This section is from the book "Scouting For Rural Boys. A Manual For Leaders", by Boy scouts of America. See also: Outdoor Adventure Manual: Essential Scouting Skills for the Great Outdoors.
The Farm-best home of the family-main source of national wealth-foundation of civilized society-the national providence. -Charles W. Eliot.
(On Union Station, Washington, D. C.)
The farmer feeds the world and supplies its raw materials. He meets nature's conditions and reaps nature's increase. He plants the seeds from one plant and raises scores or hundreds of plants, each with its increase. His flocks and herds grow and multiply. But all of this is contingent upon favorable conditions, some within his control, some entirely beyond it. Farming may be either general, involving several kinds of products, or specialized, like cotton farming, wheat growing, citrus raising. The general pressure of advice to farmers has been to diversify their crops, so that a "bad" return on one crop might be balanced somewhat by other profitable crops. Especially have one-crop farmers been urged to raise their own food, in addition to their main cash crop.
The duties of the farmer are varied and, while not unpleasant, are quite exacting as to time and necessity. These include: care and management of stock; care of tools and implements; preparation of soil for the seeding and cultivation thereafter, and the harvesting; care of garden, orchard, crops, drainage and fences. There are regular cycles of planting in the spring or fall, haying and harvesting of small grain in the summer, and in the fall the harvesting of corn or certain fruit crops. The wise farmer learns to keep books on his herds and accurate production records of seed costs, cultivation and harvest costs, feeding outlay and income from all sales. When crops are mature, they generally demand attention, despite time and tide, else they may be lost.
The weather is the farmer's first friend or enemy- facilitating a bumper crop or even wiping it out altogether with hail, flood, drouth, dust storms or freeze. Destructive insects and pests always threaten any crop or herd and must ever be guarded against. The market is another hazard, as but few farmers can store their crops to wait for a market not overfilled. Often the long hours, and the hard work, go for but little because of a glutted market. The "thinking" farmer tries to work out a plan to meet this market hazard.
A good physical body and native intelligence, plus a deep interest in and love for nature, soil, plants and animals-all these are essential to success in farming. In addition one must have skill and scientific training in farming and have some practical business common sense and ability in business management of the farm as a unit. One may enter as a helper or hired man or farm laborer, a "hand," then develop into an assistant. In some states he may become a "share-cropper" or a 50-50 "sharer" in the more recent northern plans. He may rent a farm as a tenant and operate it, or finally may secure a farm of his own, purchased outright or on time payment plan.
A grade school training is basic; high school work is a necessity, especially if it includes agricultural subjects as under the Smith-Hughes State Aid Laws or the George-Deen Federal Laws. Attending an agricultural college is of course highly desirable, though it is surprising what one can do through short courses, study of farm bulletins, consultation with county farm advisors or agents, 4-H Club leaders and subject matter specialists.
The boy reared on the farm has initial advantages, as he is accustomed to work and to regular responsibility, which are underlying fundamentals of success in farming, as in anything else.
Earnings in farming depend upon so many factors, soil, weather, markets, industry of the farmer, his insight and thrift, his technical knowledge of live stock, poultry, soils, crops, machinery, methods-and finally on whether he is a good manager. As a result, averages of farm income are somewhat misleading. Whether a man makes a few thousand or a few hundred dollars as return for his time and effort depends largely upon the factors cited above.
Where one man does but poorly a more effective neighbor does well. This is evidenced by the fact that 80% of the nation's total farm income is received by 35% of the farms. While this 1/3 averages $2,500 to $3,000, the other 2/3 averages not much over $1 per day-so Wheeler McMillen, Editorial Director of the Country Home Magazine, reported to the National Annual Meeting of the Boy Scouts of America at Cleveland. First of all, what the farm family can do in producing food is truly impressive. Cows, chickens, garden and orchard, if intelligently used, make a real dent in the food bill. Here the farmer with only a small crop to market is on quite a different footing from the factory employee on short time or out of work.
SOME FINE POINTS ON TRACTOR PLOWING.
Farming is not the place for the young man seeking a "get rich quick" vocation with little effort. But the young man who deeply loves growing things, the out-of-doors, close family life and being his own "boss," who has ability and training and can learn, farming is a mode of life when viewed in this light, one will find farming offering great satisfactions.
The average man on an average salary at the end of a decade may have broken even, but is not much "ahead."
If the industrious young farmer can get started on some land of his own, by the end of a decade he can have an orchard, a grove which has "grown up" for him-or his live stock herd will have multiplied. The soil still remains our great creative source of wealth if understood and wisely handled. Farm and forest land is the real source of a nation's wealth.