Life and Work of the Eastern Farmer

WE are all familiar with the lavish praise bestowed — especially when votes are to be secured—upon the “bone and sinew of the country; ” but the farmers themselves are very far from accepting as true, even if sincere, the estimate of their qualities which the editor and the public speaker so loudly profess.

The average farmer is precisely what any other average man would be who had grown up under the same conditions. There is no mysterious charm belonging to his occupation which removes him beyond the reach of the influences by which all mankind are controlled. Coming from the same original stock and inheriting the same peculiarities of race, he is essentially the same as men in other vocations. The character of his work, the necessities of his financial condition, and the social surroundings amid which he has been reared have had the same influence in molding his character that similar conditions have had in molding the characters of others.

Farming is in a certain sense the basis of all individual and national prosperity, but the case would be more fairly stated were we to say that farming happens to be the first step in an industrial process, many steps of which are alike essential to civilization. The farmer produces raw material, and without raw material the world must come to a stop; but the butcher, the baker, the spinner, the weaver, and every artisan, render as essential service in the development of this raw material into the forms demanded by modern life as does the farmer in growing it.

As a member of the farmer class, I hasten to disclaim for it any especial consideration given it because of its contribution to the welfare of mankind. We are as useful as any other hard-working people, no more and no less. We claim no higher appreciation for muscular effort exerted in swinging the flail than for that applied to the wielding of the hammer.

The controlling motive of a farmer in performing his work and carrying on his business is the hope of material gain. He works for the money that he expects to earn, and not with any conscious reference to the service he is rendering to the world. In his capacity as a farmer he is neither a philanthropist nor a patriot, only a man of business. If we wish properly to estimate his character and his value as a factor of modern civilization, we must not be misled by sentimental considerations as to his relation with nature and his “ noble ” occupation.

The conditions of Eastern farming and of Eastern farm life are the true index as they are the true cause of the character of the Eastern farmer. These conditions are constantly varying, and their effect is always modified by individual qualities.

It may be possible to strike such an average as shall afford a tolerably good suggestion of the real character and condition of the farmer and a hint as to his future. That is to say, certain prevalent influences tend to mark the type, and certain modifications of these influences may lead to its improvement. Any attempt to portray the class as a whole would be met by such a list of exceptions as would seriously affect the result, but the following may be considered true in a large number of eases, and applicable, with minor changes, to many more.

Let us take the case of an outlying farm in New England, of one hundred acres, — a farm that has been in cultivation from the earlier settlement of the country and which is of the average degree of improvement, with the usual division into arable, mowing, pasture, and wood land. It lies two or three miles away from a considerable town or village, and its chief industry is the selling of milk in tlie town. With an allowance of two acres per cow for summer pasture and of one and a half acres of mowing land for winter feeding, the cows it keeps number about a dozen. For team work on the farm and for road work and pleasure driving there are kept two horses and two oxen. In addition to these there will be a greater or less amount of young stock and the usual swine and poultry, and perhaps a few sheep. The farmer himself is the chief workman on the place, and he has the regular help of a hired man or a grown son. An extra hand during the working season is usual, but in winter the farmer and his one assistant will do all of the work of feeding, milking, delivering the milk, hauling out manure, etc.

A few years ago the house work was done almost entirely by the mother of the family and her daughters, or by a girl taken to “bring up;” hut latterly the more troublesome element of an Irish girl in the kitchen has become general, for the daughter of the farmer has aspirations and tastes which disqualify her for efficient household drudgery. In spite of all modern appliances, much of the work of the farmer’s household must be so characterized. The life of American farm women is, however, not now under discussion ; the subject is a fruitful one and has important bearings upon the development of the race; but what we are to consider here is simply the work and condition of the farmer himself. The milk-selling fanner—and this industry is one of the most widespread in Eastern farming — is more regularly employed than any other. Winter and summer his cows must be milked twice a day. Evening’s milk must be cooled and safely kept until morning; and morning’s milk must he ready for early delivery. It is usual for the farmer to rise at three every morning, winter and summer, to milk his cows, — with one assistant, — and to start as early as five o’clock to deliver his milk. Returning about the middle of the forenoon, he is able to attend to the details of barn work in winter and field work in summer until half past two or three o’clock in the afternoon, less the brief interval needed for the consumption of food. Early in the afternoon the cows must be again milked, and the cans of milk must in summer time be set in spring water for cooling. Then comes the feeding of the stock and the greasing of axles, the mending of harness, the repairing of tools, and the thousand and one odds and ends of the farmer’s irregular work. In the winter, save for the early rising and the work of cold mornings, life is by no means hurried, and after a very early supper there is often a stroll to the corner store or to a neighbor’s house for a little wholesome idleness and gossip, — the latter not invariably wholesome. At about the hour when the average reader of The Atlantic has finished his after-dinner cigar, all lights arc extinguished and the farm household is wrapped in heavy slumber, for such early rising as the milkman is condemned to must needs trench upon the valuable evening hours for the requisite rest and sleep.

In summer, the conditions of life are immeasurably hardened. The farmer himself is necessarily absent several hours every morning with his milk wagon; but although he cannot lend a hand at the early field work, this work must go on with promptness, and he must arrange in advance for its proper performance. From the moment when he has finished his late breakfast until the last glimmer of t twilight, he is doomed to harrowing and often anxious toil. There is no wide margin of profit that will admit of a slackening of the pace. Land must be prepared for planting; planting must he done when the condition of the ground and the state of ihe weather permit. Weeds grow without regard to our convenience, and they must be kept down from the first; and well on into the intervals of the hay harvest the corn field needs all of the cultivation that there is time for. Regularly as clock-work, in the late hours of the night and the early hours of the afternoon, the milking must be attended to, and the daily trip to town knows no exception because of heat, rain, or snow. At rigidly fixed hours, this part of the work must be done, and all other hours of the growing and of the harvest seasons are almost more than filled with work of imperative need. These alone seem to make a sufficient demand on the patience and endurance of the most industrious farmer; but, aside from these, he is loaded with the endless details of an intricate business, and with the responsibility of the successful management of a capital of from fifteen to twenty thousand dollars, upon the safety and the economical management of which entirely depend his success; he must avoid leakage and waste, and make every dollar paid for labor, or seed, or manure, or live stock, bring its adequate return.

Probably no occupation in the world can compare with farming in the opportunity that it offers for the losing of money. Nothing is so enticing as slate-andpencil farming. Ten acres of land can be plowed, manured, and planted with corn, and the crop can be well cultivated and harvested for so many dollars. Such land with such manuring and cultivation may be trusted to yield so many bushels of corn to the acre; and, after making due allowance for chance, the balance of the calculation shows a snug profit. In like manner we may figure out a corresponding profit from the hay fields, from the root crops, from two or three acres of potatoes, and from a patch of garden truck for which the neighboring village will furnish a good market. Then the poultry will return a profitable income in eggs and in “ broilers,” and altogether it is easy for an enthusiastic person to show how interest on invested capital and good compensation for labor are to be secured in agriculture.

But when the test of practice is applied to our well - studied and proven scheme, when we see how far our allowance for “chances” has fallen below what is needed to cover the contingencies of late springs, dry summers, early frosts, grasshoppers, wire-worms, Colorado beetles, midge, weevil, pip, murrain, garget, milk-fever, potato-rot, oats-rust, winterkilling, and all the rest; when we learn the degree of vigilance needed to keep every minute of hired labor and team work effectively employed; and when we come finally to the items of low markets and bad debts, we shall see how far these and similar drawbacks have undone our arithmetic, and how often our well-contrived balance must be taken into the footings of the other column of figures.

The regular work of the farmer, as indicated in the foregoing sketch of his occupations, and as perceptible to the summer boarder who watches his work from the piazza, although arduous and exacting, may be quite compatible with a happy life; and when we estimate the promise of the occupation as offering a pleasant livelihood, no able-bodied man need be deterred by it. But when we add this long fist of contingencies and consider the ceaseless anxiety that they bring, we may well hesitate before adopting such a life for ourselves or desiring it for our children. No true estimate of the developed character of the farmer can he formed without giving due value to this uncertain factor in the calculation.

Instances are hardly exceptional where a clear, natural intelligence, an indomitable courage, and great industry have turned themselves into a real source of mental and moral strength. Success achieved in spite of such drawbacks is all the sweeter and all the more inspiriting because of them. But if we take the case of the average farmer with average human weaknesses, we cannot fail to see that, however well he may have borne up against the more obvious requirements of his work, he has been warped and cramped, and often made in many ways unlovely, by the hard and anxious toil through which his halting success has been attained.

In nearly every other occupation than farming, the hardest worker finds a daily relief from his toil, and from the suggestion of toil, in a home that is entirely apart from his industry. However arduous and anxious and long continued the work, there comes a time when it is laid aside, and when the workman goes into a new sphere, where the atmosphere is entirely changed. His home is a place of rest and pleasure, or at least a place of change. The pen and the hammer are left in the counting-room and in the shop, and however far the home may fall below his desires and ambition, it is at least free from the cares of the day’s occupation. The American farmer has no such relief. His house is a part of his farm; his fireside is shared by an uncongenial hired man, his family circle includes too often a vulgar and uninteresting servant, and from one year to another, his living room being the kitchen and work room of the busy farmhouse, he rarely knows what it is to divest himself of the surroundings of his labor and business, and to give himself over to the needed domestic enjoyment and recreation. It is this feature of his life more than any other, which seems objectionable. If it is objectionable for him, it is infinitely more so for his wife and daughters, who, lacking the frequent visit to the town or occasional chat with strangers, and the invigorating effect of openair work, yield all the more completely to depressing cares. They become more and more deficient in the lightness and cheerfulness and mental gayety to which in any other occupation the chief toiler of the family would look for recreation at his own fire-side.

So far as interest in his business is concerned, the farmer’s condition is in every way elevated when he devotes himself to some improved form of agriculture, or to some special industry which gives him better compensation for his work. This benefit by no means generally results from an attempt at “ scientific ” agriculture, nor is the adoption of a special industry by any means generally successful. Failure in either of these directions is disheartening and discouraging to those who are watching his example. There are many well-tried improvement upon the old methods of our fathers which are universally adopted, especially in the direction of the use of belter implements and more judicious care in the application of manure. But the average agricultural newspaper, while doing great good, has naturally led enthusiastic men to see a chance for ameliorating their condition by the adoption of processes which are not suited to their circumstances, or which they themselves are not qualified to carry out. It is this that has led to the outcry — much more prevalent a generation ago than now — against “book farming.” On the whole, whatever may have been the influences of agricultural writers upon the fortune of their early converts, they have vastly modified and improved all modern farm work, and have greatly benefited the more recent farmer.

The conditions of the industry are hard, chiefly because the business of farming is a laborious one and one in which an enormous population is working, with dogged industry, for a moderate reward. However enterprising and intelligent a farmer may be, when he goes to market to sell his crops he finds himself in active competition with men who are working for their bare subsistence.

Much is said about the competition of the farmers of the rich West as a serious obstacle to success at the East. This is the case only in so far as the Eastern farmer attempts to compete with the Western in the production of crops which will bear storage and long transportation. As a business proposition, it seems clear that this drawback is to be overcome only by the cultivation at the East of such products as it is not within the power of Western competition to supply, or only such as our situation and the good quality of our land will enable us to produce at low cost. Milk, fresh butter, and hay are the three most promising staples for which so large a demand exists as to furnish employment for the whole farming population. Hay from its bulk does not bear a very long transportation. Milk will always bring a higher price when produced near to the point where it is to be consumed. Butter making is not an especially profitable industry if we depend upon the average grocery-store demand, but it is possible for any farmer at the East, who will take the trouble to make and to retain a good reputation for his dairy, to secure a price enough higher than that of the regular market to constitute a good margin of profit.

So far as relief in Eastern farming is to be achieved with no material change in the character of life and work, it must apparently be sought in this direction.

In his relation to Eastern civilization, past, present, and prospective, it may fairly be questioned whether the influence of the Eastern farmer is increased since the general introduction of railroads, and we are justified in looking with some anxiety to the relative position which he is to hold hereafter.

There are well-known influences at work which are not promising. The desire of the sons and daughters of the farmer to obtain some other means of livelihood, and the too frequent yielding to this temptation on the part of the more intelligent of these young persons, is the most obvious danger to the future of the industry.

Much has been said of the dignity and independence which come of the ownership of land, but it is possible that tins influence has been overestimated, and that our ideas of it have been derived more or less from our European traditions. Perhaps, after all, we ought to and do attach the most importance to that which is the most rare. In England, where the ownership of land carries with it a certain social dignity, and where the merepossession of money has a less marked influence in this direction, there is no doubt that the title-deeds to broad acres constitute a certain sort of patent of nobility. In this country, where land is plenty and cheap and where large fortunes are rare, a farmer gets consideration less for the amount of land that he himself owns than for the sum total of the mortgages which he holds upon his neighbors’ land. That is to say, it is better to be rich in money than in land, and instances are comparatively rare, even among those who are cultivating their ancestral acres, where the farm would not be gladly sold for a sum of which the income would secure a better and easier mode of life. The farm is not regarded with especial affection; it is mainly regarded—along with its stock and tools — as an instrument for making money.

The American farmer is distinguished from the English farmer chiefly by having his capital invested in the land which he cultivates, rather than in the tools and live stock and working capital needed to carry on his business. As a general rule the farmer’s whole fortune is invested in his land. Often his land is mortgaged and he has little loose money with which to improve his system of work. The necessity for making a living and paying interest, without sufficient capital for the best management, makes the life of the farmer too often a grinding one. If he is skillful and industrious and prudent, he may hope with certainty to free himself from debt and to accumulate a respectable support for his old age.

When we consider any class of working people, as a class, this is perhaps all that we can hope for under any circumstances. The unhopeful thing about it all is that while farmers work less hard than their fathers did, and while they get a better return for their work, the surroundings of their life have not improved as have those of men engaged in other industries, so that although actually much better off than their ancestors were, they are relatively less well off in the more attractive conditions of other classes of workmen; and this deficiency is driving away the children on whom they ought to depend for assistance and for succession.

In the abstract, farming is a dignified occupation, and in proportion as it borrows aid from science it becomes more dignified. So far as the casual observer can see, it combines more of what is desirable than does any other pursuit. While it promises no brilliant reward, it insures a steady, reliable, and sufficient return for the capital and labor invested in it. It promises a sure provision for old age, and it secures the wholesome pride that comes of the ownership of visible property. Indeed, look at it and argue about it as we may, it is not easy to see why it is not the best occupation for a wholesome and intelligent man.

Those who know the condition of the art intimately, and who have studied the influences of its work and its life upon those who are engaged in it, recognize serious drawbacks which must in some way be removed unless it is to fall away still more from its original character, and is to be given over to German and Irish immigrants who, during one or two generations, will be contented with what it lias to offer. It is difficult, even to theorize as to the means of relief, if farming must be considered, first of all, as a means for obtaining a livelihood and for making money; and no effort to improve the situation of the farmer will be successful which does not keep this prime necessity always in view. It is easy to see how the condition of any farmer’s family might be improved by a large additional income, but there is no obvious source from whieh this increase is to be drawn, nor will he adopt any scheme that will endanger the income that he now receives.

If we could convert the farmer into a chemist and physiologist, and give him the satisfaction that comes of controlling the combinations of physical and chemical materials according to laws which he understands, and of securing his results with scientific accuracy, we should accomplish our purpose,for no man with such scientific knowledge — realizing its relation to his daily work — could fail of an enthusiastic fondness for his profession. But the worst of it is that all efforts in this direction have generally ended in producing a “ smattcrer ” whose theories are baffled by constant disappointment and whose worldly prosperity is lessened by his mistaken experiments.

Successful farming implies, first of all, steady and dogged hard work, coupled with prudent and watchful skill. When the hopes of enthusiastic agricultural reformers are considered with the cold eye of practical common sense, they must inevitably be condemned to disappointment. In so far as they constitute an incentive towards improvement, they work great good, but the success of the future is to be attained too often through the distressing failure of the present. The art is an experimental one, and the temptations to extend experiments are enticing. Unfortunately, novel processes depend for their success upon contingencies which are likely to be disregarded at the outset, and however much any improvement may be destined to prosper after its application shall have been practically tested and modified, it is altogether likely that its first introduction will result in failure. The mere money losses coming of these failures is not so serious, but the discouragement and disappointment that they entail exert the gravest influence where what is chiefly needed is the encouragement of success.

It is something to know the direction that improving effort should take, and it seems t o be generally conceded that what American agriculture needs, at the East and at the West, but especially at the East, is an improvement in the character of its personnel. There is every where ample opportunity for the profitable and successful introduction of modified processes and of new industries. There is, too, hardly an instance where the processes and industries now pursued are not susceptible of great improvement of detail. There are few farms so well managed and so successful that, if given into the hands of a better, more intelligent, and more enterprising farmer, they would not produce better results. The father is working according to his light, and is directing his work by such intelligence as his natural capacity and his training have given him. His brighter son, with more natural intelligence, with a better education, and less trammeled by traditions and prejudices,might so modify the same industry as to make it more certain, more profitable, and in every way more satisfactory.

The change that is now taking place, especially in New England, is toward the greater economy of living, and the harder work and closer management of business that comes with immigrant proprietorship, and this element is by no means to be depended upon for the improvement of our farming. Jt may result in a more money-making agriculture, but it will supplant, our best political element by the introduction of what has thus far seemed to be one of the worst.

Look at the question as we will, it is difficult to see how else than by improving the race of American farmers we are to accomplish any result whose trood effect will be radical and lasting. This brings us around to that threadbare subject of the vague discussion of agricultural writers: How to keep the boys on the farm.

The devices recommended for accomplishing this result have thus far failed of their object. The average farmer boy is not a sentimentalist, and he is not likely to be moved by the sort of talk so often lavished upon him. To use a vulgarism, he has “ an extremely level head.” He fails to realize the attraction and the dignity which are implied by what he is told of the nobleness of his father’s calling, of the purifying and elevating influences of a daily intercourse with nature. He is not to be caught with this sort of chaff. His cultivation has not been of that aesthetic character that he has an especial drawing toward nobleness, or purity, or elevation. Nature, as he knows it, shows at times an unattractive side, and he fails to recognize precisely what is meant by Mother Earth as a source of dignity. To him Mother Earth is an exacting parent, calling for constant and regular toil, and whipping him on day by day with weeds to be hoed, dry gardens to be watered, snowdrifts to be shoveled, and an almost endless round of embarrassments to be overcome. As for the purity and simplicity of the farmer’s life, he knows very much better than to pin his faith to it. To him the farmer’s house is too often a place where the mother is overworked, tired, wearied with constant annoyance, and made peevish and fretful. The conversation of hired men and young neighbors and brothers is not marked by a refined delicacy and simplicity, — as he understands these terms. At the end of all our preaching he will say, at least to himself, that this is probably the sort of talk that we consider appropriate to the occasion, but that if we knew what he knows about farming, we would see how little effect it is likely to have. If he sought our motive in saying it, he would conclude that we were interested in keeping up the supply of farm labor, and that so far as he was concerned, since he must work for a living, he would work at some other industry if he could get a chance, and leave those who were less fortunate to work on the farm,

The more sentimental and more influential considerations governing in this matter were very well set forth by Dr. Holland in a paper on Farm Life in New England, published in these pages some twenty years ago. While acknowledging the frequency of bright exceptions to the rule, he does not hesitate to set it down as a rule that the life described is in every way a hateful one, where every member of the family, from father to child, is driven by the lash of stern necessity, and where many conditions which are requisite in tlie life of all other classes of the same wealth are comparatively rare; where the expectant mother of tlie child is worked without stint to her last day, while the mother of the colt is relieved from all hard toil and treated with consideration throughout the last months of her time; where, in short, whether from interest or from a mistaken idea of necessity, hard work, long hours, poor food, and dismal surroundings are the rule of the farmer’s household.

Since that time, there have been noticeable modifications, involving the introduction of more or less tastefulness, because of the cheap literature and cheap music of these later days. But. much as these have done to affect the individual characters of the younger members of the family, they have only aggravated the evil, so far as farm work is concerned, by creating a desire, born of knowledge, for the pleasanter manner of life which the town has to offer. The young girls whom one now sees about railway stations in the most distant part of the country are dressed after the instructions of Harper’s Bazar and Peterson’s Magazine, and they know more than their older sisters did of the difference between their own life and that of their city cousins. They are certainly not to be blamed if they long for some vocation in which they can more freely indulge their growing ideas of luxury, and gratify their growing desire for better dress and more interesting companionship.

All that has here been said is seriously true and important. The circuinstances described are so generally prevalent as to constitute, with constant minor variations, an almost universal rule. Where we are to look for relief is the most serious problem. Relief must be found, or the character of our farming class must assuredly degenerate. In one way or another we must change, in a radical degree, the conditions of the farmer’s life. We can perfectly understand why it should be distasteful to any young person of ordinary ambition or intelligence, and we know from the constant flocking of farmers’ sons and daughters to even the least attractive employments of the town or village that this distaste is everywhere a controlling one.

It is easy to say that the farmer’s life must be made more cheerful, attractive, and refined, and less arduous, but it is by no means easy to see how the improvement is to be brought about. The cardinal defect is the loneliness and dullness of the isolated farm-house. Intelligent and educated young women, brought up among the pleasantest surroundings, marry young farmers, and undertake their new life with the determination that, in their case at least, the more obvious social requirements shall be met. During the earlier years after marriage they adhere to their resolution, and are regular in attendance at the church and public lecture, and they keep up, so far as possible, social intercourse with their neighbors. But as time goes on, as the family increases, as toil begins to tell on health and strength and energy, they drop out, little by little, from the habit of going abroad, until often for weeks together they never exchange a look or thought with any human being outside of their own households. Aside from the overworked members of their own families, their companionship is confined to hired men who smell of the stable, and to hired girls with whom they are yoked in the daily round of household duties.

Having given much consideration to the subject, I have come to believe that the agriculture of continental Europe is far more wisely arranged than ours, for there, almost as a universal rule, isolated farm life is unknown. The reward of the cultivator is less, and his labor is at least as great. The people are of a very much lower order, and are lacking in the cultivated intelligence which distinguishes so many of our own farming class. Women and even young girls perform rude labor in the field and in the stable, and those aspirations which are horn of a universal diffusion of periodical literature are almost unknown. At the same time, when the hard and long day’s work is over, there comes to all the inexpressible relief and delight of the active, social intercourse of the village, where the tillers of the country for a mile around have gathered together their homes and their herds, and where the most intimate social life prevails. Observation even indicates that the habit of out-of-door labor has had no injurious effect upon the women of these villages. The ‘ ‘ nut-brown maid ’ ’ grows too fast into the wrinkled-brown woman, but better a sunburnt and weather-beaten cheek than that pallor that comes of anthracite and in-door toil. Better the broad back and stout limb of the peasant mother than the hollow chest and wasted energy of the American farmer’s Wife.

I by no means intend to say that our own farming class is not far superior to the peasantry of Europe, but I do believe that if a good system of village life for farmers could be adopted here under the modifying influences of the more refined and intelligent American character, we should have gained a most important step in advance. We have in New England many villages almost exclusively of farmers,—villages where the old-time settlers gathered together for defense against the Indians, and for the protection of houses and stock and store from river floods. These villages arc as different as it is possible to conceive from the ordinary European cluster of unattractive cottages, lining both sides of a street, which is filled for one half of its width with manure heaps. It may be naturally assumed that any adaptation of the village-system among us would be governed by the same refining influences which have made our few existing agricultural villages so beautiful and attractive.

That which most distinguishes American people is the general spread of education among them, but it is, after all, an education which soon reaches its limit, and, so far as the district school of a sparsely settled country neighborhood is concerned, it goes little beyond the simplest rudiments. An inexperienced young miss holds school for not more than one half the year in an unattractive and inconvenient room, in which are gathered together most of the boys and girls of the school-going age from all the farms about. The books and other appliances of instruction are inadequate. There is no grading of the pupils, and the frequent change of teachers prevents the possibility of experienced instructions. Even in the meanest peasant village of Germany, — a village always prolific in children, — an inexorable law compels all between the ages of five and fourteen to attend regularly the teaching of a master, an officer of the state, who has generally adopted his profession for life, and who adds to a certain specified degree of capability the advantages of long experience.

No thoughtful person can fail to be convinced, after a due consideration of the argument in its favor, that if the social influences inseparable from village life could be secured to the American farmer, the greatest drawback of his life would be done away with. It remains, unfortunately, a serious question how far such a radical change is practicable. There is little doubt that the family would naturally drift into some more costly style of living, and the necessity for hauling to a distant home all the crops of the fields, and of hauling out the manure made at the homestead, would add somewhat to the expenses of the business. In the case of the individual farmer now cultivating land upon which he lives, it is not unlikely that he would find a certain pecuniary disadvantage in the change. But as a broad question of the future benefit of our agriculture, it must be conceded that whatever will tend to make the occupation more attractive cannot fail, by enlisting the services of more intelligent minds, to insure its very decided improvement. As the case now stands, the farmer’s son will become a clerk or a mechanic rather than remain a farmer, because clerks and mechanics live in communities where there is more to interest the mind and where, too, the opportunities for enjoyment and amusement are greater. The farmer’s daughter will marry the clerk or the mechanic rather than a farmer, because she knows the life of a farmer’s wife to be a life of dullness and dearth, while she believes that the wife of the clerk or mechanic will be condemned to less arduous labor and will have much more agreeable surroundings. I have no means of judging what may have been the experience in Deerfield, Massachusetts, for instance, but I am confident that many a mechanic’s daughter, and indeed many young women of much higher position in life, would consider her lot afortunate one in becoming the wife of a farmer whose homestead lay on the beautiful street of this old village.

All that is here said is to a certain extent mere theory, but the subject is one that has not thus far met any practical solution, and in which, therefore, nothing except theorizing is possible. The broad fact is that the farming class in this country is degenerating by the withdrawal of its best blood, and still more serious injury is being done to it by the introduction of the lower class of foreigners. It may well be doubted whether it is possible so to modify the manner of life of the isolated farm-house as to make it materially more attractive to American boys and girls. All that can be done is to rob it of its isolation by withdrawing its people and placing them under better conditions of life. In a word, the only way that seems to offer to keep the boys on the farm is to move everybody off of the farm, bringing them together into snug little communities, where they may secure, without abandoning the manifest advantages of their occupation, the greater social interest and stimulus which they now hope to enjoy by going into other callings whose natural advantages are less. That such a course as this would restore the farmer to his former position as a leading element in Eastern civilization cannot be questioned. That he will retain even the relative influence that he exercises to-day, unless some radical change is made, is at least very doubtful.

In considering the questions here suggested, we must never lose sight of the fact that the controlling element is economy. The farmer exists because he is needed. The world demands the products that he produces, and the world must needs pay him a living compensation for them. No change will be possible which disregards this, and all who know the present circumstances which control the reward of the farming class know that these circumstances would be inadequate to maintain him in a life of greater ease while calling for greater expense. This gives the added embarrassment that we must not only change the mode of life, but must also increase the ratio of profit, if this is possible. This is possible only through a reduction of the area cultivated, the cultivation of this reduced area in a more thorough and profitable way, and the turning of farming industry into channels better adapted to securing a profitable return.

To discuss a modification of the whole system of farming would involve far more detail than is possible in this paper, since we must include the consideration of features which would change with changing locality. But by way of illustration we may take the previously supposed case of a farmer owning one hundred acres of land and milking a dozen cows, selling the milk as before in the distant town. Assume that he and his neighbors within a radius of about a mile are living in a central village, from which his land is one mile distant. During the working season, say from the middle of April until late in October, he must with his teams and assistants spend the whole day on the land. The cows are milked and all stable-work done before breakfast, and some one drives them out to pasture. The men remain afield until an hour before sunset; they must be content with a cold dinner, as is the usual custom with mechanics and laborers. The cows are driven home in time for the evening milking, and are put into the barn-yard at night with green fodder brought home by the returning teams. After the “ chores ” are done, and a hearty and substantial supper is eaten, — the principal meal of the day, — all hands will be too weary for much enjoyment of the evening, but not so weary that they will not appreciate the difference between the lounging places of a village and the former dullness at the farm. Other farmers in the neighborhood will, many of them, also be milk producers, and as the stables are near together they will naturally cooperate, sending their milk to market with a single team, employing the services of a single man in the place of live or six men and teams heretofore needed to market the same milk. I have recently received an account of this sort of cooperation, where the cost of selling was reduced to a fraction over eight cents for each hundred quarts.

This arrangement will have the still further benefit of allowing the farmer to remain at home and attend to his more important work, leaving the detailed marketing to be done by a person especially qualified for it and therefore able to do it more cheaply than he could do it in person. During the working season there will be enough rainy weather to allow the work of the stable, the barn-yard, and the wood shed to be properly attended to. There will, of course, be sudden showers and occasional storms and other inconveniences which will make the farmer regret at times that he lives at such a distance from his field work, but ho will find more than compensation in the advantages that come naturally from living in a village. For his wife and children the improvement will be absolute, and it will be no slight argument in favor of the change that both in-doors and outof-doors a better class of servant will be available, because of the better life that can be offered. It will be easier to secure the services of laborers who are married and who live in their own houses, and so avoid the serious annoyance to the household that attends the boarding of hired men.

To make this radical change in any farming neighborhood as at present constituted would be impracticable. It would probably take a generation to convince the farmers of a community of its advantages; it would cost too much, even if not entirely impracticable, to move the house and stables to the central point; and it would involve such a change of habits of labor and of living as must necessarily be the work of time. However, if the principle commends itself to the leading men of the neighborhood, and especially to young men about to marry, the nucleus of a village may be established, and sooner or later the present or the coming generation will find a way to come into the fold.

If we assume that by this or some other means the more intelligent of the young men are induced to remain farmers, it is interesting to consider in what way their greater intelligence is to be made to tell on their work so as to secure the necessary improvement. It would not be unreasonable to suppose that young men of the class we have in mind, those who now seek occupations which afford a better field for tlicir intelligence, and who seek them because of their intelligence, would establish such centres of discussion and interest in improved farming as would not only displace the worthless gossip now so common at the country store, but would awaken a real enthusiasm in better processes and systems.

Not only would there be this tendency toward improvement, but where farmers are close neighbors and are able to conduct their interests in such a way as to help each other, there would naturally grow up some sort of cooperative business. By the establishment of a butter factory or cheese factory, or by the common ownership of a milk route, or where tobacco is grown the undertaking of its manufacture as an employment for winter, or the raising of honey or of poultry, or the establishment of some valuable breed of live stock with a reputation for excellence that will cause it to be sought for from abroad, or by some other combination, they would secure profitable business.

Of course all the farmers in New England cannot within the next ten years move into villages, but what is suggested is that the farmers of some one community should try the experiment. Their success might induce others to follow the example, and, little by little, in proportion to the promise of a good result, more and more would seek the advantages which the system would offer, so that sooner or later the benefits which are now experienced in village life in Europe might be felt here in the higher degree which greater intelligence and greater freedom would be sure to produce.

While advancing these suggestions, with much confidence in their practical value, I would by no means confine the outlook for Eastern farming to this single road to success. Cooperative industry may be largely adopted among farmers living at some distance from each other. The cheese factory has become an institution. The better quality of the product when made in large quantities, and the better price that its quality and the improved system for marketing have secured, constitute a very decided success in our agriculture. Butter factories are coining into vogue with a promise of equally good results.

A very good substitute for the coöperative management of a milk route is in very general adoption throughout New England, where some single farmer who devotes himself chiefly to selling milk buys the product of his neighbors’ dairies for a certain fixed price, taking upon himself the labor, the risk, and the profit of marketing. The cooperative breeding of live stock cannot as yet be said to have become well established, but its possibilities of success are considerable. A community can afford to buy and keep a thorough-bred horse, or bull, or boar, or buck, which would cost far too much for the means of a single owner, and thus gradually give to the stock of the whole neighborhood a superiority that will secure it a wide-spread reputation and insure good prices. Let us keep always in view the important principle of making two blades of grass grow where but one grew before; but let us remit no effort which may tend to make one blade worth what two were worth before.

Incidentally, there may he combinations to secure good outlet drainage for tracts of land belonging to different owners, and later, a provision for the general irrigation of these lands. It is not to be hoped that, either as a whole or in its details, agricultural improvement is to be advanced with anything like a rush. Farmers are generally “conservative” in the worst sense of the term. They have during the past generation adopted many improvements and modifications in the methods of their work, the mere suggestion of which would have been scouted by their fathers; but they are themselves as ready as their fathers were to scout any new suggestion, and it is only by iteration and reiteration that the shorter steps of tentative experiment can be urged upon their acceptance.

In reviewing what is written above, the thought arises that the one impression that it will surely produce will be that its writer fails to appreciate the better influences that cluster around the better class of farmers’ homes. Such an inference would be quite unjust. Knowing as I do the intrinsic worth and the charming qualities of very many of these households, I appeal to the best of the thoughtful men and women whom they include, to confirm my statement that they find many elements of their life to be pinching and hard, and that however admirable they may now be, they would be in no way injured but in many ways improved by more frequent intercourse with their equals, and especially with their betters.

That the picture I have sketched of the average farmer’s family is not overdrawn, I appeal to every country clergyman and physician to hear witness. The truths suggested are patent to all. They are set forth in no spirit of hypercriticism and with no other view than to help to ameliorate the condition of those to whom they refer. Knowing the farmer more intimately than does the average editor or orator, I am confident that my estimate of his character and of his life will strike him as being more just, if not more honest.

George E. Waring, Jr.