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What I Know Of Farming

Farmers' Clubs

Farmers, like other men, divide naturally into two classes--those who do
too much work, and those who do too little. I know men who are no
farmers at all, only by virtue of the fact that each of them inherited,
or somehow acquired, a farm, and have since lived upon and out of it, in
good part upon that which it could not help producing--they not doing so
much as one hundred fair days' work each per annum. One of this class
never takes a periodical devoted to farming; evinces no interest in
county fairs or township clubs, save as they may afford him an excuse
for greater idleness; and insists that there is no profit in farming. As
land steadily depreciates in quality under his management, he is apt to
sell out whenever the increase of population or progress of improvement
has given additional value to his farm, and move off in quest of that
undiscovered country where idleness is compatible with thrift, profits
are realized from light crops, and men grow rich by doing nothing.

The opposite class of wanderers from the golden mean is hardly so
numerous as the idlers, yet it is quite a large one. Its leading
embodiment, to my mind, is one whom I knew from childhood, who, born
poor and nowise favored by fortune, was rated as a tireless worker from
early boyhood, and who achieved an independence before he was forty
years old in a rural New-England township, simply by rugged, persistent
labor--in youth on the farms of other men; in manhood, on one of his
own. This man was older at forty than his father, then seventy, and died
at fifty, worn out with excessive and unintermitted labor, leaving a
widow who greatly preferred him to all his ample wealth, and an only son
who, so soon as he can get hold of it, will squander the property much
faster, and even more unwisely, than his father acquired it.

To the class of which this man was a fair representative, Farmers' Clubs
must prove of signal value. Though there should be nothing else than a
Farmers' Club in his neighborhood, it can hardly fail in time to make
such a one realize that life need not and should not be all drudgery;
that there are other things worth living for beside accumulating wealth.
Let his wife and his neighbor succeed in drawing such a one into two or
three successive meetings, and he can hardly fail to perceive that
thrift is a product of brain as well as of muscle; that he may grow rich
by learning and knowing as well as by delving, and that, even though he
should not, there are many things desirable and laudable beside the
accumulation of wealth.

A true Farmers' Club should consist of all the families residing in a
small township, so far as they can be induced to attend it, even though
only half their members should be present at any one meeting. It should
limit speeches to ten minutes, excepting only those addresses or essays
which eminently qualified persons are requested to specially prepare and
read. It should have a president, ready and able to repress all
ill-natured personalities, all irrelevant talk, and especially all
straying into the forbidden regions of political or theological
disputation. At each meeting, the subject should be chosen for the next,
and not less than four members pledged to make some observations
thereon, with liberty to read them if unused to speaking in public.
Those having been heard, the topic should be open to discussion by all
present: the humblest and youngest being specially encouraged to state
any facts within their knowledge which they deem pertinent and cogent.
Let every person attending be thus incited to say something calculated
to shed light on the subject, to say this in the fewest words possible,
and with the utmost care not to annoy or offend others, and it is hardly
possible that one evening per week devoted to these meetings should not
be spent with equal pleasure and profit.

The chief end to be achieved through such meetings is a development of
the faculty of observation and the habit of reflection. Too many of us
pass through life essentially blind and deaf to the wonders and glories
manifest to clearer eyes all around us. The magnificent phenomena of the
Seasons, even the awakening of Nature from death to life in Spring-time,
make little impression on their senses, still less on their
understandings. There are men who have passed forty times through a
forest, and yet could not name, within half a dozen, the various species
of trees which compose it; and so with everything else to which they are
accustomed. They need even more than knowledge an intellectual
awakening; and this they could hardly fail to receive from the
discussions of an intelligent and earnest Farmers' Club.

A genuine and lively interest in their vocation is needed by many
farmers, and by most farmers' sons. Too many of these regard their
homesteads as a prison, in which they must remain until some avenue of
escape into the great world shall open before them. The farm to such is
but the hollow log into which a bear crawls to wear out the rigors of
Winter and await the advent of Spring. Too many of our boys fancy that
they know too much for farmers, when in fact they know far too little. A
good Farmers' Club, faithfully attended, would take this conceit out of
them, imbuing them instead with a realizing sense of their ignorance and
incompetency, and a hearty desire for practical wisdom.

A recording secretary, able to state in the fewest words each important
suggestion or fact elicited in the course of an evening's discussion,
would be hardly less valuable or less honored than a capable president.
A single page would often suffice for all that deserves such record out
of an evening's discussion; and this, being transferred to a book and
preserved, might be consulted with interest and profit throughout many
succeeding years. No other duty should be required of the member who
rendered this service, the correspondence of the Club being devolved
upon another secretary. The habit of bringing grafts, or plants, or
seeds, to Club meetings, for gratuitous distribution, has been found to
increase the interest, and enlarge the attendance of those formerly
indifferent. Almost every good farmer or gardener will sometimes have
choice seeds or grafts to spare, which he does not care or cannot expect
to sell, and these being distributed to the Club will not only increase
its popularity, but give him a right to share when another's surplus is
in like manner distributed. If one has choice fruits to give away, the
Club will afford him an excellent opportunity; but I would rather not
attract persons to its meetings by a prospect of having their appetites
thus gratified at others' expense. A Flower-Show once in each year, and
an Exhibition of Fruits and other choice products at an evening meeting
in September or October, should suffice for festivals. Let each member
consider himself pledged to bring to the Exhibition the best material
result of his year's efforts, and the aggregate will be satisfactory and

The organization of a Farmers' Club is its chief difficulty. The larger
number of those who ought to participate usually prefer to stand back,
not committing themselves to the effort until after its success has been
assured. To obviate this embarrassment, let a paper be circulated for
signatures, pledging each signer to attend the introductory meeting and
bring at least a part of his family. When forty have signed such a call,
success will be well-nigh assured.

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