This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol3", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
It goes without saying that the best condition of all is to secure the freehold of the land; then all those influences resulting from a cultivator's energy, which go to improve the value of the holding, will work for his and not for another's benefit; but, as already remarked, it may be taken for granted that few will find it in their power to secure the freehold of sufficient land of the quality and in the position desirable for market gardening. The negotiations for a contract of tenancy must be conducted with great care, and it will be wise to secure professional advice. The market gardener will soon find, if he ever expected it, that he cannot obtain the conditions that please him best. He will be a lucky man if, when the agreement is signed, it is not a much more valuable instrument to the landowner for the protection of his real or supposed interests than for the tenant, who probably has had to pay all the cost of it.
Nothing can afford clearer evidence of the closeness of the land monopoly than the one-sided character of the agreements and leases for the letting of agricultural land which have come down to us from the past, breathing the spirit of overlord ship and assuming the servility of feudal times. Reading through one of these leases produces a feeling of strangulation, as if one were being bound round by cord upon cord, from foot to head, until only fingers enough were left free to count rent. Such wildernesses of redundant verbiage, such forests of irrelevant details - one wonders who would ever have wasted the ink or the time to write it all, until we learn that the poor tenant had to pay all the cost, and the more skins of parchment the lawyer could cover with writing the greater the fee he was permitted to exact.
Happily the majority of English landlords have always been better than their own agreements, and the old-time farmer who signed his lease without reading it was depending on the sporting instincts of his landlord, who would know how to appreciate a good tenant, and was generally fairly dealt with. But the spirit of modern commercialism, for good or bad, has invaded the sacred precincts. The last vestiges of vassalage are dying out, and the market gardener who signs, with his eyes open, a contract of tenancy which does not secure him reasonable conditions under which to invest his capital, and exercise his skill, must not expect a kind providence, landlord or other, to deliver him from the consequences of his own folly. A curious state of things has been induced by the success which has attended the efforts of market gardeners to secure by legislation their right to the benefit of improvements effected by them in their holdings.
Previous to the passing of the Market Gardeners' Compensation Act, in 1895, many a market gardener found at the expiration of his tenancy the benefit of his most valuable improvements pocketed by his landlord. If he desired to renew the tenancy he must pay additional rent on his own improvements, or quit and allow the landlord to reap the harvest from another tenant; surely a divorce between legal claim and moral right as wide as can well be imagined, and a condition inconceivable in any other commercial relation except where land comes in!
By the Market Gardeners' Compensation Act, which came into force on 1 January, 1896, valuable provisions establishing the right of the tenant to the value of his own improvements first found their way to the statute book. So far as market gardens existing at the passing of the Act were concerned, it provided that where the cultivation of such holdings as market gardens was within the knowledge of the landlord, and he had not expressed dissent in writing previous to the execution of the improvements, then the provisions of the Act should apply as if it had been agreed in writing after the commencement of the Act that the holding should be let or treated as a market garden. This placed the cultivators of market gardens at the passing of the Act in an exceptionally strong position; because Section 3 (3) lifted the following improvements, so far as market gardens were concerned, out of Schedule I of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1883 - where they required the written consent of the landlord to their execution before the tenant became entitled to compensation on quitting his holding in respect of them - to Schedule III, where neither the consent of the landlord nor notice to the landlord is necessary. The improvements referred to are: -
2. Planting of fruit bushes permanently set out.
3. Planting of Strawberry plants.
5. Erection or enlargement of buildings for the purposes of the trade or business of a market gardener.
It is perfectly clear that the tenant of a holding which on 1 January, 1896, with the landlord's tacit consent, was being cultivated as a market garden, was free, without any hindrance on the part of his landlord, to make any of the improvements enumerated above, and to claim compensation for them. To any layman reading the clause it would also seem clear that in the case of a holding where any of the above improvements had already been executed previous to 1 January, 1896, and the landlord had not objected to them in writing previous to their execution, then at the expiration of the tenancy the Act entitled the tenant to compensation for them. For some time after the passing of the Act the clause was so understood, and compensations by virtue of it paid; but someone in Scotland took the view that the provision was not retrospective, and the question was fought, and taken from court to court, until ultimate wisdom in the House of Lords decided that the Act had no retrospective action, and applied only to improvements effected after its passing into law.
In 1908 an Act was passed consolidating the Agricultural Holdings Acts, and the Market Gardeners' Compensation Act was incorporated with it. This Act came into operation on 1 January, 1909, and remains to-day the statute upon the subject. The compensation clause of the Market Gardeners' Compensation Act appears in it with some verbal alterations. The first of such alterations seems designed to make it clear that the improvements for which a claim to compensation is established are those set out in the third schedule; the second is designed to meet the retrospective difficulty, and sets out that the compensation payable shall include improvements executed before as well as improvements executed after 1 January, 1896. It remains to be seen whether this has made the way strait and narrow enough to keep out the coach and four of the courts. The last alteration, whether so designed or not, seems to deprive the yearly tenant of any of the retrospective benefits of the Act.