"THINGS AS THEY ARE," "THRIFT," ETC.
"A sower went out to sow and he sowed that which was in his heart—for what can a man sow else!" From "THE GAME OF LIFE."
Or, as the Vulgate has it,—
"Exitt qui seminat seminare semen suum."
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
All rights reserved._
Copyright 1907 and 1918
By THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
Set up and electrotyped. Published March, 1907.
Reprinted April, July, 1907; March, 1908; June,
September, 1910; April, 1912; April 1914.
New edition, revised February, 1918.
We are not tied to a desk or to a bench; we stay there only because we think we are tied.
In Montana I had a horse, which was hobbled every night to keep him from wandering; that is, straps joined by a short chain were put around his forefeet, so that he could only hop. The hobbles were taken off in the morning, but he would still hop until he saw his mate trotting off.
This book is intended to show how any one can trot off if he will.
It is not a textbook; there are plenty of good textbooks, which are referred to herein. Intensive cultivation cannot be comprised in any one book.
It shows what is needed for a city man or woman to support a family on the proceeds of a little bit of land; it shows how in truth, as the old Book prophesied, the earth brings forth abundantly after its kind to satisfy the desire of every living thing. It is not necessary to bury oneself in the country, nor, with the new facilities of transportation, need we, unless we wish to, pay the extravagant rents and enormous cost of living in the city. A little bit of land near the town or the city can be rented or bought on easy terms; and merchandising will bring one to the city often enough. Neither is hard labor needed; but it is to work alone that the earth yields her increase, and if, although unskilled, we would succeed in gardening, we must attend constantly and intelligently to the home acres.
Every chapter of this book has been revised by a specialist, and the authors wish to express their appreciation of the aid given them, particularly by Mr. E. H. Moore, Arboriculturist in the Brooklyn Department of Parks; Mr. Collingwood of the Rural New Yorker and Mr. George T. Powell; and to thank Mrs. Mabel Osgood Wright, and also Mr. Joseph Morwitz, for many valuable suggestions; also all those from whom we have quoted directly or in substance.
We have endeavored in the text to give full acknowledgment to all, but in some cases it has been impossible to credit to the originator every paragraph or thought, since these have been selected and placed as needed, believing that all true teachers and gardeners are more anxious to have their message sent than to be seen delivering it.
In truth, teaching is but another department of gardening.
Practical points and criticisms from practical men and women, especially from those experiences in trying to get to the land, will be welcomed by the authors. Address in care of the publishers.
The Report of the Country Life Commission, with Special Message from the President of the United States, is especially important as showing the connection of Intensive Cultivation with Thrift for war time.
It tells us that:
"The handicaps (on getting out of town) that we now have specially in mind may be stated under four heads: Speculative holding of lands; monopolistic control of streams; wastage and monopolistic control of forests; restraint of trade.
"Certain landowners procure large areas of agricultural land in the most available location, sometimes by questionable methods, and hold it for speculative purposes. This not only withdraws the land itself from settlement, but in many cases prevents the development of an agricultural community. The smaller landowners are isolated and unable to establish their necessary institutions or to reach the market. The holding of large areas by one party tends to develop a system of tenantry and absentee farming. The whole development may be in the direction of social and economic ineffectiveness.
"A similar problem arises in the utilization of swamp lands. According to the reports of the Geological Survey, there are more than 75,000,000 acres of swamp land in this country, the greater part of which are capable of reclamation at probably a nominal cost as compared to their value. It is important to the development of the best type of country life that the reclamation proceed under conditions insuring subdivision into small farms and settlement by men who would both own them and till them.
"Some of these lands are near the centers of population. They become a menace to health, and they often prevent the development of good social conditions in very large areas. As a rule they are extremely fertile. They are capable of sustaining an agricultural population numbering many millions, and the conditions under which these millions must live are a matter of national concern. The Federal Government should act to the fullest extent of its constitutional powers in the reclamation of these lands under proper safeguards against speculative holding and landlordism.
"The rivers are valuable to the farmers as drainage lines, as irrigation supply, as carriers and equalizers of transportation rates, as a readily available power resource, and for raising food fish. The wise development of these and other uses is important to both agricultural and other interests; their protection from monopoly is one of the first responsibilities of government. The streams belong to the people; under a proper system of development their resources would remain an estate of all the people, and become available as needed.
"River transportation is not usually antagonistic to railway interests. Population and production are increasing rapidly, with corresponding increase in the demands made on transportation facilities. It may be reasonably expected that the river will eventually carry a large part of the freight that does not require prompt delivery, while the railway will carry that requiring expedition. This is already foreseen by leading railway men; and its importance to the farmer is such that he should encourage and aid, by every means in his power, the large use of the rivers. The country will produce enough business to tax both streams and railroads to their utmost.
"In many regions the streams afford facilities for power, which, since the inauguration of electrical transmission, is available for local rail lines and offers the best solution of local transportation problems. In many parts of the country local and interurban lines are providing transportation to farm areas, thereby increasing facilities for moving crops and adding to the profit and convenience of farm life. However, there seems to be a very general lack of appreciation of the possibilities of this water-power resource as governing transportation costs.
"The streams may be also used as small water power on thousands of farms. This is particularly true of small streams. Much of the labor about the house and barn can be performed by transmission of power from small water wheels running on the farms themselves or in the neighborhood. This power could be used for electric lighting and for small manufacture. It is more important that small power be developed on the farms of the United States than that we harness Niagara.
"Unfortunately, the tendency of the present laws is to encourage the acquisition of these resources on easy terms, or on their own terms, by the first applicants, and the power of the streams is rapidly being acquired under conditions that lead to the concentration of ownership in the hands of the monopolies. This constitutes a real and immediate danger, not to the country-life interests alone, but to the entire nation, and it is time that the whole people become aroused to it.
"The forests have been exploited for private gain not only until the timber has been seriously reduced, but until streams have been ruined for navigation, power, irrigation, and common water supplies, and whole regions have been exposed to floods and disastrous soil erosion. Probably there has never occurred a more reckless destruction of property that of right should belong to all the people.
"The wood-lot property of the country needs to be saved and increased. Wood-lot yield is one of the most important crops of the farms, and is of great value to the public in con trolling streams, saving the run-off, checking winds, and adding to the attractiveness of the region. [Taken up in a special chapter of this book.]
"In many regions where poor and hilly lands prevail, the town or county could well afford to purchase forest land, expecting thereby to add to the value of the property and to make the forests a source of revenue. Such communal forests in Europe yield revenue to the cities and towns by which they are owned and managed."
These revenues would furnish good roads even in the poorest and most sparsely settled districts.
There are a number of other reasons why people do not like to live outside of cities—or do not succeed in farm work. There is the difficulty of finding help. This, however, rejoices the heart of the modern sociologist. Consider—we first teach our children independence and train them for everything but farm help or household services. Then we degrade the "help" below a mill "hand" so that people will not even sit at table with them at an hotel. Next we fix a theory of conduct for them that keeps them constantly under orders and pay them wages that make it hardly possible for them to rise above the station to which we have appointed them.
Finally, when we move away from the haunts of men out to Sandtown-by-the-Puddle we blame them that they do not rush to join us. Most of them would be happier in penal servitude than in the country. The work is as hard and requires as much skill as a mechanic's work, besides personal qualities that are demanded of no mechanic, and commands half its wages.
Those who, like Henry Ford, can afford to pay mechanics' wages for help can get all they want.
Many people go to the country without plan, preparation, or vocation, to make a living. They usually start to build a bungalow but seldom get further than the bungle. Don't build anything without plan. Get a comfortable house proof against cold and heat as soon as possible and, above all, well ventilated. At present the air in the country is good, because the farmers shut all the bad air up in their bedrooms.
"The farmer works from sun to sun For the summer's work is never done."
We might add, it's never even half done—naturally. A donkey engine can work like that, but then it hasn't any brains. No man can work from sun to sun all summer and think at all or be good for anything at the end of it.
Above all things don't work long hours, even in learning, with the idea of saving that way. All up-to-date employers are agreed that an eight-hour day produces more and better results than a ten-hour day and that a twelve-hour day brings sheriffs and suicides instead of profits.
That's just as true of the individual worker as it is of the factory "hand." Yet most men and a few women proudly say that they "work like a horse" (it's usually not true). They don't; a horse won't work and can't work over eight hours a day steadily. Neither can you: you may keep buzzing around much longer—but the best work requires the best conditions and the best hours. You think, or you flatter yourself that you think, that it is necessary; but nothing is necessary that is stupid and wrong. It is hardly too much to say that when we are tired out or ill either we have been doing the wrong thing or doing it wrong.
There is besides, as an anti-rusticant, railroad discrimination in favor of long hauls, but the main reason that the small farms of the Eastern Coast are less settled than those farther west is the great difficulty in getting farm loans or loans on farm buildings. New York companies and others in the great cities will loan on farms west of the Alleghenies, but even the otherwise excellent eastern Building Loan Associations usually restrict themselves to places within twenty-five miles of a city. The Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society will help approved Jewish farmers to buy and build: and there is a Federal Land Bank in Springfield, Mass., which lends to some Farmers' Associations, of which some four thousand are already formed. It is hoped that the State Land Bank of New York City may improve the situation in New York for Farmers' Organizations, but "generally nearly all available funds of the local banks seem to be drawn off for investments in Wall Street."
However, it is not to be forgotten that this difficulty is reflected in the lower prices of eastern Land.
One more thing that keeps many people from the country and drives some people back to the city is the mosquito (of course there are mosquitoes in town, but we are not out as much, so we notice them less). Mosquitoes breed or rather we breed them, in still water in which there are no fish, in pools, hollows in trees, wells, etc., and above all in old tin cans. They can no more breed without water than sharks could.
Mosquitoes do not breed in grass, but rank growths of weeds or grass may conceal small breeding puddles, and form a favorite nursery for Mamma Skeet. A teacupful of water standing ten days is enough for 250 wrigglers; their needs are modest.
Different species of mosquitoes have as well-defined habits as other birds and are classified as follows: Domestic, Migratory, and Woodland.
The common domestic or pet species breed in fresh water, usually in the house yard, fly comparatively short distances, and habitually enter houses. They winter in cellars, barns, and outhouses. Some of them are conveyors of malaria.
The Migratory Species breed on the salt marshes, fly long distances, do not habitually enter houses, and are not carriers of diseases so far as known.
Certain varieties of Woodland Mosquitoes breed only in woodland pools, appearing in the early spring, and travel a greater distance than the domestic species. They are not usually troublesome indoors.
It has been proved that malaria is transmitted only by certain species of Anopheles, one of which is the domestic mosquito. Eliminate this one species of mosquito and the disease will disappear as a direct consequence. So if you hear that pretty little song in the house, don't swear, thank the Lord that effects always follow causes. You need never be without a bite in the house if you have a nice cesspool handy for Sis Mosquito, for each one will have a first-class feed with you every second or third day.
They are needless and dangerous pests or pets. Their propagation can be prevented by draining or filling wet areas, by emptying or screening water receptacles, and by spraying with oil where better measures are not available. Oil should be sprinkled in any cesspools, sewers, and catch basins, rain barrels, water troughs, roof gutters, marshes, swamps, and puddles that cannot be done away with. All ponds and large bodies of water should have clean sharp edges, because in shallow, grassy edges larvae of the malarial species are commonly found. Large ponds with clean edges, inhabited by fish or predatory insects, are safe; smaller ponds, if wind swept, and all ponds in the "ripple area" are safe. All rain pools, stagnant gutters, overgrown edges of large ponds, and all receptacles holding water not constantly renewed, are dangerous. You raise most of your own mosquitoes.
Now a word specially concerning this revised edition.
The farm papers are supported mainly by men with large acreage, it is the rise in value of these acres more than the rise in farm products that has pulled the land-owning farmers out of the hole that they were in up to about the year 1900. Farmers' knowledge, liking, and equipment was for big fields, half cultivated, and at first they did not like to hear that they had been wasting so much of the labor that had bent their backs. Nor did they want to hear that it would have been far more profitable to them to have cultivated a few acres and left the goats and hogs or sheep to attend to the rest as wild land until the long-expected settlers came along to buy the land at dreamland prices.
Consequently, all the faults in the book there were, and some more besides, have been picked out by these critics. It is surprising as well as a notable compliment to the agricultural experts who revised the first edition that, with one exception, no material error or omission has been pointed out.
The more so because there is absolutely no limit to the advances in methods and results in doing things, and in growing things, all born of intelligent toil. Your suggestions may help the world to better and bigger things. If you will listen at the 'phone you may sometime hear a conversation like this:
"Hello, this is Mrs. Wise, send me two strawberries, please." "You'd better take three, Madam, I've none larger than peaches to-day." "All right; good-bye."
You may sometime see that kind of strawberry in New Jersey at Kevitt's Athenia, or Henry Joralamon's, or in the berry known by various names, such as Giant and different Joe's. But lots of people have failed in their war garden work even on common things; lots more ought to have failed but haven't—yet. Years ago, we, the book and its helpers, started the forward-to-the-land movement which has resulted in probably two million extra garden patches this war year. I have had carloads of letters, at least hand carloads, about the book, but not one worker who even tried to follow its counsels has reported failure.
So don't let us have a wail from you because your "garden stuff never comes up." Of course it doesn't; you have to bring it up, just like a baby. That's what I've been crying for long years in the wilderness ever since the first edition of this book. The Three Acres may be bought on credit but eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty and crops. To raise good crops costs time and attention and sweat of body and of brains.
Here is a chunk of wisdom out of the excellent Garden Primer (which you can get free by asking me for it):
"One hour a day spent in a garden ten yards long by seven wide will supply vegetables enough for a family of six"; but the value of this remark lies in the application of it. If you figure a bit on that you will find that ten minutes a day will provide enough for one person, but six hours once a week won't do. Six hours a day will bring up a baby; but two days a week is criminal neglect for the other five days. If you once let the weeds get a good start, say after a rain, they will make even the angels swear. It's regular attention that the baby and the garden and your education and your best girl will require.
If you want more minute instructions about how to grow each vegetable, put in words that anybody can understand without getting a headache or a dictionary, look up "The Garden Yard" by the Author. It is in nearly all libraries now, and it is the only book that makes perfectly plain everything that a plain man needs to know about growing plain things.
So there is little to add in this new edition except to reinforce what was not strong enough. In the present jumping market to revise the prices quoted would be absurd, but it may be noted that, as in the prices of 'cowers, the minimum prices are still about correct, but the maximum prices have jumped almost out of sight. Every year there are more and more very wealthy people who will pay nearly any price for the very best. The world seems to be dividing into those who have to count their pennies and those who couldn't count their thousands. Of course, where war has prohibited the importation of the strong bulbs and roots needed for forcing flowers, the prices are about what any one who has any chooses to ask. Monopoly can always get its own price.
This New Edition does not attempt to bring prices quoted up to date. In these times not even a stock exchange telegraph ticker can do that. Prices of goods in general have advanced at least 80 per cent. By the day that this book is off the press they may have decreased, or more likely advanced some more. The next day they may slump. Prices of labor advance more slowly and do not slump so fast. Wages of men gardeners have risen perhaps 50 per cent in the last ten years, but women and children have learned to do much of the work. They do the work cheaper because most of them have some one on whom they can partly depend for support.
Similarly, when an example of total product given in the earlier edition is still typical and has stood investigation, it is not discarded in favor of a more modern instance.
It would have been easy to have revised all the figures, but of little advantage to our readers. For example, it is encouraging to the citizen to know that the average wheat yield per acre has increased more than two bushels since the first edition of this book, but it would not help the garden maker. The increase of possible products tends to counterbalance the increased cost of labor. So only the musty parts have been cut out of the book, which is more needed now than ever.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter I: Making a Living—Where and How
Chapter II: Present Conditions
Chapter III: How To Buy The Farm
Chapter IV: Vacant City Lot Cultivation
Chapter V: Results To Be Expected
Chapter VI: What An Acre May Produce
Chapter VII: Some Methods
Chapter VIII: The Kitchen Garden
Chapter IX: Tools And Equipment
Chapter X: Advantages From Capital
Chapter XI: Hotbeds And Greenhouses
Chapter XII: Other Uses Of Land
Chapter XIII: Fruits
Chapter XIV: Flowers
Chapter XV: Drug Plants
Chapter XVI: Novel Live Stock
Chapter XVII: Where To Go
Chapter XVIII: Clearing The Land
Chapter XIX: How To Build
Chapter XX: Back To The Land
Chapter XXI: Coming Profession For Boys
Chapter XXII: The Wood Lot
Chapter XXIII: Some Practical Experiments
Chapter XXIV: Some Experimental Foods
Chapter XXV: Dried Truck
Chapter XXVI: Home Cold Pack Canning
Chapter XXVII: Retail Cooperation
Chapter XXVIII: Summer Colonies For City People
MAKING A LIVING—WHERE AND HOW
By thought and courage, we can help ourselves to own a home, surrounded by acres of fruit and vegetables, flowers and poultry, and learn the best methods so as to insure success.
In olden times any one could "farm," but it is necessary to-day to teach people to obtain a livelihood directly from the earth. Scientific methods of agriculture have revealed possibilities in the soil that make farming the most fascinating occupation known to man. People in every city are longing for the freedom of country life, yet hesitate to enter into its liberty because no one points the way.
Most sociologists are agreed that the great problem of our day is to stop the drift of population toward the cities. Seeing the overcrowding, the want and misery of our great towns, the philanthropist chimes in with "Get the people to the country, that is the need."
But there is no such need. Man is a social animal, he naturally goes in flocks, he earns more and learns more in crowds. To transport him to the country, even if he would stay, which happily he won't, would be to doctor a symptom. As in typhoid, what is needed is not to suppress the fever, that is easy, but to remove the cause of it.
It is not the growth of the cities that we want to check, but the needless want and misery in the cities, and this can be done by restoring the natural condition of living, and among other things, by showing that it is easier and making it more attractive to live in comfort on the outskirts of the city as producers, than in the slums as paupers.
We know already that the natural and healthy life is, that in the sweat of our faces we should eat bread. We observe that everything we eat or use or make comes from the earth by labor; but no one knows how abundantly the Mother can supply her children. It is well said that no man yet knows the capacity of a square yard of earth.
The farmer thinks that he has done well if he gets a hundred and fifty or two hundred bushels of potatoes from an acre; he does not know that others have gotten 1284 bushels.
("Mr. Knight, whose name is well known to every horticulturist in England, Once dug out of his fields no less than 1284 bushels of potatoes, or thirty-four tons and nine hundreds weight (about 34 bushels to the ton), on a single acre; and at a recent competition in Minnesota, 1120 bushels, or thirty tons, could be ascertained as having been grown on one acre." P. Kropotkin's "Fields, Factories and Workshops," page 114.)
Let us realize what an acre means. An acre is a square about 209 feet each way, 4840 square yards of land. A New York City avenue block is about 200 feet long from house corner to house corner. It has eight city lots 25 X 100 in its front; about double that space (17-2/5 lots) makes an acre.
An ordinary one-horse cart holds twenty bushels, so then a full crop of potatoes from that space would fill 56 carts.
To raise potatoes as an ordinary farmer raises them, requires him to go over the ground not less than a dozen times, plowing, harrowing, marking, planting, cultivating, three times weeding, three times for bugs, and digging; it would pay him to go over it much oftener.
If he plants his rows of potatoes three feet apart, to allow for horse cultivation, he has 69 rows of 200 feet each; which makes him walk at least thirty-three miles over each acre. If he has a twenty-acre lot in potatoes, he walks each year more than 650 miles over the field and gets, let us say, 150 bushels of poor potatoes per acre, or 3000 bushels off his twenty-acre field.
Now suppose he cultivates the soil, instead of just "raising a crop," and gets 600 bushels of fine potatoes to the acre, he need plant only five acres, walk only 200 miles, and, because his potatoes are choice and early, get many times the price that his pedestrian neighbor gets. It is much easier to grow 200,000 lb. of feed on one acre than to grow them on ten acres.
To cultivate is to watch the soil as you would watch your cooking and to tend the crop as you would tend your animals. The crop is as alive as the stock and as easily gets sick.
If an ordinary farmer rents 60 acres at $5.00 per acre, a moderate rent for good land, he pays out in cash $300, besides farm wages. If he buys it, his interest and taxes will amount to nearly as much; but if he tills but five acres intelligently, he can get as much out of it as out of an ordinary farm, and even if his rent be as high as $30 per acre for well situated land, he is $150 to the good; besides, doing the work himself, he has no drain of capital for wages.
Large barns and shelter for help being unnecessary, he can live in a cheap shack till he accumulates enough for proper buildings. Many of the successful vacant lot farmers live in a tent or in shanties made of old boxes and such like.
Of course, if we have the knowledge and ability and the capital and can give it the attention, it is more profitable to cultivate on a large scale than on a small one, because in that case each worker necessarily produces more than he gets as wages—and we pocket the difference.
Most American farmers are holding land that somebody ought to pay them a bonus for working, else they must come out of the little end of the horn. They get poor or poorly situated land, because it costs less, and then put three or four hundred dollars' worth of labor and money a year into the land and take out four or five hundred dollars' worth of crops.
The farmer thinks he must have big fields to feed his cattle, and that he must have cattle to keep the big fields fertilized, so he raises hay.
In that he makes two mistakes; hay, like most other low-priced crops, is risky—the cost of harvesting is high and the margin of profit small. A week of wet weather at cutting time or the impossibility of getting enough men and machines in the week when it should be cut, may make a loss.
But the scientific dairy man does not take that risk, nor let his cattle use up this fodder by wandering over the fields in search of tid-bits of grass or clover, or, goaded by the flies, trampling more grass than they eat and wasting their manure.
He keeps the cows in cool sheds, feeds them on cut fodder, and saves every ounce of the manure.
The modern cow is a ruminating machine for producing milk and cares little for exercise and needs little. To exploit the cattle as employers exploit the factory hands, he gives the cows a cool, shady place and food, and they stand there all day long to their profit and his.
(United States Agricultural Bulletin No. 22 says: "The New Jersey Experiment Station has been conducting a practical trial in soiling dairy cows for a number of years past, and finds that complete soiling is entirely practicable, i.e. that green foliage crops may serve as the sole food of the dewy herd, aside from the grain ration, without injury to the animals and with a considerable saving in the cost of milk.
"Under the soiling system a large number of animals can be kept upon a given acreage and by allowing open-air exercises in a large yard or pasture the practice has been demonstrated as entirely feasible for dairy animals.
"One acre of soiling crops produced sufficient fodder for an equivalent of 3 cows for six months. Rye, corn, crimson clover, alfalfa, oats and peas, and millets have been found to furnish food more economically than any other green crops in that locality. A grain rotation was always fed in addition to the soiling crops.")
Although we can feed a cow on less than an acre by raising forage crops, she needs to be milked every day at regular hours, and the milk, as well as the cans and the cow, need to be cared for—and she cannot wait.
The stock-raiser has a different proposition; he needs fields and grass; but if time and available labor is limited, we had better specialize on the garden—unlike the farmers.
The farmers are not to blame that they do not usually cultivate the land intelligently. They are mostly cut off from the educational advantages of the cities by distance and by bad roads.
Usually, that is because, desirable land being held at speculative prices, they are forced to places where the farm itself is worth less than the good improvements on it cost. Sometimes it is because, also, the land is poor or worn out; more often because it is thoughtlessly managed, nearly always because the land-hungry farmer has taken ten times as much land as he needs for farming. In the hope of a rise that often does not come, nearly all have bought more land than they can take good care of with limited capital and scarcity of help.
In addition, the farms have held out such poor prospects of fortune that the smarter and more enterprising boys and girls have left them for the towns, leaving behind the duller and more conservative to the mercy of the railroads and other monopolies. What wonder, then, that the overworked and struggling farmer finds little chance to study, or to investigate and invest in fertilizers or even in modern methods of agriculture.
No wonder farming does not pay if a "farmer" means a stupid man with neither training for, nor knowledge of, his business. Those who have the knowledge seldom have the experience and those who have the experience seldom have the knowledge.
The bonanza farms of the West are other samples of great areas of the most productive land in the United States being used most unscientifically. By the methods used, the land produces less per acre than land in the East which is not so good. Accordingly, we find that the bonanza farm plan, where great areas of wheat are worked by machines with labor employed only in the seed time and harvest, is rapidly breaking up. As the land becomes valuable and is taxed, such wasteful, wholesale methods do not pay as well as it pays to rent or sell the land to farmers, who each for themselves attend to details of the business. Consequently, most of those farms are being sold off. The whole amount of wheat ever raised on them, however, is small compared to the rice, millet, and wheat raised in China, India, and Russia, and is insignificant compared to the amount of produce grown on the myriad little farm plots.
A comparison of productions as taken from the 12th and 13th United States Censuses in the bonanza farm states shows that the yield of wheat was:
while New England shows 23.5 bu. per acre.
In 1899 In 1909
Minnesota 14.5 bu. per acre 17.4 North Dakota 13.5 bu. per acre 14.3 South Dakota 10.5 bu. per acre 14.6
By 1917 these largely increased, but the differences remain.
"The average extent of land tilled by one family in Japan does not exceed one hectare" (2.471 acres), less than two and a half acres. ("Japan in the Beginning of the Twentieth Century," page 89. Published by the Department of Agriculture and Commerce of Japan.)
"Farm households contain on an average 5.8 persons, of whom two and a half persons per family may be regarded of an age capable of doing effective work."
"So that here we have more than one person working on each acre and each acre supporting more than two persons, notwithstanding that their 22,000,000 tenant farmers pay sometimes four fifths of their product as rent." (Same, page 103.)
Denmark, one of the best agricultural countries and probably one of the happiest communities on earth, reported
1,900 farms of 250-300 acres, 74,000 farms averaging 100 acres, 150,000 farms averaging 7 to 10 acres, 1,050 cooperative dairies, and so on.
And so impressed has the ruling class there become with the advantage of this that the Government will supply the poor worker nine tenths of the means necessary to buy a small farm.
Says Kropotkin, "the small island of Jersey, eight miles long and less than six miles wide, still remains a land of open field culture; but, although it comprises only 28,707 acres (nearly 45 square miles), rocks included, it nourishes a population of about two inhabitants to each acre, or 1300 inhabitants to the square mile, and there is not one writer on agriculture who, after having paid a visit to this island, does not praise the well-being of the Jersey peasants and the admirable results which they obtain in their small farms of from five to twenty acres—very often less than five acres—by means of a rational and intensive culture.
"Most of my readers will probably be astonished to learn that the soil of Jersey, which consists of decomposed granite, with no organic matter in it, is not at all of surprising fertility, and that its climate, though more sunny than the climate of the British Isles, offers many drawbacks on account of the small amount of sun heat during the summer and of the cold winds in spring."
("The successes accomplished lately in Jersey are entirely due to the amount of labor which a dense population is putting on the land; to a system of land-tenure, land-transference, and inheritance very different from those which prevail elsewhere; to freedom from State taxation; and to the fact that communal institutions have been maintained down to quite a recent period, while a number of communal habits and customs of mutual support, derived there-from, are alive to the present time." ("Fields, Factories and Workshops.")
"It will suffice to say that on the whole the inhabitants of Jersey obtain agricultural products to the value of $250 to each acre of the aggregate surface of land." (Same, page 113.))
In a small plot the character of the soil is of little consequence. We hear of one garden in New York City on the roof of a big building where the janitor smuggled up the needed soil in baskets.
The school gardens in New York City, some in a space as small as a hearth rug, one yard by two, show how to use a very small patch of land to the best advantage. Nor need it take more time than you can afford.
"Some of the cultivators of city lots on Long Island who kept count of the number of days they worked, show the surprising conclusion that they earned, not farm wages (seventy-five cents a day with board and lodging for the worker), but mechanics' wages (four dollars per day) for every working day; as, for instance, a stone-cutter, assisted by his two boys, worked fifty hours and made $120.23." ("Cultivation of Vacant Lots, New York," page 12); and four city lots is a very little farm.
But though one may not own even a little farm, almost any one who wants to can have a home garden—it needs but a small plot of land. Nor need we be discouraged because acquaintances who play at gardening tell us that their vegetables cost them more than if they bought them.
They naturally would, with thoughtless methods of cultivation, with the selection of crops and the purchase of seeds left to an uneducated man who does all his work the way he saw his grandfather do it.
Nor are we to be discouraged even by the "gentleman farmer" who runs a model farm, a model of how not to do it, for, notwithstanding its large capital, it seldom pays.
I am passing such a farm now as I write in the train—it is surrounded by a cut stone wall. Do you suppose the owner business would pay if it were run in the same way that his farm is run? We know the story of the white sparrow to find which would bring luck to the farm—but it was out only at daybreak; the farmer got up each morning to find the sparrow and found a lot of other things to attend to, which did bring luck to the farm. I don't think the owner of that wall worked at it, at daybreak.
The time is not far distant when the builders of homes in our American cities will be compelled to leave room for a garden, in order to meet the requirements of the people In the mad rush for wealth we have overlooked the natural state, but we see a healthy reaction setting in. With the improvements in steam and electricity, the revolutionizing of transportation, the cutting of the arbitrary telephone charges, it is becoming possible to live at a distance from our business. May we not expect in the near future to see one portion of our cities devoted entirely to business, with the homes of the people so separated as to give light, sunshine, and air to all, besides a piece of ground for a garden sufficient to supply the table with vegetables?
You raise more than vegetables in your garden: you raise your expectation of life.
Life belongs in the garden. Do you remember—the first chapters of Genesis show us our babyhood in a garden—the garden that all babyhood remembers, and the last chapter of the Apocalypse leaves us with the vision of the garden in the Holy City, on either side of the river, where the trees yield their fruits every month and bear leaves of universal healing. Just so will it be in our holy cities of the future—the garden will be right there "in the midst."
Up to the Civil War and for some years after, our people were almost wholly agricultural. National activity contented itself with settling and developing the vast areas of the public lands, whose virgin richness cried aloud in the wilderness for men.
The policy of the government, framed to stimulate rapid occupation of the public lands, had attracted hordes of settlers over the mountains from the older states, and immigration flowed in a steady stream into the valleys of the Ohio and the Mississippi.
A system had grown up in the South almost patriarchal, based upon cultivation by slave labor of enormous areas devoted exclusively to cotton. In the North, New England had developed some few centers of industry, drawing their support from the manufacture of the great Southern staple. New York, Boston, and Philadelphia were growing as outlets for foreign commerce, but as yet manufacturing flourished but feebly and in few localities.
Such manufacturing and commercial enterprises as existed had been laboriously built up by long years of honest working. The free lands of the government, by giving laborers an alternative, kept up wages, forcing employers to bid against each other for labor; and monopoly thus being checked, individual equality was possible.
The mineral resources of Pennsylvania and Ohio were all but unsuspected, and the calm of a people devoted to the peaceful pursuits of agriculture rested over the country.
Railroads were few and inefficient: telegraph lines but in their infancy. Intercourse among the people, outside of a narrow fringe on the Atlantic coast, was cumbersome, and impeded by many obstacles. Primitive conditions everywhere prevailed, and communities brooded in silence, growing stragglingly in sluggish indifference, content with coarse food and coarser living.
Such, in general, were the conditions up to 1861. Then came the storm of shot and shell, the rain of blood, the elemental rage of passion called the Civil War. There was a total upset of business. Such periods of hard times as had occurred prior to that time had been caused by the tinkering of untrained minds with the money system or by land speculation, and not by lack of access to the riches of nature. After four years our people awoke, as from a nightmare, to find the old life swept away forever. In the South, the Confederates, bitter and sullen, groping amid the ruins of their institutions, sought to find some substitute for the agricultural despotism exercised for generations by their slaveholding families. In the East, the first families of the Revolution, secure in their preeminence, assumed again the manufacturing-banking-social prestige. The far West was still almost unknown, and remained in possession of the buffalo and the Indian. Settlers poured, in increasing numbers on to the unappropriated lands still left in the states of the central West, and the center of political power shifted rapidly to this fertile region.
Already men of keen insight foresaw a time when oil, timber, coal, and iron must become the stay of a vastly expanding industrial system, and bent their energies to secure the chief sources of supply. From the nature of their work the men who built railways first became aware of the riches of nature, and aided by an enormous public sympathy with their efforts, monopolized all the natural opportunities of value. Coupled with industrial development was the gradual appropriation of the land. The time soon arrived when the late comers either stayed in the manufacturing centers at the railways terminals or were pushed farther and farther away from the centers. As the landowning families multiplied, the young men were confined to the same choice. Forced off the land, the tendency has been to crowd the brainiest blood of America into the cities. In addition, the competition of the new Western lands, brought into use by railway development, has exiled the youth of New England, who found in their rocky acres no incentive to toil. They, too, joined the ever-increasing flow to the cities, and entered into the savage competition of our great towns.
In our time the pendulum has swung to its extreme. At every depression of business, armies of the unemployed perish in sight of the land they abandoned in the hope of a brighter future. Their children have forgotten the traditions of the soil, and the energies of our people must now be concentrated to reverse the aimless tide of human sufferers, which under stress continues to flow city-ward, and to send it to repeople the silent places whence it came. The fight will not be easily won. Changes in the national land policy are imperative. To give one generation privileges which enslave all who succeed it, is intolerable and will not be permanently endured.
It is easy to determine upon a policy in the quiet of the study; different is the problem of applying a comprehensive scheme to repeople the idle land. In the first place, where is the idle land? In all parts of our country it exists in abundance. Almost every state in the Union has lands which either have never been alienated, or which have reverted to the state through nonpayment of taxes. In the East, particularly, the competition of Western lands, aided by discriminating freight rates, now so notorious, has resulted in the abandonment to the mortgagee of vast areas in New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, and to some extent in New Jersey. These are now largely resold.
Declining fertility and exorbitant and oppressive transportation charges have helped to keep these lands out of use, and some still lie idle and neglected, to excite the wonder of the social and economic student. To use the abandoned lands of the East, equal rates on agricultural products is a basic necessity.
The first step, now well under way, is railroad control by the Government. Equal access to transportation is as essential as equal access to land, for transportation is indeed an attribute of land.
Extending the inquiry westward, the coal and oil areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio are all controlled by a few hands. The original fertility of the farming areas of these states, together with the fact that they have been producing for only about a century, has enabled them to hold their own until recently, but now only the best located tracts are in maximum production, and this can be maintained only by the most advanced agricultural science. In spite of greater advantages, the crowded cities and deserted country districts are beginning to repeat in the fertile alluvial valleys of the interior, the tragic story of the East.
In the Mississippi valley, conditions seem better. Values of farming lands are increasing rapidly; the farms are rich and growing richer; food products are cheap and abundant; certain staples are produced in enormous quantities and sent to feed the cities of the East and the industrial population of Europe. The railroads transport these products nearly one thousand miles for the same prices as they charge in the East for transporting them one hundred miles. Wealth, activity, and political power concentrate at the inlet and outlet of the railway funnel, leaving vast areas of unused and unusable land between the terminals. Access to markets determines value. That is why the favored lands of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin, one to two thousand miles from market, have risen in value to as high as three hundred dollars per acre, and the lands of New England, New York, and New Jersey go begging at twenty to sixty dollars per acre, unless they lie within the artificial prosperity of the cities.
Farther west in the irrigated regions of Colorado and Utah, restricted areas are held for special fruit crops, at prices ranging from three hundred to two thousand dollars and up, per acre. But here, again, monopoly, now a monopoly of natural opportunity, is a factor in creating prices; on this, however, the vast irrigation projects of the government, bringing into use larger and larger areas of these favored lands, were expected to exercise a check. Up to 1918 little has been sold. Their reclamation cost too much.
The willingness of the Southern planters to sell their lands, and so to release them for intensive cultivation, has partly turned the tide of immigration from the Eastern ports to the South, and the market garden system is reaching increasing areas. The development of factories to make cotton fabrics and to utilize the formerly wasted cotton seed by turning it into meal for cattle and other animals, as well as into the various food products, such as cotton-seed oil, cottolene, etc., has stimulated the use of the waste land around these budding factory centers, thus tending to encourage intensive use of small, well-located tracts.
With a climate much milder and more equable than that of the Northern states, with a potential fertility of soil, equally great under proper management, the South is making greater strides than any other part of the country.
The foregoing shows that in every section opportunities of getting the people to the land exist. Where a man should go is determined by a variety of things. If he be a newly arrived immigrant used to land work in Southern Europe, he would find his best chance in the South; if a German or Russian, or from any of the Northern European countries, he would find the beet-sugar sections of Michigan Colorado, or California more to his liking; if American born, without much knowledge of out-door work, and feeling the need of social life, the cheap farms of New York, New Jersey, and New England would probably be most attractive.
Many persons write me that I say it is necessary to get good land near population or with cheap and assured transportation facilities—and that it must not cost more than it is worth for gardening. "I find," they say, "that such acres are held as 'lots' at wildly speculative prices" and they ask "Where can I find such land?" But this is a book on agricultural use of land. Why land costs too much and where the remedy lies are other questions, dealt with in my "Things as They Are."
However, probably the best chances now for intensive cultivation are in New Jersey, in the backwoods of the Middle states now made accessible by cheap autos—and in the South.
What can be undertaken with good prospects of success will be outlined in the following chapters.
HOW TO BUY THE FARM
Before the purchase of the land for a home in the country, some consideration ought to be given to probable increase in land values. Even if you are primarily interested in your early sales of produce, you will not object to reaping an additional profit from the presence of other people.
Inasmuch as density of population determines land values, it follows that vacant land near a large city at $100 per acre may be cheaper than similar land at a distance would be at $10 per acre. If you buy real estate, you become a silent partner who does nothing, but takes most of the profits of the business of others.
Some persons see so clearly that money is often easily gotten by investing in land, that sometimes they make mistakes, in trying to get in. It is as easy to be a lamb in the real estate market as it is in the stock market.
Foresight, judgment, and experience or luck are essential to success in real estate dealing, but help, at least in keeping out of danger, may be had by following a few simple rules, if one can command a little capital, borrowed or owned.
The following points, suggested by a professional land shark, will certainly be of interest and possibly of profit to the intending buyer. I believe myself that they contain the whole philosophy of land speculation.
For a sure profit buy low-priced land, keeping as near the "raw material" as possible; high-priced property is risky and expensive to carry. An acre which costs one or two hundred dollars, or ten dollars per lot, will cost but six to twelve dollars per year to carry and half a dollar for taxes, and if a stable does come next you, why, you can sell your land for a blacksmith shop.
Besides this, a ten-dollar lot, if restricted for residence or available for business, often advances to $100 in a year; one good house which some one else built near it may raise its value that much.
If the land is high priced, see that there is some kind of a building on it; even a shanty will usually bring in enough or save you enough by its use to pay the taxes; so you will have that working for you whilst you are away.
If possible, buy at auction and of reputable people who are not boomers, or at least buy at forced sale; that is how real estate is sold when it must be sold. Choose lots level with the curb and on high ground, lest the expense of grading and sewering eat up your profit.
Keep in mind that in buying land for speculation one really buys the opportunity to tax other people, by taking part of their earnings in the shape of rent or price. Do not then be deluded by boom schemes in inaccessible or desolate places; choose rather that land which in the natural course of events others must have in order to work or to live.
Home buying in small communities is safer than in the outskirts of a large city, because public improvements are much less costly. If you put $500 in a $5000 home and carry the balance on mortgage, an assessment of $1000 for streets or sewers, which helps the vacant lots, will probably put you out of business. Whether for use or speculation, buy in an established neighborhood or where the circumstances and neighbors are such that restrictions or expenditures will make its character sure. The increase in your land value depends first upon the presence, then upon the efforts, of others; it is by their labor you hope to profit.
Therefore, buy property on leading thoroughfares; except in a very small section devoted to the residence of millionaires, the price of residence property has a limit; even there the merest accident or the whim of fashion may destroy the value, but there is no telling what figure business property may reach.
Do not build unless you have to. It is rare that a building pays five per cent net on the value of the land and the cost of the house. "Who buys a house already wrought, gets many a brick and nail for naught." If, however, you can get a piece of ground in a growing neighborhood and live on it till you can sell at an advance, that is the safest, and surest of investments. It delivers you from the power of the landlord.
Lastly—in real estate—don't bite off more than you can chew.
Most of these rules apply to the purchase of suburban land. In farm buying, keep as close to your market as you can. See that railway facilities are all right; get land likely to be needed for other purposes. The best way to begin is by securing all information possible from state agricultural departments. Write to the industrial agents of important railroads traversing the section in which you want to locate. They have detailed information regarding land, markets, social conditions, etc.; get from the United States Agricultural Department a map showing the soil survey of the section of your choice. It must be borne in mind that personal aid is not to be expected from State Agricultural Departments, Bureaus of Immigration, railway companies, or any public agency.
From the big farm agencies run for profit you can get lists of thousands of properties for sale. Some State Agricultural Departments cooperate with real estate men in their own states, by referring inquiries for farms to them. Some states issue from time to time lists of "abandoned farms," but these change so constantly that they help but little except in the way of suggestion.
When you start farm-hunting take along a good map. Then you will know a few things on your own account. Verify railroad maps and "facts," as they are often biased. Don't waste your time wandering around a strange locality by yourself. The local real estate man knows more about his community than you can learn in five years. In trying to find out things for yourself you will waste in aimless journeys, undertaken in ignorance of real conditions, more time and money than a real estate man's commission amounts to.
The only way to form a correct idea of the production of any given section is to examine a particular farm in detail. Within well-recognized limits, all the farms thereabouts will be found of similar character. Before spending money to look at land, learn all you can by correspondence. Whether it is more profitable in the long run to buy that good plot of land in a high state of cultivation with good buildings on it, at a high price, than to buy this exhausted piece of land with poor buildings or none at all, is a question for the individual to decide. It depends on your energy, grit, age, and how much money you have. It is much easier to take advantage of what the other fellow has done, than it is to build from the stump. You must bear in mind, however, that well kept land in a high state of cultivation seldom goes begging in the market. On the whole, if you have the capital to do it, you can make the biggest wages by buying rough or neglected land, and hewing it into shape.
If you have a knowledge of soils, you may be able to find land that will grow something that no one supposes it will grow. This will be particularly useful in the case of land thought to be valueless. The lands about Miles, Michigan, were considered sterile until some one found out that they would grow mint, a valuable crop, which made the land salable at high prices.
Get hold of a desirable bit of the earth. All that men wear or eat or use; everything—shelter, food, tools, and toys comes from the land by labor. Even the capital used to make more of those things is taken from the land. The employer and the capitalist are, at bottom, only men who control the land or its products, who own rights of way, mining rights, or the fee of valuable lands. Thousands have "made" money by finding unexpected products in their land or of their lands, oil, coal, mineral, plants; thousands more because their land was needed by some one else, and they were paid to get out of the way.
To speculate on these chances is risky business; to keep land that enables you to make good pay while you wait, is profitable.
VACANT CITY LOT CULTIVATION
In this book, necessarily, we have to take much upon the reports of others, checking them by our own judgment and experience. The startling accounts of what has been done and is being done on plots of about a quarter acre to each family, however, can be easily re-verified by any one who will go or write to Philadelphia, or examine any present experiment or model gardens. These show what can be done even by unskilled labor, with hardly any capital, on small plots where the soil was poor, but which are well situated.
The directors say: "The first Vacant Lot Cultivation Associations were organized when relief agencies were vainly striving to provide adequate assistance for the host of unemployed. The cultivation of vacant city lots by the unemployed had already been tried successfully in other cities. The first year we provided gardens, seeds, tools, and instruction only, for about one hundred families on twenty-seven acres of ground. At a total cost to contributors of about $1800, our gardeners produced $46,000 worth of crops."
The applicant is allowed a garden on the sole condition that he cultivate it well through the season, and that he do not trespass upon his neighbors. He must respect their right to what their labor produces. A failure to observe these rules forfeits his privilege.
During twenty years, more than eight thousand families have been assisted, many old people who could no longer keep up the rapid pace of our industrial life, cripples whose physical condition held them back in the race for work, persons who on account of sickness or other misfortunes have been thrown out of the competition in modern business, and unfortunate beings who, though clear in mind and strong in muscle, have been forced to the ranks of the unemployed—these have all had an opportunity opened to them: opportunity to enjoy all of the fruits from nature's great storehouse which their own labor and skill might secure.
The war has forced France, Italy, and England similarly to utilize natural opportunities for subsistence in their enormous tracts of unproductive lands. In Mexico all proprietors will be required to designate what they propose to cultivate and the remainder will either be allotted temporarily for agricultural purposes to those desiring them or it will be cultivated under government management. There is no remedy like that for poverty.
The first man who applied for a vacant lot garden came to the Philadelphia office after the announcement in the papers, so weak and emaciated that the doctor was afraid the poor fellow would be unable to get out of his office without assistance. He was a widower with three girls and a boy, the oldest girl about seventeen.
He received a garden which contained only about one fifth of an acre. Later he observed that a part of another little farm was left untouched on account of being very rough, full of holes, and covered with stone and bricks. Part of this farm was below the street grade and subject to overflow, but it was larger than the others—nine tenths of an acre. He offered to exchange, saying he did not mind the extra work.
His offer was accepted. In a few days the stones and bricks had been thrown into the holes and covered with dirt. The low places had been filled in. It was a work in which the whole family joined. A small house was rented in the immediate neighborhood in lieu of their one room near the foul alleys of the city slum.
Every inch of the soil was utilized. A rosy hue took the place of the pale, wan cheek of a few months before. And now the harvest has come, and the winter's store can be enumerated. Thirty bushels of potatoes, four bushels of turnips, one bushel of carrots, thirty gallons of sauerkraut, fifteen gallons of catsup, five gallons of pickled beans, one hundred quarts of canned tomatoes, fifty quarts of canned corn, twenty quarts of beans, one thousand or more fine celery stalks, and many other things. Warm clothing has replaced the badly worn garments of nine months ago. A few pieces of furniture have been added. The boy has been provided with a small capital for his little business. ("Vacant Lot Cultivation," Reprint from N. Y. Charities Review.) Better labor would of course get even better results.
The personal benefits that have come to a few individual cases, are largely the same that all the gardeners enjoyed in New York and elsewhere.
An old colored woman—a grandmother—who had just been released from one of the hospitals where she had been treated for a long time for pleurisy, asked for a garden. It was more than a mile to the nearest plot, but she was quite willing to go even that distance if she could get a garden. At first, owing to her weakened condition, she was forced to work slowly and for short periods only, but a little assistance enabled her to get a garden started. The work proceeded so well that more land was added to her small holding, and most of her waking hours were now spent either in or near the garden, working among the tender plants or watching them grow. Before the season was half spent she had developed one of the best gardens in the whole plot. Her surplus produce became so large that she had to devote most of her time to gathering and selling it. Finally she rented a small shed on a prominent street and passers-by often stopped, and regular customers came to buy the freshly gathered produce, the supply being not only abundant, but of great variety.
One of the best gardens, from the standpoint of value of produce as well as for the varieties of products it contained and the artistic arrangement, was worked by a man who had but one arm. Many other successful and profitable gardens were cultivated by men and women of an age when we generally expect them to depend entirely upon others for support.
Many incidents were found where such habits as drinking and loafing around saloons and clubs and abusing the family have been checked on account of the gardener's time and attention being occupied in the little farm.
One of the workers came for work in a condition of mind and body which rendered his services almost worthless. He was scarcely able to carry on his work for a minute beyond what he was shown. Each new move had to be explained constantly, and even then he was often found doing the work in the wrong way only a few minutes afterwards. Before long, however, he began to see that his place had its responsibilities and that the work of Mother Nature depended on his doing his part and doing it well. By the time the crops were ready to gather and market he came to realize that the cost of production must come under the amount received from the sale of the produce so as to prevent loss. By the end of the season he had learned so to utilize his time and to organize his work and execute our plans that we were able to recommend him to a farmer who was looking for a handy man about the place.
In twenty years our Associations have made demonstrations of the following facts, each demonstration proving more clearly than the former ones:
First. That many people out of employment must have help of some kind.
Second. That a great majority of them prefer self-help, and many will take no other. Nearly all are able and willing to improve any opportunities open to them.
Third. That to open opportunities to them does not pauperize or degrade, but has the opposite effect of elevating and ennobling. It quickly establishes self-respect and self-confidence. The best and most effective way of helping people in need is to open a way whereby they may help themselves. The most effective charity is opportunity accompanied with kindly advice and a personal interest in those less fortunate than ourselves.
Fourth. That the offering of gardens to the unemployed with proper supervision and some assistance by providing seeds, fertilizers, and plowing accompanied with instruction, is the cheapest and easiest way of opening opportunities yet devised.
Fifth. That it possesses many advantages in addition to providing profitable employment; among others, that the worker must come out into the open air and sunshine; must exercise, and put forth exertion,—all of which are conducive to health, and, most important of all, he knows that all he raises is to be his own. This is the greatest incentive to industry.
The Vacant Lot Cultivation system is a school wherein gardeners are taught a trade (to most of them a new trade), farming, which offers employment for more people than all the other trades and professions combined: a trade susceptible of wide diversification and offering many fields for specializing. But little capital is required; any other field would require large outlay. Its greatest advantage, however, is that the idle men and the idle land are already close to each other—the men can reach their gardens without changing their domiciles or being separated from their families.
It was not until after several years that the full effect of the work was realized. A few gardeners each year from the beginning have, after one or two years' experience, taken small farms or plots of land to cultivate on their own account, or have sought employment on farms near the city; but the number is quite small compared to the whole number helped. Now more than ten per cent of those that had gardens previously have for the last two years been working on their own account. Out of nearly eight hundred gardeners, more than eighty-five either rented or secured the loan of gardens that season and cultivated them wholly at their own expense, and many others would have done so had suitable land been available. The number of gardens forfeited on account of poor cultivation or trespassing was only two out of 800 plots given out.
The first important advance was early in the spring of 1904, when it became known that a large tract of land that had been in gardens for several years would be withdrawn from use. A number of the gardeners came together to talk over the situation. One proposed that they form a club to lease a tract of land and divide it up among themselves. The plan was readily agreed to, and a nine-acre tract on Lansdowne Avenue was rented at $15 per acre per annum. Some sixteen families became interested' and Mr. D. F. Rowe, who had been one of the most successful gardeners, became manager They had the land thoroughly fertilized and plowed, and then subdivided. Some took separate allotments, as under the Vacant Lot Association's plan, and others worked for the manager at an agreed rate of wages per hour. The whole nine acres were thoroughly well cultivated, and a magnificent crop harvested.
As soon as there was produce for sale, a market was established on the ground and a regular delivery system organized which later attracted much attention. It was carried on by the children, of nine to twelve years of age, from the various families. Each child was provided with a pushcart. There were many and various styles, made from little express wagons, baby coaches, and produce boxes.
The children built up their own routes, and went regularly to their customers for orders. They made up the orders, loaded them into their little pushcarts, charged themselves up with the separate amounts in a small book, and at the end of each day's sales each child settled with the manager and was paid his commission (twenty per cent of the receipts) in cash. These little salesmen and salesgirls often took home four to five dollars per week and yet never worked more than three to five hours per day. The work was done under such circumstances that to them it was not work but play. You can get the full report from the Philadelphia "Vacant Lot Cultivation Associations." It's interesting.
"The greatest value that our little garden has brought us," said a French woman, mother of a goodly number of rather small children, "has not been in the fine vegetables it has yielded all summer, or the good times that I and the children have had in the open air, but in the glasses of beer and absinthe that my husband hasn't taken." "Quite right, mother, quite right," came from a man near by. "The world can never know the evil we men don't do while we are busy in our little gardens."
Further, pillage of crops, which was always urged as an objection to raising fruits or truck on open grounds, has proved to be a baseless fear. Where any of the gardeners are allowed to camp or put up shacks on the patches, theft does not occur and various superintendents repeat that "the few and trivial cases of stealing from vacant lot plots or school gardens were almost all at the places that were fenced."
Perhaps our locks and bolts tend to suggest breaking in.
The Garden Primer issued by the New York City Food Supply Committee gives simple but incomplete directions for planting and tending a vegetable garden. For those who need that sort of thing, these are just the sort of thing they need. They will be useful if you do not follow them. The Primer tells you how to get some kind of parsnips, chard, spinach, common onions, radishes, cabbage, lettuce, beets, tomatoes, beans, turnips, peas, peppers, egg plants, cucumbers, corn, and potatoes.
Don't grow these things, unless it be for your own immediate use. Every one grows them and ripens them all at the same time. In many places these are given away or thrown away this year. Grow anything that every one wants and has not got, like okra, small fruits, etc.; you can get a much better return in cash or in trade than by spending your time "like other folks" who do not think.
So I refer to these directions for their instruction, and for your warning However, they give the following admirable injunctions.
"Help Your Country and Yourself by Raising Your Own Vegetables."
As we will likely have to send to Europe in coming years as much or even more food than we did last year, there is only one way to avoid a shortage among our own people, that is by raising a great deal more than usual. To do this we must plant every bit of available land. (Of course, we can't; the owners won't let us. Ed.)
If you have a back yard, you can do your part and help the world and yourself by raising some of the food you eat. The more you raise the less you will have to buy, and the more there will be left for some of your fellow countrymen who have not an inch of ground on which to raise anything.
If there is a vacant lot in your neighborhood, see if you cannot get the use of it for yourself and your neighbors, and raise your own vegetables. An hour a day spent in this way will not only increase wealth and help your family, but will help you personally by adding to your strength and well-being and making you appreciate the Eden joy of gardening. An hour in the open air is worth more than a dozen expensive prescriptions by an expensive doctor.
The only tools necessary for a small garden are a spade or spading fork, a hoe, a rake, and a line or piece of cord.
First of all, clear the ground of all rubbish, sticks, stones, bottles, etc. (especially whisky bottles).
Choose the sunniest spot in the yard for your garden.
Dig up the soil to a depth of 6 to 10 inches, using a spade or spading fork. (Deeper for parsnips and some other roots. Ed.) Break up all the lumps with the spade or fork.
If you live in a section where your neighbors have gardens, you might club together to hire a teamster for a day to do the plowing and harrowing for you all, thus saving a large amount of labor.
After your garden has been well dug, it must be fertilized before any planting is done. In order to produce large and well-grown crops it is often necessary to fertilize before each planting. Very good prepared fertilizers can be bought at seed stores, but horse or cow manure is much better, as it lightens the soil in addition to supplying plant food. Use street sweepings if you can get them.
The manure should be well dug into the ground, at least to the full depth of the top soil. The ground should then be thoroughly raked, as seeds must be sown in soil which has been finely powdered.
Lay out the garden, keeping the rows straight with a line. Straight rows are practically a necessity, not only for easier culture but for economy in space.
After you have marked all of your rows, the next step is opening the furrow. (A furrow is a shallow trench.) That is done with the hoe. (Best and quickest with a wheel hoe. Ed.) After the furrow is opened, it is necessary that the seed be sown and immediately covered before the soil has dried In covering the seeds the soil must be firmly pressed down with the foot. This is important.
In buying seed it is best to go to some well-established seed house, or, if that can't be done, to order by mail rather than to take needless chances. With most kinds of seeds a package is sufficient for a twenty-foot row.
Begin to break up the hard surface of the soil between the plants soon after they appear, using a hand cultivator or hoe, and keep it loose throughout the season. This kills weeds; it lets in air to the plant roots and keeps the moisture in the ground.
By constantly stirring the top soil after your plants appear, the necessity of watering can be largely avoided except in very dry weather. An occasional soaking of the soil is better than frequent sprinkling. Water your garden either very early in the morning or after sundown. It is better not to water when the sun is shining hot.
The planting scheme can be altered to suit your individual taste. For instance, peas and cabbage are included because almost everybody likes to have them fresh from their garden; but they occupy more space in proportion to their value than beets and carrots. Therefore a small garden could be made more profitable by omitting them altogether, or cutting them down in amount and increasing the amount of carrots, beets, and turnips planted; or any of the vegetables mentioned which may not be in favor with the family can be left out.
The kind of season we have would change the date of planting. In raising vegetables, as in everything else, one should use one's common (or garden variety of) sense. A good rule is to wait until the ground has warmed up a bit. Never try to work in soil wet enough to be sticky, or muddy; wait until it dries enough to crumble readily.
Gardening is not a rule of thumb business. Each gardener must bring his plants up in his own way in the light of his own experience and in accordance with the conditions of his own garden. A garden lover who has a bit of land will speedily learn if his eyes and his mind, as well as his hands, are always busy, no matter how meager his knowledge at the beginning.
There is plenty of land—if you can only get it.
Says Carl Vrooman, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, in regard to the food problem:
"Millions of acres of farm land are being held out of use and other millions of acres are being cultivated on a wasteful and inefficient basis. Land values have risen at an unprecedented rate. They are based not upon what the farm will earn at the present time, but on an expectancy of what it will be worth in the future. The farmer's son or the tenant farmer, with little or no capital, cannot hope to acquire possession of a farm w hen the price of land is SO high that his earnings would not pay the interest on the investment. The result is that land remains idle or in the hands of tenants, and thousands of farmers' boys desert the country for the city.
". . . . What we need, and need badly, is a program of taxation which, without throwing additional burdens on the bona fide farmer, will place land now idle within the reach of men of limited means who possess the ambition and the ability to cultivate it."
You can see that poor ignorant people, women, boys, cripples, old men, often on less than 100 X 150 feet each, not only in Philadelphia, but as war gardeners in New York, and most other towns, have been able to support themselves by their work on the land. You can do much better.
To be sure, they had valuable land and often seeds free, but for such little pieces of land these are small items, and many of them had no certainty of having the land even for a second year, consequently they could not have hotbeds or any permanent improvement. You can make all these things.
Then what can you do? Only remember they had intelligent instruction and did the work themselves, and got the whole product; often the children helped—they thought it fun. It does not pay to farm a small piece of land where all the workers have to be hired. Nor does it pay if one calculates merely to stick in seeds with one hand and pull out profits with the other.
RESULTS TO BE EXPECTED.
"If we get every one out on the farms, then there will be an over-production of farm products and a fall in prices."
True, but there are farmers who could do better in towns; what we want to do is to make it easy for people to get on the land about the cities, then it would be equally easy for those farmers who are better adapted for city life to get near the cities.
Under present conditions, where the worker is forced out fifteen or twenty miles from the town by the high price of land and the large amount of land required, the farmer is as much cut off from the city as the city dweller is cut off from rural life.
We need not be afraid to teach men better ways; there will always be plenty too stupid or too old or too isolated to learn; these will remain a bulwark against too sudden change.
Dr. Engel, former head of the Prussian Statistical Bureau, informs us that "Scientific farming succeeds because a given amount of effort, when more intelligently directed, produces greater results. Inasmuch, then, as the amount of food which the world can consume is limited, the smaller will be the number of farmers required to produce the needed supply, and the larger will be the number driven from the country to the city. It has already been observed that if 34 scientific methods were universally adopted in the United States, doubtless one half of those now engaged in agriculture could produce the present crops, which would compel the other half to abandon the farm." This is "Engel's Law."
This "argument" assumes that we are now utilizing all the land possible and that every one is fully supplied with food. But when we consider the great masses of people in the slums of all cities who are always underfed and whose constant thought is about their next meal; when we see hundreds of able-bodied men waiting in line until midnight for half a loaf of stale bread, surely it seems that there is a possibility of keeping all of the present farmers at work, if not of finding new fields for others, if we make our conditions such that there will be opportunities for every able-bodied worker to labor at remunerative employment.
Professor L. H. Bailey, a most industrious and accurate observer, says: "Dr. Engel's argument rests on the assumption that agriculture produces only or chiefly food; but probably more than half of the agricultural products of the United States is not food. It is cotton, flax, hemp, wool, hides, timber, tobacco, dyes, drugs, flowers, ornamental trees and plants, horses, pets, and fancy stock, and hundreds of other non-edible commodities. The total food produce of the United States, according to the twelfth census, was $1,837,000. The cost of material used in the three industries of textile, lumber and leather manufactories alone was $1,851,000,000.
"Dr. Engel thinks that the outlay for subsistence diminishes as income increases; but comforts and luxuries increase in intimate ratio with the income, and the larger part of these come from the farm and forest. Dr. Engel, in fact, allows this, for he says that 'sundries become greater as income increases."'
We have already abundance of information about almost every county in the Union, published by Boards of Trade and land boomers, like the following about "Oxnard, Ventura County, the center of the famous lima bean district in California. For a year the returns from farm products alone, in this vicinity, are estimated at over $2,000,000. The sugar factory, which uses 2000 tons of beets every twenty-four hours, requires the yield of about 1900 acres every season. The beet crop is rotated with beans, and the factory's supply is kept good by systematic methods. Two thousand head of cattle are being fattened at the present time in the company's yard on the beet pulp. Much of the pulp is also sold to local stockmen, who value it highly for feed. The factory turns out 5000 bags of sugar every day." And again:
"Eastern farm lands steadily declined in price up to about 1902, so that Eastern land sold for less than Western land of the same quality and of like situation; but the tide seems at last to have turned, and much money is now being made in buying up cheap farms and especially in sub-dividing them for small cultivators."
That sort of thing is interesting; but it is not what a man wants to know—he is anxious to learn how much he can make and where and how to do it.
The man who seeks a comfortable living will do better to rent on long lease or buy a few acres convenient to trolley or railroad communication with a city; besides the returns which will come to the farmer from the use of a few acres, if he is the owner he will get a constant increase in the value of the land, due to the growth of the city. If the city grows out so that the land becomes too valuable to farm, he will be well paid for leaving.
(Although progress is continually forcing laborers back upon less desirable land, their loss, unless they are the owners, is the landowner's gain.)
The amount of product to be grown for one's own use depends on the size of the family and its fondness for vegetables.
"An area of 150X100 feet [about two fifths of an acre] is generally sufficient to supply a family of five persons with vegetables, not considering the winter supply of potatoes; but the acres must be well tilled and handled." (Bailey, "Principles of Vegetable Gardening.")
"The produce that could thus be obtained from an acre of land well situated would abundantly supply with nearly all the vegetables named, nineteen families, comprising in all 114 individuals."
In our garden we must know what we want and know how to get it.
(It is impossible to treat exhaustively of the various crops in a book of this kind. On onion culture alone there are four standard books, besides seven or eight recent experimental station bulletins.
"In a family garden 100 X 150 feet (which equals six New York City lots), the rows running the long way of the area, eight or ten feet may be reserved along one side for asparagus, rhubarb, sweet herbs, flowers, and possibly a few berry bushes. A strip twenty feet wide may be reserved for vines, as melons, cucumbers and squashes. There remains a strip seventy feet wide, or space for twenty rows three and one half feat apart. This area is large enough to allow of appreciable results in rotation of crops; and i! it is judiciously managed, it should maintain high productiveness for a lifetime." (Bailey, "Principles of Vegetable Gardening."))
"The things to be considered in the home garden are: (1) a sufficient product to supply the family; (2) continuous succession of crops; (3) ease and cheapness of cultivation; (4) maintenance of the productivity of the land year after year.
"The ease and efficiency of cultivation are much enhanced if all crops are in long rows, to allow of wheel-tool tillage either by horse or wheel-hoe."
The experience of the Vacant Lot Gardeners (Chapter IV) shows that if the land be near a large market where the product can be peddled or sold by the producers or by those (as in Mr. Rowe's case), with whom he directly deals, more than twenty-five dollars capital is not necessary, but Peter Henderson ("Gardening for Profit") estimates that to get the best results, $300 capital per acre is required for anything less than ten acres.
Where the land is favorably situated a fortune may be made in cultivation of a few acres—with brains.
Quinn says ("Money in the Garden") that he knows a large number of market gardeners worth from ten to forty thousand dollars each, none of whom had five hundred dollars to begin with.
If one has not enough money to get all that can be gotten out of his plot, it is best to put part of the land into clover to fit it for later use or to use it for raising grass.
Results undoubtedly come from hard work; but it is not necessary, in order to cultivate a little land successfully, that you should work all day on your hands and knees; if you can raise fruit or nuts, this is not needed at all.
But for vegetables a certain amount of it is necessary—when there is a large job of that kind of weeding to be done, you can hire Italians or other foreigners to do it better and cheaper than you can do it yourself. Those who will read this book can earn more with their heads than their hands; but when weeding is needed after a sudden shower and there is no one else, you must do some of it yourself; the weather will not wait for you to "get a man," and if you are not willing to do such things, your chances of success are greatly lessened.
Here is the experience of one who "got a man":
"My garden, to begin with, was in the most rudimentary condition, having been allowed to run to grass. After digging up a spot about ten feet square in the turf, taking the early morning for the work, I decided that it would require all summer to get the garden fairly spaded up, so I hired a stalwart Irishman to do the work for me, which he did in a week, charging me nine dollars for the job. As he professed to be also an expert in planting vegetables, I bought a supply of seeds in the city and intrusted them to him, assuring myself that once in the ground the rest of the work would fall to me; if I could not keep a garden patch fifty feet square clear of weeds, I had better abandon the business at once, and all hopes of making a living out of scientific gardening. The beginning was an unfortunate one. The weather happened to be first very wet, and then so dry and hot that my vegetables were unable to break their way through the baked earth. When my peas and beans still gave no signs after being in the ground for two weeks, I discovered that the whole work would have to be done over again. A Presidential campaign was beginning, which kept me in town often late at night, so that the chief labor of the garden fell to my faithful Irishman, who got far more satisfaction out of it than I did. The vegetables finally did come up above the surface, and many an evening I finished a hard day's work by pumping and carrying hundreds of gallons of water to pour upon potato plants, tomatoes, beans, and other things which a friend of mine, an expert in such matters, assured me were curiosities of malformation and backwardness. My Irishman told me that it was all for want of manure, and by his advice I bought six dollars' worth of manure from a neighboring stable, and had it spread over the ground. The bills for my garden were meanwhile mounting up. I had begun the spring with a garden ledger, keeping an accurate account of every penny spent, and hoping to put on the other side of the page a tremendous list of fine vegetables. The accounts are before me now, and I presume that every one who has been through the same experience has preserved some such record." (Naturally, if he began that way.) ("Liberty and a Living," by P. G. Hubert.)
If your idea of farming is to bury "some seeds" in untilled ground, regardless of suitability, and "wait till they come up," you will wait in vain for a decent crop.
Says Professor Roberts in the "Farmstead" (Macmillan), "Mushrooms sell at fifty cents per pound; maize for one half cent per pound. Why? Because anybody, even a squaw, can raise maize, but only a specially skilled gardener can succeed in mushroom culture."
But enough has been said to show that you must cultivate with brains. The Germans say, "What your head won't do, your legs have to."
"We'll have a little farm, A pig, a horse and cow And you will drive the wagon While I drive the plow,"
is very pretty. The horse and the pigs are practical, if you can take care of them yourself; pigs are good farm catch-alls. If you have to pay a man to do it, you had better hire your horses and buy your pork.
Two well-groomed, healthy cows, one calving in the spring and one in the autumn, can be made a source of profit, and of valuable manure, if you have land enough in a neighborhood where up-to-date parents are willing to pay ten to twenty cents a quart for pure milk for their infants or even for family use. But your land and your own baby's care and milk will probably be enough for you to attend to promptly and thoroughly every day—and night.
It is an age-old experience that if we take care of a little land, the land will take care of us. In Ferrero's "Grandezza e Decadenza di Roma" is an interesting account of Marcus Terentius Varro's "De Re Rustica." Varro wrote in the year 37 B.C., and as he was then eighty years old, he had seen the transformation of Italy from an agricultural to a manufacturing, trading community and the accompanying wreck of the old agricultural system, which, of course, he laments.
The growth of vast landed estates largely held by imperial favorites, as Pliny said, destroyed Italy. So fearful has the destruction been that it is only in our generation that the Campagna at Rome, which was once an intensely fruitful quilt of garden patches, has been reclaimed from the fever-smitten swamp to which vast landlordism had reduced it.
In the third book of "De Re Rustica," Varro recommends as his remedy, intensive cultivation close to the cities, and the breeding of "fancy stock," including pigeons' snails, peacocks, deer, and wild boars.
He tells how an aunt of his made 60,000 sesterces ($3000) in one year by raising thrushes for the Roman market, at a time when an excellent farm of about 200 acres only yielded 30,000 sesterces per annum. He quotes another case of one who made 40,000 sesterces per annum from a flock of one hundred peacocks, by selling the eggs and the young. Those old Roman women weren't so slow.
Ferraro calls Varro's work one of the most important for the history of ancient Italy and says historians have made a mistake in not reading it.
At the time of the migration of the barbarians (350 to 750 A.D.), the lot of each able-bodied man was about thirty morgen (equal to twenty acres) on average lands, on very good ground only ten to fifteen morgen (equal to seven or ten acres), four morgen being equal to one hectare. Of this land, at least a third, and sometimes a half, was left uncultivated each year. The remainder of the fifteen to twenty morgen sufficed to feed and fatten into giants the immense families of these child-producing Germans, and this in spite of the primitive technique, whereby at least half the productive capacity of a day was lost. (From "The State," by Franz Oppenheimer, p. 11.)
In the Orange Judd prize contest, merely for the clearest account of a garden, not for results at all, a number of the contestants raised produce at the rate of $150 to $400 per acre and over, even in semi-arid regions; for instance, L. E. Burnham says that he raised on his first garden of about one third of an acre in eastern Massachusetts, garden stuff which he sold to summer cottagers for $61.69.
This took about eight days' work, nearly all with a wheel hoe.
Remember about the present increased and changing prices and costs? At the present writing, 1917, the advances in costs and prices would probably average about three quarters, and those of common labor perhaps one third over those given in the text. In other respects, the instances and authorities, still pertinent, have been retained in this revision.
It would have been waste, not thrift, to get a new authority to tell us that straw makes the cleanest mulch for strawberries; that's the reason they were called strawberries; and they grew just the same way ten years ago.
L. E. Dimosh of Connecticut raised on one quarter of an acre $146.21, of which over $85 was profit.
In other cases the profits were $142 (Gianque, Nebraska) per acre; and over $295 (Dora Dietrich, Pennsylvania); with the rather exceptional profit at the rate of $570 (Mrs. Hall, Connecticut). Some showed a loss.
Some of the town or city lots yielded very high profits; one of a third of an acre gave a profit of $224.33 (Edge Darlington, Md.).
The summary "based upon the reports of five hundred and fifteen gardens in nearly every state and territory and in Canada and the provinces, may be considered accurate and reliable. Covering such a vast territory local conditions are avoided." It shows that "the average size of farm gardens was 24,372 square feet, or about half an acre, the average labor cost $26.34, the average value of product was at the rate of $170 per acre, and the net profit over $80 per acre."
To get results we must first learn and then teach what we know. The finest game in the world is to teach. No one ever knows anything thoroughly till he tries to teach it.
When you tell a person how to do a thing, he doesn't know how to do it himself. When you show him how to do it, still he doesn't know that he could do it himself. But when you get him to do it himself, then he knows.
Country boys will believe that early tomatoes can be raised by starting them in the house; but like the rest of us they don't know how to do it, and when spring comes and it is time to do such things, they are busy on the farm. There are several schools trying the experience of allowing the children to plant in window boxes in early April and are showing them how to do it. But as there is not room for all the children to plant in these window boxes, there is a new idea which originated in the country, where the children are engaged in the fall and the spring assisting their parents at agricultural work.