A PRACTICAL EXPERIENCESHOWINGHOW A VERY SMALL FARM MAY BE MADE TO
KEEP A VERY LARGE FAMILYWITH INTRODUCTION BYISAAC PHILLIPS ROBERTS, EMERITUS
PROFESSOR OF AGRICULTURE, LATE DEAN AND DIRECTOR OF THE COLLEGE OFAGRICULTURE OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY AUTHOR OF"THE FARMSTEAD," "THE HORSE," "THE FARMER'SBUSINESS HANDBOOK," ETC,
What Jethro Tull did to
improve tillage, the author of "Ten Acres Enough" did to prove that
intensified agriculture on small areas could be made not only to support a
family, but to yield a handsome profit, and health, freedom and happiness
as well. It has taken two centuries for the most advanced farmers to
appreciate Tull and his teachings. It has taken nearly half a century in
this progressive age to appreciate and to put in practice, in a feeble
way, the fundamental principles which underlie all our dealings with
Mother Earth as set forth in this modest volume of two hundred pages.
If one totally ignorant of the principles and
practices of the various operations necessary to bring to perfection the
many plants with which Agriculture has to do, were limited to two
publications, I would advise him to purchase "Horse-Hoeing Husbandry" and
"Ten Acres Enough."
"The mistaken ambition for owning twice (often ten
times) as much land as one can thoroughly manure or profitably cultivate,
is the great agricultural sin of this country," says the author. In
California where this is being written, this mistakenambition prevails to an
alarming extent. Too often, farmers have become soil robbers. This state
appears to excel all others in its haste to filch from the land every
valuable timber tree, every pound of nitrogen, every vestige of humus
that can be extracted at a present profit however small, with apparently
no thought of the future productivity of the land, the future welfare of
the farmer, or the permanent prosperity of the community.
I have made a careful study
of the conditions of agriculture in the Santa Clara, San Jose and
Sacramento Valleys, and I am irresistibly led to the conclusion that the
great ranches must be broken up into small holdings before permanent
prosperity can come to the farmers of the Pacific Coast. On a recent
visit to a ranch of several thousand acres, where things appeared
prosperous and the cattle looked well bred and well fed, I could not
refrain from asking the impolite question, "Does it pay?" The reply was:
"We have been here ten years; have put in dollars, gotten up at two in
the morning to get the milk delivery wagon started in time, have four
hundred head of cattle and thirty horses, and if I should sell out to-day,
I would not have a iollar clear profit."
A few days after, I called on my college
graduate Mend. He has just ten acres all in fruitpeaches, apricots and
prunesall of which he will dry, as transportation is uncertain and
expensive and the eastern market for undried fruit precarious. Again
i asked, "Does it pay?" He
replied: "Well, we
have three children, my wife and I have
worked hard except in the six weeks harvesting time, we have a comfortable
living, some spare time, and on an average secure a profit of about three
hundred a year after allowing a modest interest on the investment. The
orchard is not yet in full bearing and we should do somewhat better in the
future and vastly better when the well is bored and a pump provided for
irrigating once or twice yearly." In this locality, land suitable for
fruit is held at one hundred and fifty to two hundred dollars per acre.
Where the planted orchard has been in bearing for two or three years, that
is, produces two-thirds of a crop, it sells at eight to nine hundred
dollars per acre. If well and pump are added, the value is increased to
one thousand or eleven hundred dollars per acre.
These two cases are typical, not
exceptional. After becoming acquainted with the inner life of the owners
of these holdingsfor there are really only two kinds, small fruit and
vegetable holdings, and large cattle, sheep, grain and hay ranchesone
does not hesitate to choose between them.
It all amounts to this : No
one should control more arable land than he can maintain in a high state
of productivity, the four great factors of which are, good seed, suitable
moisture, abundant available plant food, and rational tillage. In a large
majority of cases where failure, or partial failure of an abundant crop
is observed the meagre results are due to a partial lack of one of these
vicissitudes of weather have little effect,
if varieties and species of plants adapted to the locality are selected,
if the plants are neither hungry nor thirsty, and if they are comfortably
grounded in old Mother Earth.
Then the joy of seeing happy
plants and animals grow strong and produce "some fifty, some an hundred
fold! ""Twere worth ten years of city life, one look at their array!"
Again and again the author of "Ten Acres
Enough" recounts the happiness of observing Nature's modes of action at
first hand, the pleasure of discovering now one, now another secret of
soil or plant. How he revels in plain food and peaceful slumber after a
day of intelligent effort in God's first Temple under the open sky! He
consulted with his neighbors often. Sometimes he "went by the field of the
slothful and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding," and, lo!
he "saw it was all overgrown with thorns, and nettles had covered the face
thereof and the stone wall thereof was broken down." Then "he saw and
considered it well and looked upon it and received instruction."
It did not take long for him
to discover that sloth-fulness and ignorance were the cause of the untidy
condition and meagre results of these plantations which were duplicates of
the one described by Solomon. So he piled his table high with the best
agricultural literature and spent his evenings at home reading it. For
years he and his wife and daughter were close students. When it could no
longer besaid that
they were ignorant; they all put on plain clothes and workedworked as
only an intelligent servant works for a kind masterand the Master gave
ample reward when the harvest time came. Reader, go and do likewise!
ISAAC PHILLIPS ROBERTS.
Emeritus Professor of
Agriculture, Late Dean and Director of the College of Agriculture, of
Cornell University; Author of "The Farmstead," "The Farmer's Business
The man who feeds his cattle
on a thousand hills may possibly see the title
of this little volume paraded through the newspapers; but the chances are
that he will never think it worth while to look into the volume itself.
The owner of a hundred acres will scarcely step out of his way to purchase
or to borrow it, while the lord of every smaller farm will be sure it is
not intended for him. Few persons belonging to these several classes have
been educated to believe Ten Acres Enough. Born to greater ambition, they
have aimed higher and grasped at more, sometimes wisely, sometimes not.
Many of these are now owning or cultivating more land than their heads or
purses enable them to manage properly. Had their ambition been moderate,
and their ideas more practical, their labor would be better rewarded, and
this book, without doubt, would have found more readers.
The mistaken ambition for
owning twice as much land as one can thoroughly manure or profitably
cultivate, is the great agricultural sin of this country. Those who commit
it, by beginning wrong, too frequently
continue wrong. Owning many acres is the sole idea. High cultivation of a
small tract, is one of which they have little knowledge. Too many in these
several classes think they know enough. They measure a man's knowledge by
the number of his acres. Hence, in their eyes the owner of a plot so
humble as mine must know so little as to be unable to teach them anything
Happily, it is not for these
that I write, and hence it would be unreasonable to expect them to become
readers. I write more particularly for those who have not been brought up
as farmersfor that numerous body of patient toilers in city, town, and
village, who, like myself, have struggled on from year to year, anxious to
break away from the bondage of the desk, the counter, or the workshop, to
realize in the country even a moderate income, so that it be a sure one.
Many such are constantly looking round in this direction for something
which, with less mental toil and anxiety, will provide a maintenance for a
growing family, and afford a refuge for advancing agesome safe and quiet
harbor, sheltered from the constantly recurring monetary andpolitical convulsions which in this country so suddenly reduce men
to poverty. But these inquirers find no experienced pioneers to lead the
way, and they turn back upon themselves, too fearful to go forward alone.
Books of personal experience like this are rare. This is written for the
information of the class referred to, for men not only willing, but
anxious to learn. Once in the same predicament myself, I know their longings,
their deficiencies, and the steps they ought to take. Hence, in seeking to
make myself fully understood, some may think that I have been
unnecessarily minute. But in setting forth my own crudities, I do but
save others from repeating them. Yet with all this amplification, my
little contribution will occasion no crowding even upon a book-shelf which
may be already filled.
I am too new a farmer to be the originator
of all the ideas which are here set forth. Some, which seemed to be
appropriate to the topic in hand, have been incorporated with the argument
as it progressed; while in some instances, even the language of writers,
whose names were unknown to me, has also been adopted.
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