Page images

we must rely; they must provision our vast armies, they must feed our hungry poor, they must carry us through the war. And to that cry for help there has been no slow or feeble response. Most nobly has the exigency been met. We have as yet no statistics to instruct us ; but it will undoubtedly hereafter appear, that never before in our history has such breadth of land been tilled, or such a variety and extent of produce been raised. Meanwhile there has been plenty for home consumption, the vast demands of the army and navy have been promptly met, and there has been no sensible diminution in the supply for foreign export; and the country has shown that even when rent with dissensions and civil war, and shorn of a part of that strength which exists complete only in union, it can not only maintain itself, but help feed the less fortunate portions of the world. And thus we have a new and most emphatic illustration of the truth, that the real strength of a nation, its support in peace, its reliance in war, the only sure safeguard of its prosperity and power, is to be found in the wide extent and full development of its agricultural resources. And thus, too, at once the great problem presents itself, how shall agriculture be encouraged and promoted, and how shall men, the right sort of men, men of talents and of means, be induced to engage in, to elevate and extend it? The ready answer is, By making it more profitable and more attractive. And this response, though twofold in form, is in reality a unit, for the more profitable farming becomes, the more attractive it will be,—while whatever tends to make it more attractive will be found in the end to conduce to its profit. It is of little use to declaim about the dignity of labor and the nobility of the soil. In some sense it is all true,-but for any practical purpose

it is of little value save as a rhetorical flourish and to round a period. The great question in regard to this, as in regard to all other occupations, is, Will it pay? Men, however they may fight for glory, will not dig for a name, or delve and toil in the earth as a matter of sentiment. While they have a living to earn, and children to feed and clothe, and old

age and a rainy day to provide against, they look for profit, and demand a pecuniary remuneration for their labor.

But how shall farming be made more profitable and more attractive? It is the old question, which in one or another form recurs and is discussed on every occasion like the present, and the full answer to which would cover the whole field of theory and practice in agriculture. Upon such a field, where so long the highest science and the deepest skill have been exercised, I have not the temerity to enter. The most I can do is, lingering upon its borders, to attempt to glean a few scattered sheaves where others have reaped so rich a harvest. Perhaps a few suggestions, having some bearing upon the general subject, and possibly not altogether unprofitable, may be grouped together in a brief consideration of the question—How shoul 1 farmers' sons be educatedhow should the rising generation of farmers be reared ?

In order to insure success in any department of life or labor, there must by the previous suitable preparation and training. If a lad is intended for one of the professions, so-called, he starts with that understanding. There is from the outset method and system. He is put to those exercises which it is believed will best discipline his mind for the particular labors he is to perform. All those means and appliances are brought to bear which can aid in developing the faculties and powers upon which hereafter he must mainly rely. The whole field of his future is brought and kept before him, so that all through his preparatory course he can have in view the goal for which he has set out. And if, after all, he fails, as many do, (for it is hardly necessary to say that there are incapable lawyers, unskilful physicians and inefficient ministers, as well as thriftless farmers,) the fault is in himself, and not in the system. So, if a boy is intended for mercantile life or some mechanical pursuit, he is trained for that life or pursuit, and his training begins with the knowledge on his part that he has entered upon what is to be his future, permanent occupation—that he has embarked upon the voyage of life, and as he steers his course

and trims his sails, so will come success or failure. Henceforth he has one governing thought, one aim, and to that everything is subordinate. From the first, everything tends to give him a full and clear idea of his chosen business, its duties and its difficulties, and what he must do to secure its amplest rewards and achieve its highest triumphs.

Now, how is it with the education of farmers? There are exceptions, of course, but not enough to disturb the general rule. The farmer sends his son to the village school, where he learns to read and write and cypher. He is set to do the light chores about home, until, gaining in strength, he is put to harder tasks. As he grows up, he learns to plant, to mow, to harvest, to perform the ordinary work of the farm, but only in the way he sees his father perform these labors. He may or may not observe the rotation of crops, the application of particular fertilizers, the production of certain results, but if he does, he knows not, thinks not, of the reason of the thing. To all intents and purposes, he is performing a mere mechanical task. Whether or not he is to be a farmer, whether that is to be the business of his life, remains undetermined. Neither he nor his father have come to any settled understanding upon this. Like Mr. Micawber, he is waiting for something to turn up,some opportunity to go to the city, to go to sea, to go into trade,—but all the time with mind unfixed, with no clear purposes, no distinct aims. If he remains upon the farm, and becomes a farmer, the chances are that he does it from the force of circumstances, and because that seems to be the only resource left him, and not from choice. And then he goes on as he began, and as his father has gone before him. Now what is needed is, and it is of primary importance, that the young novitiate for farming should be trained to his business, with the understanding from the first that it is to be his business—one in which he is to earn his living and acquire a competency, one in which, from the start, he shall be spurred on by the laudable ambition to excel and make his mark. Why should there not be in this the same method and system as in other em

ployments. Why should he not begin with the idea which is to control his course, so that every effort and every experience may be made to tell in his general education and to bear upon final results. The boy upon the farm, who is to be a farmer, when he has had the proper rudimentary education of the schools, should commence his profession in earnest, knowing and feeling that he has commenced it. If he is put to any particular farm-work, he should understand why that work is to be done, and why at that time, and if told to do it in a particular way, he should understand why it is to be done in that rather than in a different way. He should be led to inquire the reason of and for everything, to think and judge, to read and study, to learn theory and practice together, and test the former by the latter. In this mode, and in this only, can he commence his career with the same advantages which attend the young man entering upon any other kind of business. It is generally the first step in life which gives direction to its whole future march. It is the resolution early formed which imparts courage to youth and strength to manhood. Let the young farmer but have a fair start, and he need not ask

any odds.

In the next place, and of equal, and perhaps greater importance, the young man who is to become a farmer should at once feel and realize that the occupation upon which he is entering is not a mere mechanical routine of labor—that while it is one which may require severe physical toil, it also calls for and demands the exercise of the highest intellectual faculties. How absurd is the idea that the brightest boy in a family must be sent to school and college, and trained up as a merchant or professional man, while his brother, not thought fit for anything else, will do to make a farmer of. While the father thinks so, the sons of course imbibe the same notion, and this shallow fallacy of thought hardens into real and disastrous fact -and the result is, that just what is most needed to encourage, improve, ennoble this great fundamental art and science of life, to wit, intelligence, mind, are withdrawn from it to be

our best

expended upon other pursuits. And this idea so acted upon, while it tends to draw


young men from the farm, has also this bad result, that it depresses and discourages those who are left, and leads them to believe that farming is mere drudgery,—that they must work harder, fare poorer, be worse paid, and pass less pleasant and happy lives than their fellows who pursue other employments. Now, do you believe that God put man in the Garden of Eden, “to dress it and to keep it ”—that from thence he was sent forth “to till the ground,” and was told, “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return unto the ground.”—that in his providence it was ordered that the great majority of mankind should cultivate the soil, while the whole race should thus be fedthat to the moral, political and social elevation of man, as well as to the full and healthy development of his physical powers, agriculture should be necessary and essential, and yet that it should give no scope for the exercise of his intellectual faculties, of that “living soul” which he became when God “ breathed into his nostrils the breath of life?” No-here, as everywhere else, “wisdom is strength and knowledge is power.” Why is there such a difference—what causes the disparity in the condition of farmers ? Why are not all alike prosperous ?, Why is it that this farm is fertile and productive, and its owner prosperous and happy, while the one which adjoins it is sterile and unfruitful, and its owner an unsuccessful and disappointed man? There is no natural or irremediable difference in soil or climate. There is the same health and strength and muscle in the men. The sun shines as genially, the rain descends as seasonably, the dew falls as gratefully for one as for the other. It is because in addition to more diligence and economy, and perhaps to more industry, one brings to his work more judgment, more intelligence, more mind, than the other.

The farmer should be the last man to have inadequate conceptions of his mission, the last to disparage it. As a man thinketh so he is, and so will he do. Possumus, quia posse

« PreviousContinue »