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A Lesson Of To-day
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Accounts In Farming
Agricultural Exhibitions
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Bones Phosphates Guano
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Agricultural Exhibitions








I must have attended not less than fifty State or County Fairs for the
exhibition (mainly) of Agricultural Machines and Products. From all
these, I should have learned something, and presume I did; but I
cannot now say what. Hence, I conclude that these Fairs are not what
they might and should be. In other words, they should be improved. But
how?

As the people compose much the largest and best part of these shows, the
reform must begin with them. Two-thirds of them go to a Fair with no
desire to learn therefrom--no belief that they can there be taught
anything. Of course, not seeking, they do not find. If they could but
realize that a Farmer's Fair might and should teach farmers somewhat
that would serve them in their vocation, a great point would be gained.
But they go in quest of entertainment, and find this mainly in
horse-racing.

Of all human opportunities for instruction in humility and
self-depreciation, the average public speaker's is the best. He hurries
to a place where he has been told that his presence and utterance are
earnestly and generally desired--perhaps to find that his invitation
came from an insignificant and odious handful, who had some private ax
to grind so repugnant to the great majority that they refuse to
countenance the procedure, no matter how great the temptation. Even
where there is no such feud, many, having satiated their curiosity by a
long stare at him, walk whistling off, without waiting or wishing to
hear him. But the speaker at a Fair must compete with a thousand
counter-attractions, the least of them far more popular and winning than
he can hope to be. He is heard, so far as he is heard at all, in
presence of and competition with all the bellowing bulls, braying,
jacks, and squealing stallions, in the county; if he holds,
nevertheless, a quarter of the crowd, he does well: but let two jockeys
start a buggy-race around the convenient track, and the last auditor
shuts his ears and runs off to enjoy the spectacle. Decidedly, I insist
that a Fair-ground is poorly adapted to the diffusion of Agricultural
knowledge--that the people present acquire very little information
there, even when they get all they want.

What is needed to render our annual Fairs useful and instructive far
beyond precedent, I sum up as follows:

I. Each farmer in the county or township should hold himself bound to
make some contribution thereto. If only a good hill of Corn, a peck of
Potatoes, a bunch of Grapes, a Squash, a Melon, let him send that. If he
can send all of these, so much the better. There is very rarely a
thrifty farmer who could not add to the attractions and merits of a Fair
if he would try. If he could send a coop of superior Fowls, a likely
Calf, or a first-rate Cow, better yet; but nine-tenths of our farmers
regard a Fair as something wherewith they have nothing to do, except as
spectators. When it is half over, they lounge into it with hands in
their pockets, stare about for an hour, and go home protesting that they
could beat nearly everything they saw there. Then why did they not try?
How can we have good Fairs, if those who might make the best display of
products save themselves the trouble by not making any? The average
meagerness of our Fairs, so generally and justly complained of, is not
the fault of those who sent what they had, but of those who, having
better, were too lazy to send anything. Until this is radically changed,
and the blame fastened on those who might have contributed, but did not,
our Fairs cannot help being generally meager and poor.

II. It seems to me that there is great need of an interesting and
faithful running commentary on the various articles exhibited. A
competent person should be employed to give an hour's off-hand talk on
the cattle and horses on hand, explaining the diverse merits and faults
of the several breeds there exhibited, and of the representatives of
those breeds then present. If any are peculiarly adapted to the
locality, let that fact be duly set forth, with the simple object of
enabling farmers to breed more intelligently, and more profitably. Then
let the implements and machinery on exhibition be likewise explained and
discussed, and let their superiority in whatever respect to those they
have superseded or are designed to supersede be clearly pointed out. So,
if there be any new Grain, Vegetable, or Fruit, on the tables, let it be
made the subject of capable and thoroughly impartial discussion, before
such only as choose to listen, and without putting the mere sightseers
to grave inconvenience. A lecture-room should always be attached to a
Fair-ground, yet so secluded as to shut out the noise inseparable from a
crowded exhibition. Here, meetings should be held each evening, for
general discussion; every one being encouraged to state concisely the
impressions made on him, and the improvements suggested to him, by what
he had seen. Do let us try to reflect and consider more at these
gatherings, even though at the cost of seeing less.

III. The well supported Agricultural Society of a rich and populous
county must be able, or should be able, to give two or three liberal
premiums for general proficiency in farming. If $100 could be proffered
to the owner or manager of the best tilled farm in the county, $50 to
the owner of the best orchard, and $50 to the boy under 18 years of age
who grew the best acre of Corn or Roots that year, I am confident that
an impulse would thereby be given to agricultural progress. Our premiums
are too numerous and too petty, because so few, are willing to
contribute with no expectation of personal benefit or distinction. If
we had but the right spirit aroused, we might dispense with most of our
petty premiums, or replace them by medals of no great cost, and devote
the money thus saved to higher and nobler ends.

IV. Much of the speaking at Fairs seems to me insulting to the
intelligence of the Farmers present, who are grossly flattered and
eulogized, when they often need to be admonished and incited to mend
their ways. What use or sense can there be in a lawyer, doctor, broker,
or editor, talking to a crowd of farmers as if they were the most
favored of mortals and their life the noblest and happiest known to
mankind? Whatever it might be, and may yet become, we all know that the
average farmer's life is not what it is thus represented: for, if it
were, thousands would be rushing into it where barely hundreds left it:
whereas we all see that the fact is quite otherwise. No good can result
from such insincere and extravagant praises of a calling which so few
freely choose, and so many gladly shun. Grant that the farmer's ought
to be the most enviable and envied vocation, we know that in fact it
is not and, agreeing that it should be, the business in hand is to
make it so. There must be obstacles to surmount, mistakes to set right,
impediments to overcome, before farming can be in all respects the
idolized pursuit which poets are so ready to proclaim it and orators so
delight to represent it. Let us struggle to make it all that fancy has
ever painted it; but, so long as it is not, let us respect undeniable
facts, and characterize it exactly as it is.

V. If our counties were thoroughly canvassed by township committees, and
each tiller of the soil asked to pledge himself in writing to exhibit
something at the next County Fair, we should soon witness a decided
improvement. Many would be incited to attend who now stay away; while
the very general complaint that there is nothing worth coming to see
would be heard no more. As yet, a majority of farmers regard the Fair
much as they do a circus or traveling menagerie, taking no interest in
it except as it may afford them entertainment for the passing hour. We
must change this essentially; and the first step is to induce, by
concerted solicitation, at least half the farmers in the county to
pledge themselves each to exhibit something at the next annual Fair, or
pay $5 toward increasing its premiums.

VI. In short, we must all realize that the County or Township Fair is
our Fair--not got up by others to invite our patronage or criticism,
but something whereto it is incumbent on us to contribute, and which
must be better or worse as we choose to make it. Realizing this, let us
stop carping and give a shoulder to the wheel.





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