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ADVICE TO THE CITY MAN WHO WOULD UNDERTAKE SMALL FARMING
By C. C. Hulsart
There are thousands of persons who are tired of the noise and hurry of the city, and who would like to escape to a small farm. Of course, one cannot safely recommend the small farm to every discontented city person. There are some city men and women who can make a comfortable living from a farm, but many more who cannot. It is disheartening to consider the money that is wasted by well-intentioned men from the large cities, who think that all they need to do is to find a goodlooking farm with handsome buildings in a desirable location, hire a man, and then leave the enterprise to itself.
Too often the fact is overlooked that successful
farming demands as intimate knowledge of the business as does any other pursuit. The intending farmer must have some knowledge of farm tools and their use. He must be familiar with the crops to be grown, and the adaptation of them to the soil and climate. The failure to grow crops that are adapted to the soils of the particular farm is a common source of disappointment. It is of first importance that the market be considered, as this will determine, in large measure, the kind of farming. If the products are to go to a home market, more diversified cropping will be practiced, the individual crop acreages be reduced, and more intensive methods practiced. If the person is intending to handle stock, a general knowledge of the requirements of the kinds to be kept is equally essential. Adaptation of the kind of farming to the local and special conditions is one of the prime requisites to success.
One of the most common mistakes made by city men going into farming is starting on a too large scale before the business has been learned. The only safe way for the novice is to begin in a small way and enlarge as he becomes familiar with the business. It will usually be advisable to rent a farm for the first few years with the prospect of buying. This will allow the prospective farmer to begin at a minimum of expense; then, after a short trial, he will be more competent to judge whether or not he wishes to continue; if not, he can draw out without having a farm on his hands which might have to be sold at a sacrifice. The writer moved from the city nearly twenty years ago, when he did not have capital enough to buy a farm. He rented, and in time was able to buy. The business, although entailing hard work at times, is financially successful and is most agreeable and independent. The area now comprises thirty acres, with ten acres more that is rented. The entire establishment has cost about $8,000. The net profits will average 20 per cent on the investment.
It will be well to begin with ten to twenty acres, according to the kind of farming to be practiced. Ten acres is sufficient at the start if market-garden crops are to be grown. The new farmer enters at once into competition with market-gardeners of long experience, and cannot hope for success until he has learned to produce and market crops as cheaply as his competitors, and just as good. If the city man knows little or nothing about farming, it would be advisable for him to hire a competent farmer to manage the place for two or three years, and work under him until he has learned the business.
The kind of products to be grown depends on the location and on one's personal liking. The choice of the kind of farming may make all the difference between failure and success. Floriculture may be too expensive, because glass houses are necessary. Poultry-raising requires close figuring and very special knowledge. General farming, orcharding, dairying, stock-raising are hardly advisable for the city farmer of small means. They require considerable land and equipment, and profits come very slowly at first. Market-garden crops and smallfruits will appeal to the average city man. In the right conditions these will bring good returns, $300 an acre, clear of market expenses, being not too much to expect. It must be remembered, however, that berry crops require considerable labor and do not give full results for two or three years. Running notes on the characteristics of one market-garden combination, condensed from the writer's experience, will suggest some of the possibilities when the natural conditions are good and the man has learned the business.
Asparagus, early and late tomatoes, cabbages, peppers, melons and sweet corn go well together. These, with the exception of asparagus, furnish marketable products the season planted. Asparagus, though requiring two or three years before bringing full results, is a good crop to grow, netting $200 to $400 per acre under the right conditions. The early tomato is a valuable crop if properly handled. The beginner will do well to purchase his
sets ready for planting in the field, rather than try to grow them from seed under glass. However, with a little care, a few plants may be started from seed in a box in the kitchen. If there is a ready market for the crop it may net the grower $250 to $300 per acre. The late tomato, though more cheaply grown, sells for less money. When near a good market, cabbage may net $75 to $300 per acre. It can be grown from early to very late in the season. Peppers pay well if there are many foreigners to provide a market. The plants are started under glass and transplanted to the field when all danger from frost is past. The crop is mostly picked green, especially during the early part of the season; during August and early September it is usually left hanging on the vines. As soon as the cool weather comes the market begins to take the peppers in large quantities, both ripe and green. The crop is then hurried off before frost. The crop is easily grown and handled, and yields $100 to $200 per acre. The muskmelon, 3ince the advent of the blight, is a risky crop for the beginner to grow. Sweet corn is a good crop, and, while it does not yield such large profits, it is produced at a minimum of cost, and is rather sure.
The city man who is contemplating farming must look ahead and see that he has sufficient capital to equip the place and carry it until returns begin to come. He must remember that the first essential to success in farming, as in any other pursuit, is an intimate knowledge of the details. If he is wholly new at the business, he will be likely to have many discouragements the first year or two: this will show that he is learning. He should not be disheartened. The business will require continuous and studious attention, as will any other business that is worth the while. As soon as he begins to enjoy the working out of the problems and to feel that he is mastering them, he will be on the high road to success.
SUGGESTIONS TO A PROSPECTIVE FARMER ON ORGANIZING THE BUSINESS.
By Harry B. Winters
An eminent public man said to the writer not long ago that there are three great agricultural opportunities in North America just now,—the rice lands of Texas, the timber lands of Oregon, and the wheat lands of Northwestern Canada. This is undoubtedly true, so far as investment in new lands and the development of them are concerned; but there is good agricultural opportunity wherever crops can be grown and a good market can be found. A good and competent man, understanding his business thoroughly and giving it consecutive personal attention, can make the land pay almost anywhere. The writer is one of those who have gone from the town to the farm. As a partial preparation, he took a short course in an agricultural college. This course has been of the greatest help, and the writer regrets that he did not have a longer one. If a man intends to be a really good farmer, he must have all the helps he can get in the way of advice from experiment stations, colleges and books, and association with men. As this writer lives in New York State, his remarks will necessarily have an eastern man's point of view; but the principles and advice should apply anywhere.
Specialized farming offers the best rewards. The new farmer should be sure that he chooses a location suitable to his tastes and to the special kind of farming in which he means to engage. The most important single thing is to determine what this kind of farming shall be. In many cases, however, the prospective farmer is limited somewhat narrowly in his choice of a location; if that be so, then, having chosen the farm, he must study its adaptabilities very carefully and decide on a kind of business and a type of organization that will fit it. The writer found himself with a farm chosen for him. He has developed a business in the making of certified milk, raising pure-bred cattle, and growing seed oats. Later on, he may add seed corn and first-class draft-horses. If one wants to take life a little easier, he would leave out the making of milk. Beef-cattle and draft-horses are profitable to the man who knows how. Raising good seed of the staple crops of the region is also profitable and is not so confining as the producing of milk. There are also great possibilities in the fruit business; but if one goes into orcharding, he will have to wait for the returns.
Whatever is undertaken, the only profitable course is to produce good stuff. Have high-class products and put your name on them. Make people proud to use these products. Having produced the things, take extra care as to where they are sold. Do not put silk on the calico counter.
How much land to purchase is a personal question. It is usual to advise the buying of a small farm, but what is small for one man may be large for another. Much depends on how much money one has, and on his ability to handle large problems.
From an investment point of view, one may safely be advised to put one-quarter of his money into well-drained and good-conditioned land and buildings ; one-quarter into live-stock, machinery, equipment and working capital; one-half into first-class bonds, or other dividend-paying property. In this way he would not be jeopardizing his entire capital, and he would be able to add more land and equipment if the business developed. One should be careful not to load himself with poor soil. When it comes to judging the soil, it is economy to ask the advice of a man who has had wide experience and has himself made a success of farming. Money expended on first-class expert advice is always well-invested.
Perhaps the most profitable way to continue this discussion is to consider specific cases. The writer has in mind certain pieces of more or less hilly land within his radius.
(1) Here is a farm of 100 acres that sold recently for $1,000. The buildings are rather poor, but a man who is handy with a saw and hammer could get along with them. If the writer had this problem, he would consider buying a few choice purebred cattle, with the object of making butter to sell to discriminating persons. The skim-milk would be fed to the calves. The offspring of these cattle would be worth considerable money year after year. One might not be able to secure as good prices as the big breeders, but he would be able to do very much better than he would if he had common stock. This farm also could raise good grain to sell to neighbors for seed. If kept free from debt, the business should gradually prosper.
(2) Another farm of 100 acres has just sold for $3,000. The location is good, the house firstclass, barns fair. The place is three miles from a village of 5,000 people. It joins the farm of a judge of the Supreme Court, a fact that is worth much in the opportunity it gives a man to come in touch with affairs and questions outside his own sphere. This also is a good place for pure-bred cattle and for seed grain. It lies alongside the railroad, and it might be advisable therefore to try certified milk. This farm ought to make money from the beginning.
(3) Ten miles below is a farm of 240 acres, that probably can be purchased for $12,000. It was once owned by a railroad contractor and was called one of the handsomest farms in the county. The land is good. The buildings are now poor. It is about three-quarters of a mile from a small village. Railroad facilities are excellent. This farm is large enough to compare with good breeding establishments, and large enough also, to be interesting to a man of ability and energy. With two or three good foremen, this farm could easily be made a money-maker. These foremen should develop different kinds of enterprises or take different parts of a large business. Like other farms in the general region, it is primarily a grazing proposition; but part of it could be developed to seed-grain production, some of the hills to export apples, and perhaps some of it to potatoes or other special crops.
(4) Another farm contains 400 acres, that can be purchased for about $30,000. It is fertile river-bottom land, located in the outskirts of a small city. The buildings are one-fourth mile from the end of the trolley line. There is a good stone farmhouse, and two or three tenement houses. The barns are too large and are poorly planned. Here is a property that is capable of developing a large and dignified business, and we may well let our imagination loose on it. The farm is capable of keeping over 200 head of cattle and horses. Here is a good place to make certified milk, and to develop a fine large breeding establishment. It is within a few minutes' ride of good hotel accommodations. The private road from the end of the trolley runs through the center of the farm. Suppose the farm buildings were placed along this road. First would be the office where the business transactions of the farm are conducted. Here would be a supply of small tools and repairs of every sort. Tools that the farm is through with for the season are brought here and put in perfect repair for the next year's work, and stored until wanted. Perhaps a few of the most useful tools on the farm are kept on hand. Here is the purchasing department; everything that comes to the farm is weighed and checked up.
his business to grow the crops needed in this barn on the 200 acres surrounding it. The farm is so planned that the corn-field, the oat-field, the hayfield and the pasture center at this barn. One does not have to draw the crops far and the manure is applied within short distances. The persons who work on this farm the year round live near by. The buildings are scattered at safe fire distances, but along the road line, with sidewalks and village conveniences.
Still farther down the road of this complete farm we come to the second barn, about the middle of the second 200 acres. This barn contains dry cows and young cattle for sale. Here are the best bulls,
Homestead of a dairy and grain farmer in southern New York. (The Winters farm.)
This is also the sales department; everything that passes off the farm is charged here ; second-hand tools are kept for sale, and perhaps some new ones; here the help is employed. This is the farm headquarters. Here curiosity-seekers and idle persons find it necessary to procure a pass before they are allowed on the farm. It would not be wise to make it disagreeable for any one to visit the farm, but it also is not wise to make the farm a picnic ground. Some men who have done remarkable farm work have been driven out of business by visitors. If it seems wise to establish a visiting day, do so, but do not let the public interfere with the farm work. If a man wants to see one of the employees, it may be cheaper to call the employee to the office by telephone than to let the visitor go to see him. Run the farm on business principles. If a customer comes to this office and makes his wants known, how convenient it is to take him down the road until we come to about the middle of the first 200 acres: here is a barn filled with about 100 high-class milch cows, every cow registered and a good producer. This barn is equipped for making certified milk. Neatness and cleanliness are everywhere apparent. In charge is a man who knows how to produce clean milk and plenty of it. The field work on this farm is in charge of an outside foreman, who makes it
whose get are in demand; here are record cows whose offspring are much sought by the best breeders. Here official milk and butter records are made; here we may hold annual sales, bringing customers from long distances. The man in charge is an experienced breeder and maker of official records. His entire time, energy and thought are taken up with this work, and he is backed up by a wise, long-headed owner. When he has completed the record of a cow, he turns her over to the certified milk man, who keeps her until she is ready to go dry, or wanted for another record. The field work on this farm is again in charge of an outside foreman, who grows the crops needed in this barn. The men doing the work on this farm the year round live near by, as before. We will suppose that the business outgrows these 400 acres. The unit is established. The most difficult work is done, and it will not be hard to purchase 200 or more acres elsewhere and establish as many certified milk barns or breeding barns as seem profitable. There is a great inducement for each foreman to do better than the other; make their conditions as nearly equal as possible and perhaps give them a share in the profits. If Mr. Owner wants plenty of time quietly to work out the problems that such a farm originates, let him put a superintendent in charge of the office, go into the village and buy
that magnificent place with splendid old trees and its lawn of five acres running from the street to the river-bank. Here he may be able to work out the farm problems even more successfully and perhaps make more money than by taking the actual overseeing of the labor. When one has a hard problem to solve, he needs a quiet place, not forty men around him asking questions that perhaps some one else can answer as well or better. Here there will be some relief from details, and the perplexing questions will look simpler and clearer. Mr. Owner will be in reach of libraries, a short distance from churches, banks, and large business enterprises and, best of all, in contact with ministers, teachers, bankers and business men who become friends and advisers. This may not be a poor man's picture, but it outlines an excellent business enterprise that is worthy any man's best endeavor.
(5) The above example (No. 4) is an ambitious one, but farming needs ambitious enterprises and it can support them. Capital can be safely put into farming, if there are competent managers. But the man who has no capital also asks for advice.
The fifth example is that of a young man who lost one foot in an accident. He had very little money. He was a lover of cattle. He purchased a few acres in the outskirts of a small city and took to the producing of milk. He buys fresh cows and sells them when they go dry unless they prove to be of superior worth. He makes no attempt to breed cattle. He keeps everything scrupulously clean, feeds carefully of wholesome foods; and the milk sells for more than the average retail price in that city because the patrons recognize that it is worth more. It is a milk business; but the man raises a few strawberries which he sells on his milk route. He also has a fine flock of hens, and sells the eggs for a good price because they are strictly fresh and always clean. He also gets an advanced price for broilers, because they are fed with clean food and kept in good quarters and are delivered fresh when his customers want them. This man is living well and is making some money. The business could be extended. It is not a large enterprise, but it illustrates what a man can do under adverse circumstances.
THE PLANNING OF A FARM
I HE PLAN OR ARRANGEMENT of a farm involves two sets of questions: those that concern the practical working or administration of the farm itself, or farm management; and those that are involved in the relation of the farm to the community, or rural economy. Discussion of the former or internal set of problems is intended in this chapter, for these are technical agricultural questions. The influence of the farm on the community, or the external questions, involves subjects of general economics and of social relations. However, the two phases of the subject cannot be wholly separated, since the plan or layout of a farm is modified fundamentally by its size and also by labor supply and other external conditions. A discussion of the size of a farm at once raises far-reaching public questions. Shall a farm support only one family, with the necessary hired help, or shall it be organized on a much larger basis and support many families under one ownership and management? Or, again, shall it be in any way cooperative? To state the subject in another way, Is it desirable that every farm family shall own land, and be self-supporting in the sense of making a living from the conducting of an independent and isolated business? Probably most persons will answer this last question unhesitatingly in the affirmative. We have been accustomed, in the United States, to regard individual ownership of farms as a necessary part of democratic institutions: the farm is the one place in which it would seem that individual independence of social position can be secured. Without desiring to argue the question or to express any judgment on the subject as a whole, it may still be worth while briefly to examine some phases of it.
The older farming, at least in the northeastern states, was practically a completely self-regulating business, comprising not only the raising of food and of material for clothing, but also the preparation or manufacture of these products. The farmer depended on himself, having little necessity for neighbors or for association with other crafts. The system was a kind of small or individual feudalism. In the breaking up of the old stratification under the development of manufacture and transportation,