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.
He who would hire land for market gardening or fruit growing must expect to pay more rent than is the rate for farm land in the same district. First, because he will require a smaller scope of land than a farmer, and land in small parcels seems always to command a higher rent per acre than when let in large blocks; and next, because of the greater liability which recent legislation in the tenants' interest has cast upon the landlord. The foregoing remarks do not apply to that large amount of land cultivated by market gardeners which is in close proximity to larger centres of population, and where the rent is governed by the commercial advantages it enjoys in nearness to market and cheap manure.
There is also the factor of competition among market gardeners and fruit growers, which has its effect in forcing up rents. The craze for growing Raspberries at Blairgowrie forced up the rents from £3 per acre to £12, and a similar process is going on in the Evesham district, and will be found to exist wherever market gardeners crowd together.
Doubtless there are many advantages in being closely associated with others engaged in the same industry, and in making that industry the dominant one in a district; but the advantages have to be paid for in increased rent. It may be that the question of a pound an acre is of small moment as between good land and bad land, but it cannot be denied that the increasing vogue of the growing of fruit and vegetables for market is decreasing the rate of profit, so that every item of expenditure must be carefully scanned, and this of rent cannot be called an unimportant one. Especially is this so when it is remembered that, under the existing method of levying taxation for local purposes, rates are based upon the rent. Legislation of recent years has taken the course of adding to the duties of local governing bodies, the expenses incurred in the discharge of such extra duties falling upon the occupiers' rate; thus the cultivator has found his liability to local rates a constantly increasing one, often in respect of services from which the town dweller reaps the benefit. Under the Public Health Act, 1875, the occupier of land is entitled to a reduction of three-fourths upon the general district rate. The Worthing Local Board made a determined attempt to deprive the cultivator under glass of the benefit of this provision in the famous Purser case. Happily the attempt ended in failure - the judgment in the Queen's Bench Court being entirely in favour of the market gardener - and the question has never been carried further. The same success has not attended the efforts of the market gardeners to secure the benefit to their greenhouses under the Agricultural Rates Act. By this Act land is allowed an exemption of half the Poor Rate, but it was decided in a case taken to the House of Lords that greenhouses are buildings and not entitled to benefit under it. Thus we have the curious state of things created by these two decisions: Under the first, market-garden land is still market-garden land though you cover it all over with glass; under the second, market-garden land ceases to be market-garden land, and becomes buildings, when you put up a greenhouse upon it. There is another matter in connection with local rating which will come as an unpleasant surprise to the starter in fruit growing. Our system of levying local taxation is admirably adapted for penalizing the active man and sparing the lazy one. When a man is guilty of a misdemeanour he is brought before the court, and society expresses its determination to put a stop to such conduct by the infliction of a fine. When a man invests his capital in the planting of fruit trees, society, in the persons of the overseers, expresses its appreciation of the enterprise, and in order to encourage others fines him heavily in the shape of an increased assessment, no matter what his rent may be, on the ground that he has added to the rental value. Some local authorities have tried to inflict this punishment upon the planter of Raspberries, but the courts could not go with them. The planter of fruit trees, however, may depend upon it he will not escape. Enough has perhaps been said to incite the intending fruit grower or market gardener to drive as hard a bargain as he can on the question of rent.
In the matter of income tax the market gardener, whether fruit grower or not, will find another case in which he is singled out from other agriculturists for specially unfavourable treatment. Under recent Finance Acts the maximum assessment for a farmer is fixed at one-third the annual value of the lands in his occupation; if, however, he makes less than this he can claim to be assessed under Schedule D and show accounts. He therefore enjoys an exceptionally favoured position. Not so the poor market gardener, whether fruit grower or not. He is assessed under Schedule D on the lines of Schedule B, that is, he is assessed upon an assumed profit per acre, and it is astonishing how high the ideas of the assessors are.
In order to save himself from being fleeced by these gentlemen, every market gardener must keep full and accurate accounts of his business. As between the market gardener and the farmer the provision is exceedingly unfair. If one-third the annual value of the lands in occupation is a fair average of the income derived by a farmer from the land he occupies, it is equally fair for the market gardener, whose rent will oftentimes be four or five times that of the farmer.
But the distinction between market gardener and farmer is becoming more and more difficult to maintain, for every year farmers are making more and more inroads into what were once market gardeners' crops, and by the competition induced on the markets shaving more and more valuable corners off the market gardeners' profit. No market gardener wishes to see any additional burden put on his brother agriculturist who farms, but he does think the time is past when he should be singled out for special milking by the tax gatherer.