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What I Know Of Farming

Roots Turnips Beets Carrots

If there be any who still hold that this country must ultimately rival
that magnificent Turnip-culture which has so largely transformed the
agricultural industry of England and Scotland, while signally and
beneficently increasing its annual product, I judge that time will prove
them mistaken. The striking diversity of climate between the opposite
coasts of the Atlantic forbids the realization of their hopes. The
British Isles, with a considerable portion of the adjacent coast of
Continental Europe, have a climate so modified by the Gulf Stream and
the ocean that their Summers are usually moist and cool, their Autumns
still more so, and their Winters rarely so cold as to freeze the earth
considerably; while our Summers and Autumns, are comparatively hot and
dry; our Winters in part intensely cold, so as to freeze the earth solid
for a foot or more. Hence, every variety of turnip is exposed here in
its tenderer stages to the ravages of every devouring insect; while the
1st of December often finds the soil of all but our Southern and Pacific
States so frozen that cannon-wheels would hardly track it, and roots
not previously dug up must remain fast in the earth for weeks and often
for months. Hence, the turnip can never grow so luxuriantly, nor be
counted on with such certainty, here as in Great Britain; nor can
animals be fed on it in Winter, except at the heavy cost of pulling or
digging, cutting off the tops and carefully housing in Autumn, and then
slicing and feeding out in Winter. It is manifest that turnips thus
handled, however economically, cannot compete with hay and corn-fodder
in our Eastern and Middle States; nor with these and the cheaper species
of grain in the West, as the daily Winter food of cattle.

Still, I hold that our stock-growing farmers profitably may, and
ultimately will, grow some turnips to be fed out to their growing and
working animals. A good meal of turnips given twice a week, if not
oftener, to these, will agreeably and usefully break the monotony of
living exclusively on dry fodder, and will give a relish to their hay or
cut stalks and straw, which cannot fail to tell upon their appetite,
growth and thrift. Let our cattle-breeders begin with growing an acre or
two each of Swedes per annum, so as to give their stock a good feed of
them, sliced thin in an effective machine, at least once in each week,
and I feel confident that they will continue to grow turnips, and will
grow more and more of them throughout future years.

The Beet seems to me better adapted to our climate, especially south of
the fortieth degree of north latitude, than any variety of the Turnip
with which I am acquainted, and destined, in the good time coming, when
we shall have at least doubled the average depth of our soil, to very
extensive cultivation among us. I am not regarding either of these roots
with reference to its use as human food, since our farmers generally
understand that use at least as well as I do; nor will I here consider
at length the use of the Beet in the production of Sugar. I value that
use highly, believing that millions of the poorer classes throughout
Europe have been enabled to enjoy Sugar through its manufacture from the
Beet who would rarely or never have tasted that luxury in the absence of
this manufacture. The people of Europe thus made familiar with Sugar can
hardly be fewer than 100,000,000; and the number is annually increasing.
The cost of Sugar to these is considerably less in money, while
immeasurably less in labor, than it would or could have been had the
tropical Cane been still regarded as the only plant available for the
production of Sugar.

But the West Indies, wherein the Cane flourishes luxuriantly and renews
itself perennially, lie at our doors. They look to us for most of their
daily bread, and for many other necessaries of life; while several, if
not all of them, are manifestly destined, in the natural progress of
events, to invoke the protection of our flag. I do not, therefore, feel
confident that Beet Sugar now promises to become an important staple
destined to take a high rank among the products of our national
industry. With cheap labor, I believe it might to-day he manufactured
with profit in the rich, deep valleys of California, and perhaps in
those of Utah and Colorado as well. On the whole, however, I cannot deem
the prospect encouraging for the American promoters of the manufacture
of Beet Sugar.

But when we shall have deepened essentially the soil of our arable
acres, fertilized it abundantly, and cured it by faithful cultivation of
its vicious addiction to weed-growing, I believe we shall devote
millions of those acres to the growth of Beets for cattle-food, and,
having learned how to harvest as well as till them mainly by machinery,
with little help from hand labor, we shall produce them with eminent
profit and satisfaction to the grower. On soil fully two feet deep,
thoroughly underdrained and amply fertilized, I believe we shall often
produce one thousand bushels of Beets to the acre; and so much
acceptable and valuable food for cattle can hardly be obtained from an
acre in any other form.

* * * * *

So with regard to Carrots. I have never achieved eminent success in
growing these, nor Beets; mainly because the soil on which I attempted
to grow them was not adapted to, or rather not yet in condition for,
such culture. But, should I live a few years longer, until my reclaimed
swamp shall have become thoroughly sweetened and civilized, I mean to
grow on some part thereof 1,000 bushels of Carrots per acre, and a
still larger product of Beets; and the Carrot, in my judgment, ought now
to be extensively grown in the South and West, as well as in this
section, for feeding to horses. I hold that 60 bushels of Carrots and 50
of Oats, fed in alternate meals, are of at least equal value as
horse-feed with 100 bushels of Oats alone, while more easily grown in
this climate. The Oat-crop makes heavy drafts upon the soil, while our
hot Summers are not congenial to its thrift or perfection. Since we must
grow Oats, we must be content to import new seed every 10 or 15 years
from Scotland, Norway, and other countries which have cooler, moister
Summers than our own; for the Oat will inevitably degenerate under such
suns as blazed through the latter half of our recent June. Believing
that the Carrot may profitably replace at least half the Oats now grown
in this country, I look forward with confidence to its more and more
extensive cultivation.

The advantage of feeding Roots to stock is not to be measured and
bounded by their essential value. Beasts, like men, require a variety of
food, and thrive best upon a regimen which involves a change of diet.
Admit that hay is their cheapest Winter food; still, an occasional meal
of something more succulent will prove beneficial, and this is best
afforded by Roots.

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Previous: Esculent Roots Potatoes

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