“Farming, Not Planting” by John H. Dent, as published in the 1867 issue of The Southern Planter, online at http://www.archive.org/details/southernplanter28rich. (The original was a single paragraph; I’ve divided it here.)
It has been a long while since I have written an article for an agricultural journal. But having now, (after having made a large fortune by planting, and lost it by the war), to go to work again from the stump, I shall endeavor to do my best on the farm, and at what leisure I may have, use my pen for the great work which has fallen to the Southern people in repairing their fortunes, by a new system of agriculture which at once must be adopted, to suit our circumstances.
I was, before the war, a large cotton planter, but since the emancipation of our negroes, and one year’s trial with the freedman, I am fully convinced that cotton planting on a large scale, (unless it is done as a speculation—the present system is nothing more or less,) is to precarious to attempt as a permanent pursuit. All who are acquainted with cotton planting, know it is a long and laborious crop to make, tedious and monotonous to the laborer—one in which only the highest wages, and the most flattering persuasions can induce them to engage in cultivating.
Hence, I have abandoned its culture, sold my plantation and purchased a valley farm in the mountain regions of Georgia, where I shall turn my whole attention to farming. What I mean by farming is, to cultivate on a small scale, a variety of crops—attend also to fruit culture, raising of stock, and even try the dairy. By this system, but a few dollars are necessary, and by rotating, manuring and seeding down land to grass, a farm may be easily enriched, increased in its productiveness and made more valuable yearly.
I am fully convinced of this fact, that sooner or later, large plantations under the old system of culture must be abandoned, and farming adopted in its stead.
Why? Because with hired labor, poor lands cannot be afforded to be cultivated. The lands we tend must be enriched, and labor must be economized and it is impossible to keep up and enrich a large plantation, so as to make it remunerative, with our present laborers. The policy is to make one acre produce what three do now, and by labor-saving machines, to make two hands do what five are now doing. This must be the system adopted to make Southern farming profitable, and if not adopted, we will become bankrupt.
In upper Georgia, there is a soil unsurpassed in productiveness, and adapted to corn, wheat, rye, oats, barley, cotton, clover, the grasses and tobacco, and every variety of fruit—the climate is fine, and its waterpower unsurpassed for any kind of machinery. This section of country, in the hands of enterprising and practical farmers, may be made the garden spot of the South.
Living is cheap and abundant, and a ready market can be had for any surplus, railroad facilities being at hand. Let us, for example, quote merely the fruits that have been sent to market from this section of the country the past season: “By the following statement, by the President, of the exports over the Rome Rail Road, it will be seen that there have been shipped from here this season, 15,602 bushels of fruit. Now, allowing two-thirds of this to be peaches, at $3 per bushel, and the balance apples, at $1.25, it would amount to $37,922. Just suppose that ten times that amount of fruit had been dried, which could have been, if proper attention had been given it, and an income from fruit alone, would have been realized, amounting to $379,220.”
In addition to this, the demand for wheat, corn and meats are enormous. Large amounts of hay can also be made here, as a market crop. We have no reason to despond, and nothing to fear, if we will only set to work right, and develop the vast resources of our country. Again, in these fertile valleys of North Georgia, we are not dependent on free laborers, for the climate is so fine the white man can labor with vigor and health, and there is a population of hardy mountaineers at hand, ready and willing to take hold and make the soil produce abundantly.
My remarks are in relation to Vann’s Valley, in Floyd county, Georgia, which, for agricultural purposes, as well as manufacturing, is unsurpassed anywhere. True, its former and present population are rough farmers, so far as their management of the soil is concerned; but so soon as the work of improvement has commenced, their energies are not wanting to do as others will do. The beginning of improvement is what is needed. Scientific farming must be adopted, and when undertaken, the fruits of our labors will be abundant, and prosperity visible on every hand.
Very respectfully yours, John H. Dent
In Southern Cultivator, Cave Spring, Ga.