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Ten Acres Enough
Chapter XXV.—Where to Locate—East or West


Every great national calamity has the effect of driving men from the cities to engage in agriculture. Such has been the result of the late war for the Union. I have been in a position to observe its operation on the minds of hundreds whom it covered with disaster. There has been the usual desire to break away from the cities, and settle in the country. The life-long convictions of my own mind have taken possession of the minds of others. Property in the cities ceased, for a time, to be saleable, while farms have been in more general demand than for years past. Foreign immigration was measurably stopped, because men fly from convulsions, not to countries where they are to be encountered. When war desolates the nations of Europe, the people migrate hither to avoid its horrors; when it desolates ours, they remain at home.

During the late disastrous experiences of city life, many of my friends upon whom they fell with great severity were free in their congratulations on my happy change of life. They had been as free in doubting the propriety of my experiment. Now, however, they looked up to me as possessing superior sagacity; were desirous themselves of imitating my example, and sought instruction and advice as to how they should proceed. Three of them are already located near me; so that, instead of cutting entirely loose from old asssociates by coming into the country, I have attracted them into a closer intimacy than ever. Dear as my home was without them, it is rendered doubly dearer by close association with long-tried friends.

Location is perhaps the most important consideration. A cash market all the year round for every variety of produce that a man can raise, is of the utmost importance to secure. Such is invariably to be found in close proximity to the great cities; and there, singularly enough, the wealthiest farmers in the Union will generally be found. When we go to the extreme North, where their market is limited, and where they produce only the heavy grains, and grasses, farming is so little an object that improved places can always be bought for less than their cost. It is very frequently the same throughout the West, where so much that is raised upon a farm is valueless; and where, for even the grains, they have a market which barely pays the expense of living. The expense incurred in farming can be regulated by the profit of the crops; and where even no manure is required, the labor has to be expended, and crops in distant localities often fail to pay the expense of this labor. Where land will pay for a liberal cultivation, as well as fertilizing, it is much better, as a farmer must work his stock, and a certain amount of care is indispensable. The difference in value existing between those farms near a market and those remote from it, is enormous. If the mind will consider the immense amount of produce in the way of fruits and vegetables, which, near a city, will command the highest prices, and which at a distance are an entire loss, a conception can be readily formed of what they amount to in dollars and cents.

Land in Illinois and Iowa can be purchased for a dollar an acre, but corn is at times of so little value as to be consumed for fuel. The wheat crop is annually decreasing in its acreable product, because no one values or applies manure. The West may be the paradise of the European immigrant, who, having abandoned friends and home, may with propriety settle in one spot as well as in another; because, go where he will, he will be sure to find none but strangers. But for residents of our cities who go thither, very few acquire property by legitimate farming, even after sacrificing all the tender associations of relatives and friends whom they leave behind, and enduring hardships and trials of double severity with those they need encounter if they would consent to suffer them on lands within thirty miles of their birthplace. If they become rich, it is by hazardous speculation, or by the rise in value of their lands. So far as real, practical farming is concerned, it will be found that the East is incomparably superior to the West; but, so far as small farmers like myself are concerned, it would be folly to deny this superiority.

I say nothing as to the superior ease with which corn and wheat are produced in the two sections, but refer only to the amount of money that can be realized from an acre there and an acre here. Beyond question, there are certain crops that are produced with greater ease in the West than in the East; but of what value is this superior facility if it does not pay? I have cleared from a single acre of tomatoes more than enough to buy a hundred and sixty acres in Iowa. If I had located there, who would have been ready to buy my abundant crop of berries? The truth is, that it is population that gives value to land,—population either on it or around it,—to convert it into lots covered with buildings, or to consume whatever it may produce. The West is a glorious region for the foreign immigrant, or for him who was born upon the rugged hill-sides of the Eastern States, but it is not the proper location for the class for whose instruction these pages have been written.

Few persons who have been nurtured and educated all their days in Eastern cities, and who have probably never been more than fifty miles from home, have any correct idea of what this gigantic West really is until they reach the spot itself. Why leave the privileges of a long-established civilization, —the schools, the churches of home,—the daily intercourse of acquaintances and friends,—merely because land producing twenty bushels of wheat per acre can be purchased for a dollar, when that producing twenty times as much in fruit or vegetables can be had for fifty, and often even for less? I doubt not there must be many in that region who now wish themselves back in their old homes.

If my example be worth imitating, land should be obtained within cheap and daily access to any one of the great cities. If within reach of two, as mine is, all the better, as the location thus secures the choice of two markets. In Pennsylvania, all the land around Philadelphia is held at high prices. Much of it is divided into small holdings, many of which are rented to market gardeners at prices so high that none but market gardeners can afford to pay them. Others are worked by their owners, who live well by feeding the great city. Gradually, as the city extends in every direction, these small holdings are given up to streets and buildings, thus enriching their owners by the rise in value. The truckers move further back, where land is cheaper. But the modern facilities for reaching the city by railroad have so greatly multiplied, that they are practically as near to it as they were before. The yield from some of these small holdings is very large. But the cost of land thus situated was too great for my slender capital when I began.

Hence I sought a location in New Jersey. There unimproved land, within an hour of Philadelphia, can be purchased for the same money per acre which is paid in Pennsylvania as annual rent. For ten to twenty dollars more, in clearing up and improving, it can be made immediately productive, as the soil of even this cheap land is far more fertile than is generally supposed. Thousands of acres of this description are always for sale, and thousands are annually being bought and improved, as railroads and turnpikes leading to the city are being established. Many Germans have abandoned the West, and opened farms on this cheap and admirably located land, from which they raise prodigious quantities of fruit and truck for Philadelphia and New York.

Colonies of New Englanders, allured by the early season, as compared with that of their own homes, the productive soil and the ready access to market, have settled upon and around the new railroad just opened, which leads south from Camden through the town of Malaga, where a large tract has recently been divided into farms of various sizes. They bring with them all the surroundings of an advanced civilization.

To those with no capital but their own labor and a determination to conquer success, these lands offer the highest inducements. Most of them can be had on credit, by men who will settle and improve, at twenty to thirty dollars per acre, within a little over an hour's ride to Philadelphia. This tract is distant but a few miles from the Delaware river, and probably no better could be found. Any number of locations can be had. Many are already improved by buildings, fencing, and all the preliminary comforts which cluster round an established home. The settler may choose between the improved and the unimproved.

But there is a better country north of Camden, lining the shore of the Delaware, where any number of locations may be found, improved by buildings, and at moderate prices, as well as on favorable terms as to payment. Vast progress in improvement has been made through all this region within ten years. New towns have been built, new turnpikes constructed, while the great railroad puts the cultivator in constant connection with the two overgrown cities at its termini. Land is increasing in value as population flows in. The margin of the Delaware, from Philadelphia upward, is being lined with villages, between which new farm-houses and cottages are annually erected; and the young of this generation will live to see it a continuous settlement of substantial villas, peopled by the swarms of educated families which a great human hive like Philadelphia is annually throwing off. A location within such an atmosphere of improvement must continually increase in value. The owner will find himself growing richer from this cause, just as the trucker on the Pennsylvania side has done—not so rapidly, but quite as surely. An investment in such land, properly managed, and not permitted to deteriorate, will assuredly pay. My own little farm is an illustration; for more than once have I been solicited to sell at double the price it cost me.

I am now looking at the future, as well as at the present. Yet the apparent anomaly of there being always an abundance of land for sale in so desirable a district, must not be overlooked. But it is so throughout our country; there are always and everywhere more sellers than buyers. It is the same thing in the cities; everywhere there is somebody anxious to sell. It would seem that we either have too much land in this country, or too small a population. Time alone can produce the proper equilibrium. The land cannot be increased in quantity, but it is evident that the population will be. As this is not a treatise either upon land or farming, but the experience of a single individual, so each claimant for a similar experience must choose for himself.

But choose as he may, locate as he will, he must not, as he hopes to succeed in growing the smaller fruits to profit, locate himself out of reach of a daily cash market. New York and Philadelphia may be likened to two huge bags of gold, always filled, and ever standing open for him to thrust in his hand, provided in the other he brings something to eat. From this exhaustless fountain of wealth, whole adjacent populations have become rich. The appetite of the cities for horticultural luxuries has revolutionized the neighboring agriculture, enhanced the value of thousands of acres, infused a higher spirit into cultivators, elevated fruit-growing into a science, and started competition in a long rivalry after the best of everything that the earth can be made to yield. All this is no spasmodic movement. It will go on for all future time; but in this grand and humanizing march after perfection in producing food for man, the careful tiller of the soil, with moderate views and thankful heart, will be sure to find Ten Acres Enough.


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