This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
H. J. S. writes: " I understand you to advocate the planting of forests by corporations. I would now ask you to project, first, a working plan for such companies adapted to the capacity of country neighborhoods; to indicate, second, what legislation, if any, is essential and desirable for such corporations; third, what locations and aspects are the most favorable; fourth, what habitats are well adapted to the various species; and fifth, such other information as may best promote the commercial success of such companies. First. Corporate enterprises for conducting agricultural enterprises are, if not unknown, at least unusual, and this because agriculture demands the closest vigilance and the most painful economy. Corporation sylviculture may have different elements, but at least it could be best managed by neighbors, whose vicinage, sympathies and interest would protect the plantations, and whose labor would be given at a minimum cost. In Philadelphia the building associations have learned and taught how to aggregate small savings of money, and demonstrated the potentiality of "many nickles" laid by to enrich the mechanic. The farmer, though he has little money, yet has many spare hours, which if he could spend them on the company's forest, might grow into money.
If a wise plan were digested for local forest companies, they would likely become sporadic, and idlewilds of five, twenty or one hundred or more acres might come to be devoted to forest culture of such timber as would be more remunerative. In some places it might be railroad ties, in others fence timber, in others slow growing or ornamental woods might prove the only ones worth the cost of transportation to market. Economy of administration has been, in building associations, a vital element of success, and this would be especially true of forest companies, where interest and compound interest would enter so largely into the calculation. Each township, I imagine, might find a field for one or more such companies, and each Grange or Farmer's Club serve as a nucleus for such organizations. Second. The Pennsylvania Legislature has passed some laws promotive of building associations, and perhaps our laws even now afford all the facility for forest companies that is necessary. Third. Dr. Rothwick indicates the grounds where charcoal has been burned as especially favorable, but all our counties, or even townships afford ample opportunities for selection of favorable locations".
[The paper referred to by our correspondent, by the editor of this magazine, on forestry companies, appeared in the Penn Monthly for 1876. It is gratifying that our correspondent refers to it, as from the fact that no allusion whatever is made to it in the recent collections of forestry topics presented as a report to the Government, by Dr. Hough, it might fairly be interpreted by those who missed it there as being beneath all notice.
In that paper it was shown that forestry companies promised as much profit when properly conducted as any well managed corporation. The paper is too long to transfer to our pages, or we would ask permission of the Penn Monthly to do so; but presuming that all who are particularly interested in the subject have seen or can see the article there, we will here merely note our correspondent's numbered questions.
First. The land would have to be purchased in just the same manner as a body of men would associate together to buy land to farm, to build houses, start a cemetery, or even lay a railroad track. Of course the estimated cost of the planting and care till returns were made would be with the land purchase, part of the capital stock, but the shares would be made to cover these contingencies, and only installments called for as required. The chief concern would be for a live president, for on him the selection of superintendent would fall, and on his good management much of the success, as it does in all companies, would depend.
Second. It does not appear that any legislation more than the general association laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and probably such other States, already furnish is necessary. Trees are agricultural products, and have the same protection, and the same general encouragement as agricultural products already have. The culture of trees for timber, needs no more, legislation than the culture of trees by a nurseryman for sale, and the A. B. C. Company, Limited, has been found quite equal to the purpose.
Third. Locations and aspects depend entirely on the nature of the prospective market. If it were foreseen that there would be a demand for Cypress shingles, the location might be a Mississippi swamp; if fire wood for a locomotive away from coal mines, it might be the Table Mountain Pine on a Western Kansas desert; if Oak ties, it would be a rich alluvial tract along a main line for the White Oak; a rocky ridge for the Chestnut, and so on through the whole range of objects and spots.
Fourth. There is not a tract of land in the Union that would not grow some tree well, and probably no one tree but has its uses. The exact answer could only be given by the superintendent of a forestry company when the details were being arranged. There are plenty of places where it would be folly to plant the Oak, though the best of timber; plenty of places where Poplar or Willow would pay better than anything else. It will depend on whether we have cricket bats or punch bowls, or railroad ties or bridge piles as likely to be most called for.
Small local companies would not effect much. The owners of a large timber plantation should be men who can see just where there certainly will be a demand for timber in the future, and where the land on which the timber stands will increase in value while the timber grows. There are now in the country, millions of acres of timber not worth five dollars an acre, because it is inaccessible to railroad lines, to water navigation, or to where timber is wanted, and it will be so for a hundred years to come. There are Oak and Chestnut forest not twenty miles from Philadelphia now, which one could hardly get cut clown by a gift of the timber, because it cannot be hauled as cheaply as a railroad or a river will bring it a hundred miles away. The average collection of farmers would not have a breadth of view sufficient to look into a principle like this. The same broad-viewed men that project railroads and similar enterprises are the only ones who could successfully make a forestry company pay. There would be little compound interest to be borne in a properly managed forestry company.
If the ground is properly chosen, the proper market kept in view, and the proper superintendent selected, the whole running expenses could be met from the products in four years.
The point second has already been answered, No legislation is needed. The recent Pennsylvania legislation in the interest (?) of building associations will not promote but obstruct building associations. Germantown, with perhaps 30, 000 inhabitants, has had building associations with an annual deposit line in banks of some $500, 000, and never asked for "legislation, " nor, can any legislation possible " promote " it better than it has been promoted for half a century without it.
In short there is no more reason why a forestry association should not be as profitable as a railroad. The longer a railroad lasts the more people settle along its line, and the more valuable the land along the line grows. A forestry company would find the same facts, with this in its favor, that while the road-bed and rolling-stock continually depreciates by time, trees increase in value as they grow.