Thursday, February 12, 2015

How to Avoid Disaster, Upton G. Wilson Advises Farmers, 1938

“Farming to Live” by Upton G. Wilson in the February, 1938, Carolina Co-operator

There’s a splendid lesson to farm folk in this article by Mr. Wilson: A lesson that every North Carolina farmer would do well to learn, and learning, put into practice.

Farmers, after experiencing a moderately prosperous year, have little reason to apprehend misfortune in 1938—if they plan wisely.

Principal reason, it may be assumed, for any persons engaging in agriculture is to make a living and possibly a little besides; but first, of course, should come the living. And since living is largely a matter of food consumption, food should come first in every farmer’s crop plan.

Time was when food did come first in every farmer’s plan. Then men really farmed for a living, consuming much of what they produced. If they made plenty, then had plenty, whether markets were good or bad.

But agriculture has become principally a business of producing to sell, with farmers having plenty when markets are good and little when markets are poor.

Instead of producing food, many are producing almost altogether crops which they hope to sell profitably and then buy food with the money thus obtained. Disaster, when it overtakes them, is principally brought on by this sort of farming.

To take as much speculation as possible out of farming in 1938, farmers should attempt to grow ample food crops in addition to cash crops. On the farm, if anywhere, food in plenty should be the portion of every man, woman, and child.

The good farmer’s goal for 1938 will not be a shiny new automobile but a full granary, corn crib, and smokehouse, with plenty of feed and good cows and workstock.

Persons unfamiliar with farming practices in the South find it difficult to understand why there should be want and scarcity on the farm. They think of the farm as a place of plenty and content. Their conception of the farm is not impossible of realization.

Southern soil, even though it has been scandalously mistreated and neglected, is still capable, if rightly handled, of bountifully feeding those who till it. It is the South’s shame that many who cultivate her fields are poorly fed and housed.

A principal reason many are poorly housed and fed, we are persuaded, is lack of proper supervision by landlords of their tenants. When a tenant’s poor crop is attributable to shiftless methods of cultivating and handling, a part of the blame belongs to the landlord.

The landlord who fails to require his tenant to cultivate and handle his crop in the best manner possible not only wrongs himself but his tenant as well. It is illogical to assume that all tenants are good managers.

If, as has been said, every child has the right to be well-born, it is no less true that every farm has the right to be well-managed. The soil has rights the same as the individual, nor do the rights of the soil and the individual clash. For whatever is good for the soil is good for the individual who tends it.

The attitude of the landlord, when the temperament of the tenant will permit it, should be one of sympathy and helpfulness. It is not enough to tell a tenant to do a certain thing; he should be gold why it should be done.

Too many tenants and landlords come to the end of the year with bitterness in their hearts toward each other and with little or no profit from their year’s business partnership. “He ain’t no good,” the landlord remarks of the tenant, and the tenant, equally bitter, refers to his landlord as a skinflint and a scoundrel. Perhaps each is wrong.

The result of all this is an increase in the number of tenants and a probable decrease in their efficiency and industry, with landlords and tenants mutually suffering. For n tenant can neglect his crop without damaging his landlord and no landlord can neglect his duty to his tenant without damaging not only the latter but himself.

In 1938, therefore, both landlords and tenants should resolve to cooperate with each other more closely and to pool their efforts in giving more care to the soil. The stake of the tenant in the soil is equally as great as that of the landlord.

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