm to be a paying investment.
If it is admitted that the farm unit is limited because of the physical difficulties of managing large areas, then it must at once be seen how important the arrangement of the farmsteading must be to the successful conduct of the farm. In the older farming communities where the present farm holdings are the result of several purchases or sales the shape of the farm, the arrangement of the fields and the place of the farm buildings become an extremely important matter. Sometimes satisfactory rearrangements are easily made, at other times they are quite impossible. No attempt will be made to discuss this subject in detail here, but the young farmer should bring to this question all the experience and study possible.
When the young farmer goes to inspect a farm it is to be assumed that he will be conducted over the farm by the owner or his authorized agent. It is proper to give respectful attention to everything that is told him, provided he follows carefully the California adage to "believe nothing you hear and only one-half what you see."
If a farm consists of 200 or 300 acres of land, it is possible for the agent to convey the purchaser over the farm in such a way as to prevent the least desirable portions being seen. If the farm has attracted the seeker of land, he should not purchase until he has made another visit, preferably some days or weeks after the first one. He may then very properly visit the farm alone, passing over quite a different course from that pursued hitherto. Sketches and notes will be found very helpful, and if the use of the soil auger is understood it may be well employed to study the character of both soil and subsoil. During the interval between visits some casual inquiries may be made among those who know the history of the farm in question, because the past history of the farm obtained from unprejudiced witnesses is of prime importance in arriving at a conclusion concerning its value.
A farm is much more attractive when a crop is growing upon it than when it is without active vegetation. Poor land looks relatively better than good land during or just after a rain. Many matters concerning the selection of a farm can only be learned by some years of practical experience. The young farmer will do well, therefore, to secure the help of some more experienced person. If he has among his acquaintances a successful farmer of mature years he will be fortunate if he can secure his advice.
THE FARM SCHEME
Farming is no pink tea. It is a serious business. After the young farmer has selected the farm he must develop his farm scheme. He must contemplate well and seriously the philosophy which underlies his plans. Unless he sees clearly what he is striving to attain and unless he understands the effect of his methods, he must fail in great measure to obtain his goal.
Satisfactory results in farming cannot be obtained as a general practice if the man is only interested in the results of a single year. For this reason the itinerant tenant system will not be satisfactory unless the landlord has worked out a satisfactory scheme which he requires his tenant to follow.
It is not enough that a man shall grow a single large crop, but it is necessary that he should continue to grow a satisfactory crop at least at regular intervals. For example, a piece of land may be adapted to cabbage, celery, potatoes or hay. Assume for the moment it is adapted to cabbage and that by one or more seasons of preparation an enormous crop of cabbages may be secured. This fact is of little value unless sufficient quantity is raised and the process can be repeated annually. Cabbages cannot be grown again on this particular piece of land for from four to six years on account of club root. If the farmer does not have other areas which he can bring into cabbages year after year, for from three to five years, then he becomes a failure as a cabbage raiser. Even a perennial, like alfalfa or asparagus, should form a part of the general scheme of crop production if the most satisfactory results are to be obtained.
There are two general questions at the basis of all farm schemes: (1) How to obtain a fairly uniform succession of cash products year after year, and (2) how to keep up or improve the fertility of the soil economically while doing so. In other words, how to keep the investment from decreasing while it is earning a satisfactory and fairly uniform income.
It is necessary, therefore, to consider what products are to be sold and what are simply subsidiary to the cash products. The cash products may, of course, be soil products or animal products, but more likely they will be both. When animals form a large part of the enterprise the cropping system must be carefully adjusted to meet the needs of these animals. Many apparently trivial details must be considered, as for example, whether the cropping system furnishes too little or too much bedding for the live stock.