1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > Large Farming

(Part 103)


Large Farming

II. Of grande culture, or large farming , it may perhaps be thought almost superfluous here to enumerate the recommendations, which indeed on one condition are obvious and incontrovertible. Provided a large farmer be possessed of capital duly proportioned to the extent of his holding, and of intelligence to employ his capital judiciously, his husbandry can scarcely fail to prove abundantly satisfactory. In a territory entirely parceled out among farmers of this description there would, from a purely agricultural point of view, seem little left to desire. The system certainly approaches towards the realization of the great object of all agriculture--- that of the production of the greatest possible quantity and the best possible quality of raw material for the use of man. The distinguishing characteristic of large culture is the scope it affords for the application to husbandry of the great principle of division of labor. A well-managed large farm is indeed a factory for the production of vegetable and animal substance. The extensive scale on which operations are there carried on necessitates the employment of several persons, to each of whom some special occupation may be assigned, and constant practice naturally increases the laborers skill. Time, too, is saved which would otherwise be lost in turning frequently from one occupation to another; and there is also a further saving in implements, large and small, and in draught cattle, fewer of which will suffice for the tillage of a given area held entire than would be needed if the same acreage were divided amongst numerous tenants. Some, again, of the more important of agricultural operations, and notable those of drainage and irrigation, are in many situations incapable of being efficiently performed except on a large scale; and though they may be, and often are, most efficiently performed on the very largest scale by a combination of small landholders, still every such combination must necessarily be preceded b y negotiations involving indefinitely prolonged delay, with which a single individual, occupying the entire tract, could at his option dispense. And a similar remark applies to the costlier implements and machines, in the adoption of which associations of small farmers may slowly follow the example of individual large farmers, but which they would not, without such example, have themselves adopted --- which, indeed, unless previously patronized by large farmers, would never have been offered for their adoption. Probably no inventive genius, however disinterestedly ardent, would have been at the pains to devise a steam thrashing-machines or a steam plough, had there not been wealthy agriculturists, some of, whom might readily be persuaded to risk, at their own cost and charges, an immediate trial of any promising invention. farmers of limited mean, even when living in the same neighborhood, would =have to be educated into faith in the novel apparatus before the inventor would get a single specimen taken off his hands.

Besides, whereas large farming prevails large properties are its invariable concomitants; and wherever it is the fashion for proprietors to reside on their estates, many of them are sure to amuse themselves with farming. Very likely, if they were to count the cost , they might find the amusement an expensive one. Not impossibly they often spend on the land as much as they get back from it, or even spend on the land as much as they get back from it, or even more, the expenditure in that case at best producing only its bare equivalent. But the same expenditure, unless so applied, would as likely as not have remained utterly unproductive, being devoted to some other amusement, or to mere parade or luxury , from which no tangible return whatever would be possible; so that its application to agricultural extravagance is virtually a gain in the sense, at all events of preventing total loss. Nor in that sense only; for rich men who take to farming as a pastime are precisely those most likely to be forward in putting new inventions and new processes to the test of experiment; while the experience thereby acquired, instead of being jealously concealed , is liberally published far and wide, so becoming the property of the whole body of farmers by profe4ssion, and serving them according to circumstances, as guide to follows or a beacon to avoid. Every one interested in such matters knows how much has been done in this way be successive Dukes of Bedford and Fortland and Marquesses Townshend; by the late Earls of Leicester and Scarborough and Earl Spencer; and by the present Earl of Ducie and Earl Grey; nor are there many ways in which a landed aristocracy can better rebut the reproach of inutility than by thus doing honor to agriculture, and having the honor-reflected on themselves.

As already hinted, however, it is only on condition of being conducted with adequate capital that large farming can succeed. True, with deficient capital small farming could succeed no better, perhaps indeed not so well; but then there is much more danger of the needful capital being wanting to a large farmer than a small one. Whatever, from £5 to £20, be the desirable proportion per acre, the number of persons possessing the £50 or £200 required for stocking a farm of ten acres is likely to be everywhere many times more than fifty-fold that of those possessing the £2500 or the £10,000 which a single farm of 500 acres would require. Besides, in countries abounding with fortunate individuals able to count the pounds sterling by the thousand, promising modes of investing such considerable sums abound proportionally; and even in a country so exceptionally such as our own, the number of capitalists prepared to invest their thousands in farming is sadly below the number of farms which would be all the better for having the same thousand so invested. We are justified then by experience in saying, that where large farming is the rule, there will probably by every farmers without adequate capital. Now, in agriculture m inadequate capital means among other things, insufficient, defective crops. It means, in short, imperfect cultivation.

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