Fields, Factories, and Workshops : Chapter 5 : The Possibilities of Agriculture (Continued)
(1842 - 1921) ~ Russian Father of Anarcho-Communism : As anarchism's most important philosophers he was in great demand as a writer and contributed to the journals edited by Benjamin Tucker (Liberty), Albert Parsons (Alarm) and Johann Most (Freiheit). Tucker praised Kropotkin's publication as "the most scholarly anarchist journal in existence." (From : Spartacus Educational Bio.)
• "...let us remember that if exasperation often drives men to revolt, it is always hope, the hope of victory, which makes revolutions." (From : "The Spirit of Revolution," by Peter Kropotkin, fi....)
• "The fatherland does not exist.... What fatherland can the international banker and the rag-picker have in common?" (From : "The Conquest of Bread," by Peter Kropotkin, 1906.)
• "...the strength of Anarchy lies precisely in that it understands all human faculties and all passions, and ignores none..." (From : "The Conquest of Bread," by Peter Kropotkin, 1906.)
ONE of the most interesting features of the present evolution of agriculture is the extension lately taken by intensive market-gardening of the same sort as has been described in the third chapter. What formerly was limited to a few hundreds of small gardens, is now spreading with an astonishing rapidity. In this country the area given to market-gardens, after having more than doubled within the years 1879 to 1894, when it attained 88,210 acres, has continued steadily to increase. 1 But it is especially in France, Belgium, and America that this branch of culture has lately taken a great development. (See Appendix P.)
At the present time no less than 1,075,000 acres are given in France to market-gardening and intensive fruit culture, and a few years ago it was estimated that the average yield of every acre given to these cultures attains £33, 10s.2 Their character, as well as the amount of skill displayed in, and labor given to, these cultures, will best appear from the following illustrations.
About Roscoff, which is a great center in Brittany for the export to England of such potatoes as will keep till late in summer, and of all sorts of vegetables, a territory, twenty-six miles in diameter, is entirely given to these cultures, and the rents attain and exceed £6 per acre. Nearly 300 steamers call at Roscoff to ship potatoes, onions and other vegetables to London and different English ports, as far north as Newcastle. Moreover, as much as 4,000 tons of vegetables are sent every year to Paris.3 And although the Roscoff peninsula enjoys a specially warm climate, small stone walls are erected everywhere, and rushes are grown on their tops in order to give still more protection and heat to the vegetables.4 The climate is improved as well as the soil.
In the neighborhoods of Cherbourg it is upon land conquered from the sea that the best vegetables are grown--more than 800 acres of that land being given to potatoes exported to London; another 500 acres are given to cauliflower; 125 acres to Brussels sprouts; and so on. Potatoes grown under glass are also sent to the London market from the middle of April, and the total export of vegetables from Cherbourg to England attains 300,000 cwts., while from the small port of Barfleur another 100,000 cwts. are sent to this country, and about 60,000 cwts. to Paris. Nay, in a quite small commune, Surtainville, near Cherbourg, £2,800 are made out of 180 acres of market-gardens, three crops being taken every year: cabbage in February, early potatoes next, and various crops in the autumn--to say nothing of the catch crops.
At Ploustagel one hardly believes that he is in Brittany. Melons used to be grown at that spot, long since, in the open fields, with glass frames to protect them from the spring frost, and green peas were grown under the protection of rows of furze which sheltered them from the northern winds. Now, whole fields are covered with strawberries, roses, violets, cherries and plums, down to the very sea beach. 5 Even the landes are reclaimed, and we are told that in five years or so there will be no more landes in that district (p. 265). Nay, the marshes of the Dol-- " The Holland of Brittany "--protected from the sea by a wall (5,050 acres), have been turned into market-gardens, covered with cauliflowers, onions, radishes, haricot beans and so on, the acre of that land being rented at from £2, 10s. to £4.
The neighborhoods of Nantes could also be mentioned. Green peas are cultivated there on a very large scale. During the months of May and June quite an army of working people, especially women and children, are picking them. The roads leading to the great preserving factories are covered at certain hours with rows of carts, upon which the peas and onions are carted one way, while another row of carts are carrying the empty pods which are used for manure. For two months the children are missing in the schools; and in the peasant families of the neighborhood, when the question comes about some expenditure to be made, the usual saying is, "Wait till the season of the green peas has come."
About Paris no less than 50,000 acres are given to the field culture of vegetables and 25,000 acres to the forced culture of the same. Sixty years ago the yearly rent paid by market-gardeners attained already as much as £18 and £24 per acre, and yet it has been increased since, as well as the gross receipts, which were valued by Courtois Gérard at £240 per acre for the larger market-gardeners, and twice as much for the smaller ones in which early vegetables are grown in frames.
The fruit culture in the neighborhoods of Paris is equally wonderful. At Montreuil, for instance, 750 acres, belonging to 400 gardeners, are literally covered with stone walls, specially erected for growing fruit, and having an aggregate length of 400 miles. Upon these walls, peach trees, pear trees and vines are spread, and every year something like 12,000,000 peaches are gathered, as well as a considerable amount of the finest pears and grapes. The acre in such conditions brings in £56. This is how a "warmer climate" was made, at a time when the greenhouse was still a costly luxury. All taken, 1,250 acres are given to peaches (26,000,000 peaches every year) in the close neighborhood of Paris. Acres and acres are also covered with pear trees which yield three to five tons of fruit per acre, such crop being sold at from £50 to £60. Nay, at Angers, on the Loire, where pears are eight days in advance of the suburbs of Paris, Baltet knows an orchard of five acres, covered with pears (pyramid trees), which brings in £400 every year; and at a distance of thirty-three miles from Paris one pear plantation brings in £24 per acre--the cost of package, transport and selling being deducted. Likewise, the plantations of plums, of which 80,000 cwts. are consumed every year at Paris alone, give an annual money income of from £29 to £48 per acre every year; and yet, pears, plums and cherries are sold at Paris, fresh and juicy, at such a price that the poor, too, can eat fresh homegrown fruit.
In the province of Anjou one may see how a heavy clay, improved with sand taken from the Loire and with manure, has been turned, in the neighborhoods of Angers, and especially at Saint Laud, into a soil which is rented at from £2, 10s. to £5 the acre, and upon that soil fruit is grown which a few years ago was exported to America. 6 At Bennecour, a quite small village of 850 inhabitants, near Paris, one sees what man can make out of the most unproductive soil. Quite recently the steep slopes of its hills were only mergers from which stone was extracted for the pavements of Paris Now these slopes are entirely covered with apricot and cherry trees, black-currant shrubs, and plantations of asparagus, green peas and the like. In 1881, £5,600 worth of apricots alone was sold out of this village, and it must be borne in mind that competition is so acute in the neighborhoods of Paris that a delay of twenty-four hours in the sending of apricots to the market will often mean a loss of 8s.---one-seventhof the sale price on each hundredweight. 7
At Perpignan, green artichokes--a favorite vegetable in France--are grown, from October till June, on an area covering 2,500 acres, and the net revenue is estimated at £32 per acre. In Central France, artichokes are even cultivated in the open fields, and nevertheless the crops are valued (by Baltet) at from £48 to £100 per acre. In the Loiret, 1,500 gardeners, who occasionally employ 5,000 workmen, obtain from £400,000 to £480,000 worth of vegetables, and their yearly expenditure for manure is £60,000. This figure alone is the best answer to those who are fond of talking about the extraordinary fertility of the soil, each time they are told of some success in agriculture. At Lyons, a population of 430,000 inhabitants is entirely supplied with vegetables by the local gardeners. The same is in Amiens, which is another big industrial city. The districts surrounding Orléans form another great center for market-gardening, and it is especially worthy of notice that the shrubberies of Orléans supply even America with large quantities of young trees. 8
It would take, however, a volume to describe the chief centers of market-gardening and fruit-growing in France; and I will mention only one region more, where vegetables and fruit-growing go hand in hand. It lies on the banks of the Rhône, about Vienne, where we find a narrow strip of land, partly composed of granite rocks, which has now become a garden of an incredible richness. The origin of that wealth, we are told by Ardouin Dumazet, dates from some thirty years ago, when the vineyards, ravaged by phylloxera, had to be destroyed and some new culture had to be found. The village of Ampuis became then renowned for its apricots. At the present time, for a full 100 miles along the Rhône, and in the lateral valleys of the Ardèche and the Drôme, the country is an admirable orchard, from which millions' worth of fruit is exported, and the land attains the selling price of from £325 to £400 the acre. Small plots of land are continually reclaimed for culture upon every crag. On both sides of the roads one sees the plantations of apricot and cherry trees, while between the rows of trees early beans and peas, strawberries, and all sorts of early vegetables are grown. In the spring the fine perfume of the apricot trees in bloom floats over the whole valley. Strawberries, cherries, apricots, peaches and grapes follow each other in rapid succession, and at the same time cartloads of French beans, salads, cabbages, leeks, and potatoes are sent towards the industrial cities of the region. It would be impossible to estimate the quantity and value of all that is grown in that region. Suffice it to say that a tiny commune, Saint Désirat, exported during Ardouin Dumazet's visit about 2,000 cwts. of cherries every day.9
The results of this development are simply striking. Thus it appears, from an inquest made in 1906 by the French professors of agriculture, that the yearly export of fresh flowers from the départment of the Alpes Maritimes attains as much as £400,000, and that of the flowers used for perfumes gives from £280,000 to £320,000 in addition to the just mentioned sum.10 From the département of the Var, 3,475 tons of flowers, valued from £160,000 to £200,000, were exported in 1902.
I must refer the reader to the work of Charles Baltet if he will know more about the extension taken by market-gardening in different countries, and will only mention Belgium and America.
The exports of vegetables from Belgium have increased twofold within the last twenty years of the nineteenth century, and whole regions, like Flanders, claim to be now the marketgarden of England, even seeds of the vegetables preferred in this country being distributed free by one horticultural society in order to increase the export. Not only the best lands are appropriated for that purpose, but even the sand deserts of the Ardennes and peat-bogs are turned into rich market-gardens, while large plains (namely at Haeren) are irrigated for the same purpose. Scores of schools, experimental farms, and small experimental stations, evening lectures, and so on, are opened by the communes, the private societies, and the State, in order to promote horticulture, and hundreds of acres of land are covered with thousands of greenhouses.
Here we see one small commune exporting 5,500 tons of potatoes and 163 4,000 worth of pears to Stratford and Scotland, and keeping for that purpose its own line of steamers. Another commune supplies the north of France and the Rhenish provinces with strawberries, and occasionally sends some of them to Covent Garden as well. Elsewhere early carrots, which are grown amid flax, barley and white poppies, give a considerable addition to the farmer's income. In another place we learn that land is rented at £24 and £27 the acre, not for grapes or melon-growing but for the modest culture of onions; or that the gardeners have done away with such a nuisance as natural soil in their frames, and prefer to make their loam out of wood sawings, tannery refuse and hemp dust, "animalized" by various composts.11
In short, Belgium, which is one of the chief manufacturing countries of Europe, is now becoming one of the chief centers of horticulture. (See Appendix R.)
The other country which must especially be recommended to the attention of horticulturists is America. When we see the mountains of fruit imported from America we are inclined to think that fruit in that country grows by itself. "Beautiful climate," "virgin soil," "immeasurable spaces"--- these words continually recur in the papers. The reality, however, is that horticulture---that is, both market-gardening and fruit culture--has been brought in America to a high degree of perfection. Prof. Baltet, a practical gardener himself, originally from the classical marais (market-gardens) of Troyes, describes the "truck farms" of Norfolk in Virginia as real "model farms." A highly complimentary appreciation from the lips of a practical maraîcher who has learned from his infancy that only in fairyland do the golden apples grow by fairies' magic wand. As to the perfection to which apple-growing has been brought in Canada, the aid which the apple-growers receive from the Canadian experimental farms, and the means which are resorted to, on a truly American scale, to spread information among the farmers and to supply them with new varieties of fruit trees---all this ought to be carefully studied in this country, instead of inducing Englishmen to believe that the American supremacy is due to the golden fairies' hands. If one tenth part of what is done in the States and in Canada for favoring agriculture and horticulture were done in this country, English fruit would not have been 80 shamefully driven out of the market as it was a few years ago.
The extension given to horticulture in America is immense. The "truck farms" alone--that is, the farms which work for export by rail or steam--covered in the States in 1892 no less than 400,000 acres. At the very doors of Chicago one single market-gardening farm covers 500 acres, and out of these, 150 acres are given to cucumbers, 50 acres to early peas, and so on. During the Chicago Exhibition a special "strawberry express," composed of thirty wagons, brought in every day 324,000 quarts of the freshly gathered fruit, and there are days that over 10,000 bushels of strawberries are imported in New York--three-fourths of that amount coming from the "truck farms" of Virginia by steamer.12
This is what can be achieved by an intelligent combination of agriculture with industry, and undoubtedly will be applied on a still larger scale in the future.
However, a further advance is being made in order to emancipate horticulture from climate. I mean the glasshouse culture of fruit and vegetables.
Formerly the greenhouse was the luxury of the rich mansion. It was kept at a high temperature, and was made use of for growing, under cold skies, the golden fruit and the bewitching flowers of the South. Now, and especially since the progress of technics allows of making cheap glass and of having all the woodwork, sashes and bars of a greenhouse made by machinery, the glasshouse becomes appropriated for growing fruit for the million, as well as for the culture of common vegetables The aristocratic hothouse, stocked with the rarest fruit trees and flowers, remains; nay, it spreads more and more for growing luxuries which become more and more accessible to the great number. But by its side we have the plebeian greenhouse, which is heated for only a couple of months in winter and the still more economically built "cool greenhouse," which is a simple glass shelter--a big "cool frame"--and is stuffed with the humble vegetables of the kitchen garden: the potatoes, the carrots, the French beans, the peas and the like. The heat of the sun, passing through the glass, but prevented by the same glass from escaping by radiation, is sufficient to keep it at a very high temperature during spring and early summer. A new system of horticulture-- the market-garden under glass--is thus rapidly gaining ground.
The greenhouse for commercial purposes essentially of British, or perhaps Scottish, origin. Already in 1851, Mr. Th. Rivers had published a book, The Orchard Houses and the Cultivation of Fruit Trees in Pots under Glass; and we were told by Mr. D. Thomson, in the Journal of Horticulture (31st January, 1889), that nearly fifty years ago grapes in February were sold at 25s. the pound by a grower in the north of England, and that part of them was sent by the buyer to Paris for Napoleon III.'s table, at 50s. the pound. " Now," Mr. Thomson added, " they are sold at the tenth or twentieth part of the above prices. Cheap coal-cheap grapes; that is the whole secret."
Large vineries and immense establishments for growing flowers under glass are of an old standing in this country, and new ones are continually built on a grand scale. Entire fields are covered with glass at Cheshunt, at Broxburn (fifty acres), at Finchley, at Bexley, at Swanley, at Whetstone, and so on, to say nothing of Scotland. Worthing is also a well known center for growing grapes and tomatoes; while the greenhouses given to flowers and ferns at Upper Edmonton, at Chelsea, at Orpington, and so on, have a world-wide reputation. And the tendency is, on the one side, to bring grape culture to the highest, degree of perfection, and, on the other side, to cover acres and acres with glass for growing tomatoes, French beans and peas, which undoubtedly will soon be followed by the culture of still plainer vegetables. This movement, as will be seen further on, has been steadily continuing for the last twenty years.
However, the Channel Islands and Belgium still hold the lead in the development of glasshouse culture. The glory of Jersey is, of course, Mr. Bashford's establishment. When I visited it in 1890, it contained 490,000 square feet under glass-that is, nearly thirteen acres -but seven more acres under glass have been added to it since. A long row of glasshouses, interspersed with high chimneys, covers the ground-the largest of the houses being 900 feet long and forty-six feet wide; this means that about one acre of land, in one piece, is under glass. The whole is built most substantially: granite walls, great height, thick " twenty-seven oz. glass " (of the thickness of three pennies), 13 ventilators which open upon a length of 200 and 300 feet by working one single handle; and so on. And yet the most luxurious of these greenhouses was said by the owners to have cost less than 1s. the square foot of glass (13d. the square foot of ground), while the other houses have cost much less than that, From 5d. to 9d. the square foot of glass 14 is the habitual cost, without the heating apparatus -6d. being a current price for the ordinary glasshouses.
But it would be hardly possible to give an idea of all that is grown in such glasshouses, without producing photographs of their insides. In 1890, on the 3rd of May, exquisite grapes began to be out in Mr. Bashford's vineries, and the crop was continued till October. In other houses, cartloads of peas bad already been gathered, and tomatoes were going to take their place after a thorough cleaning of the house. The 20,000 tomato plants, which were going to be planted, had to yield no less than eighty tons of excellent fruit (eight to ten pounds per plant). In other houses melons were grown instead of the tomatoes. Thirty tons of early potatoes, six tons of early peas, and two tons of early French beans had already been sent away in April. As to the vineries, they yielded no less than twenty-five tons of grapes every year. Besides, very many other things were grown in the open air, or as catch crop, and all that amount of fruit and vegetables was the result of the labor of thirty-six men and boys only, under the supervision of one single gardener-the owner himself; true that in Jersey, and especially in Guernsey, everyone is a gardener. About 1,000 tons of coke were burnt to beat these houses. Mr. W. Bear, who had visited the same establishment in 1886, was quite right to say that from these thirteen acres they obtained money returns equivalent to what a farmer would obtain from 1,300 acres of land.
I hardly need say that Mr. Rider Haggard, who visited Jersey and Guernsey in 1901, gave of these two islands the same enthusiastic description as his predecessors. "I can only state in conclusion," he wrote, "that for my part, here (in Jersey) as in , I was amazed at the prosperity of the place. That so small an area of land can produce so much wealth is nothing short of astonishing. It is true, as I have shown, that the inquirer hears some grumblings and fears for the future; but when on the top of them he sees a little patch of twenty-three and one-third acres of land, such as I have instanced, and is informed that quite recently it sold at an auction for £5,760, to be used, not for building sites but for the cultivation of potatoes, he is perhaps justified in drawing his own conclusions." It need not be added that, like all his predecessors, Mr. Haggard disposes ofthe legend of extraordinary natural fertility of the soil, and shows at what a considerable expenditure the heavy crops of potatoes are obtained.15
However, it is in the small " vineries " that one sees, perhaps, the most admirable results. As I walked through such glass-roofed kitchen gardens, I could not but admire this recent conquest of man. I saw, for instance, three-fourths of an acre heated for the first three months of the year, from which about eight tons of tomatoes and about 200 lb. of French beans had been taken as a first crop in April, to be followed by two crops more. In these houses one gardener was employed with two assistants, a small amount of coke was consumed, and there was a gas engine for watering purposes, consuming only 13s. worth of gas during the quarter. I saw again, in cool greenhouses -simple plank and glass shelters-pea plants covering the walls, for the length of one quarter of a mile, which already had yielded by the end of April 3,200 lb. of exquisite peas and were yet as full of pods as if not one had been taken off.
I saw potatoes dug from the soil in a cool greenhouse, in April, to the amount of five bushels to the twenty-one feet square. And when chance brought me, in 1896, in company with a local gardener, to a tiny, retired "vinery" of a veteran grower, I could see there, and admire, what a lover of gardening can obtain from so small a space as the two-thirds of an acre, Two small " houses " about forty feet long and twelve feet wide, and a third-formerly a pigsty, twenty feet by twelve-contained vine trees which many a professional gardener would be happy to have a look at; especially the whilom pigsty, fitted with " Muscats"! Some grapes (in June) were already in full beauty, and one fully understands that the owner could get in 1895, from a local dealer, £4 for three bunches of grapes (one of them was a "Colmar," " 13 3/4 lb. weight). The tomatoes and strawberries in the open air, as well as the fruit trees, all on tiny spaces, were equal to grapes; and when one is shown on what a space half a ton of strawberries can be gathered under proper culture, it is hardly believable.
It is especially in Guernsey that the simplification of the greenhouse must be studied. Every house in the suburbs of St. Peter has some sort of greenhouse, big or small. All over the island, especially in the north, wherever you look, you see greenhouses. They rise amid the fields and from behind the trees; they are piled upon one another on the steep crags facing the harbor of St. Peters and with them a whole generation of practical gardeners has grown up. Every farmer is more or less of a gardener, and he gives free scope to his inventive powers for devising some cheap type of greenhouses. Some of them have almost no front and back walls-the glass roofs coming low down and the two or three feet of glass in front simply reaching the ground; in some houses the, lower sheet of glass was simply plunged into a wooden trough standing on the ground and filled with sand. Many houses have only two or three planks, laid horizontally, instead of the usual stone wall, in the front of the greenhouse.
The large houses of one big company are built close to each other, and have no partitions between. /But this system cannot be recommended amended. Altogether, when I revisited Guernsey in 1903, I saw that the system of greenhouses which prevailed was that of long two-roofed glass " tents," placed by the side of each other, but separated from each other by partitions preventing the circulation of the air over the whole block. As to the extensive cool greenhouses on the Grande Maison estate, which are built by a company and are rented to gardeners for so much the 100 feet, they are simply made of thin deal board and glass. They are on the "lean" or "one roof" system, and the back wall, ten feet high, and the two side walls are in simple grooved boards, standing upright. The whole is supported by uprights inserted into cocrete pillars. They are said to cost not more than 5d. the square foot, of glass-covered ground. And yet, even such plain and cheap houses yield excellent results. The potatoe crop which had been grown in some of them was excellent, as also the green peas. 16
In Jersey I even saw a row of five houses, the walls of which were made of corrugated iron, for the sake of cheapness. Of course, the owner himself was not over-sanguine about his houses. "They are too cold in winter and too hot in summer". But although the five houses cover only less than one-fifth of an acre, 2,000 lb. of green peas had already been sold as a first crop; and, in the first days of June, the second crop (about 1,500 of tomatoes) was already in good progress.
It is always difficult, of course, to know that are the money returns of the growers, first of all because Thorold Rogers' complaint about modern farmers keeping no accounts holds good, even for the best gardening establishments, and next because when the returns are known to me in all details, it would not be right for me to publish them. "Don't prove too much; beware of the landlord!" a practical gardener once wrote to me. Roughly speaking, I can only confirm Mr. Bear's estimate to the effect that under proper management even a cool greenhouse, which covers 4,050 square feet, can give a gross return of £180.
As a rule, the Guernsey and Jersey growers have only three crops every year from their greenhouses. They will start, for instance, potatoes in December. The houses will, of course, not be heated, fires being made only when a sharp frost is expected at night; and the potato crop (from eight to ten tons per acre) will be ready in April or May before the open-air potatoes begin to be dug out. Tomatoes will be planted next and be ready by the end of the summer. Various catch crops of peas, radishes, lettuce and other small things will be taken in the meantime. Or else the house will be "started" in November with melons, which will be ready in April. They will be followed by tomatoes, either in pots, or trained as vines, and the last crop of tomatoes will be in October. Beans may follow and be ready for Christmas. I need to say that every grower has his preference method for utilizing his houses, and it entirely depends upon his will and watchfulness to have all sorts of small catch crops. These last begin to have a greater and greater importance, and one can already foresee that the growers under glass will be forced to accept the methods of the French maraichers, so as to have five and six crops every year, so far as it can be done without spoiling the present high quality of the produce.
All this industry is of a relatively recent origin. One may see it still working out its methods. And yet the exports from Guernsey alone are already represented by quite extraordinary figures. It was estimated some years ago that they were as follows: Grapes, 502 tons, £37,500 worth at the average price of 9d. the pound; tomatoes, 1,000 tons, about £30,000; early potatoes (chiefly in the fields), £20,000; radishes and broccoli, £9,250; cut flowers, £3,000; mushrooms, £200; total, £99,950-to which total the local consumption in the houses and hotels, which have to feed nearly 30,000 tourists, must be added. Since then these figures have grown considerably. In June, 1896, 1 saw the Southampton steamers taking every day from 9,000 to 12,000, and occasionally more, baslets of fruit (grapes, tomatoes, French beans and peas), each basket representing from twelve to fourteen pounds of fruit. Taking into account what was sent by other channels, one could say that from 400 to 500 tons of tomatoes, grapes, beans and peas, worth from £20,000 to £25,000, were exported there every week in June.
When I returned to Guernsey in 1903, I found that the industry of fruit-growing under glass had grown immensely since 1896, so that the whole system of export had to be reorganized. In 1896 it was the tourists' boats which tranported the fruit and vegetables to Southampton, and the. gardeners paid one shilling for each basket taken at Guernsey and delivered at the Covent Garden market. In 1903 there was already a Guernsey Crowers' Association, which had its own boats keeping, during the summer, a regular daily service direct from Guernsey to London. TheAssociation had its own store- houses on quay and its own cranes, which lifted immense cubic boxes containing on their shelves twenty or even a hundred baskets, and carrying them to the boats. The cost of transport was thus reduced to 4d. per basket. All thi crop is sold every morning Covent Garden to the London dealers and greengrocers. The importance of this export is seen from the fact that a special steamer has to leave Guernsey every morning with its cargo of fruit and vegetables. As to the total export of fresh flowers, plants and shurbs, various fruit and vegetables (including £ 555,275 worth of potatoes), they reached £ 1,115,650 in 1910.
All this is obtained form an island whose total area, rocks and barren hill-tops included, is only 16,000 acres, of which only 9,884 acres are under culture, and 5,189 acres are given to gree crops and meadows. An island, moreover, on which 1,480 horses, 7,260 he d of cattle and 900 sheep find their existence. How many inen's food is, then, grown on these 10,000 acres?
Belgium has also made, within the last few years, an immense progress in the same direction. Wile no more than 250 acres, all taken, were covered with glass some thirty years ago, more than 800 acres are under glass by this time.17 In the village of Hoeilaert, which is perched upon a stony hill, nearly 200 acres are under glass, given up to grape-growing. One single establishment, Baltet remarks, has 200 greenhouses and consumes 1,500 tons of coal for the vineries. 18 "Cheap coal-cheap grapes," as the editor of the Journal of Horticulture wrote. Grapes in Brussels are certainly not dearer in the, beginning of the summerer than they are in Switzerland in October, Even in March , Belgian grapes were sold in Covent Garden at from 4d. and 6d. the pound. 19 This price alone shows sufficiently how small are the amounts of labor which are required to grow grapes in our latitudes with the aid of glass. It certainly cost less labor to grow grapes in Belgium than to grow them on the coasts of Lake Leman. 20
I will not conclude this chapter without casting a glance on the progress that has been made in this country since the first edition of this book was published, in 1898, by fruit and flower farming, as also by culture under glass, and on the attempts recently made to introduce in different parts of England "French Gardening," --that is, the culture maraîchère of the French gardeners.
There is not the slightest doubt that fruit-growing has notably increased--the area under fruit orchards having grown in Great Britain from 200,000 acres in 1888 to 250,000 acres in 1908; while the area under small fruit (gooseberries, currants, strawberries) has grown from acres in 1901 to 85,000 in 1908. 21 In some counties the acreage has trebled. 22 Large plantations of fruit have grown lately round London and all the large cities, and the counties of Kent, Devon, Hereford, Somerset, Worcester and Gloucester have now more than 20,000 acres each under fruit orchards, a great proportion of them being of a recent origin. Not only was the area of fruit-growing considerably increased, but, owing to the experiments carried on since 1894 at the Woburn Experimental Farm, where different sorts of fruit-trees and small fruit are tested, new varieties have been introduced; and the system is spreading of growing fruit trees of the pyramidal or "bush" form (instead of the old-fashioned standards)-a step the advantages of which I was enabled fully to appreciate in 1897 at the Agassiz Experimental Farm in British Columbia.
At the same time the culture of small fruit-gooseberries, raspberries, currants, and especially strawberries-took an immense development. Enormous quantities of strawberries are now grown in Mid and South Kent, where we find the culture of fruit combined with large jam factories. One of such factories is connected with great fruit farms covering 2,000 acres at Swanley, Ben its yearly output attains 3,500 tons of jam 850 tons of candied peel, and more than 100,000 bottles of bottled fruit. An extensive horticultnre has also developed of late in Cambridgeshire, wherefrom fruit is sent partly fresh to London and Manchester, and partly is transformed on the spot in the jam factory at Histon. No less than 250 workpeople were emploved at bbis factory at the time of Rider Haggard's visit in 1900, and no less than 7,600 tons were exported; the most interesting result of this industry combined with agriculture being that quite a number of small farmers, renting from three to twenty acres each, have grown round the am factory. "Altogether," Mr. Haggard wrote, "fruit and flower culture has increased enormously; so that, in 1901, from 4,000 to 5,000 acres in the neighborhood of Wisbeeli were devoted to this trade. Plums, apples, pears, small fruit, as also cauliflowers, asparagus, rhubarb, narcissi, pansies and other flowers were grown here on a grand scale, and as much as from 130 to 140 tons of gooseberries and from 60 to 70 tons of strawberries were dispatched from Wisbech in one single day." "The result of this industry," Mr, Haggard adds, "was that the population of Wisbech and the number of houses in this little town have rapidly increased; the land has increased in value considerably in the past twenty years, and as much as £ 200 an acre had been given for choice land-holdings suitable for fruit culture." (Rural Fngland, Vol. ii., pp. 52, 54, 55.) In other words, the net result of the labor spent by the farmers and of the intelligent enterprise of the industrials was, as everywhere, immensely to increase the value of the land for the benefit of the landlords. Mr. Haggard's conclusion is worth mentioning, as he writes as follows: " Broadly, however, I may say that where the farms are large and corn is chiefly grown, there is little or no prosperity, while where they are small and assisted by pastures or fruit culture, both owners and tenants are doing fairly well." 23 A recognition well worth mentioning, as it comes from an explorer who took at the outset of his inquest a most pessimistic view on unprotected agriculture.
I also ought to mention Essex, where fruit growing has taken of late a notable development, and Hampshire, where the acreage under fruit has trebled since 1880, according to the testimony of the author of the already mentioned Britannica article. The same must be said of Worcestershire, and especially of the Evesham district. This last is a most instructive region. Owing to certain peculiarities of its soil, which render it very profitable for growing asparagus and plum trees, and partly owing to the maintenance in this region of the old "Evesham custom" (according to which from times immemorial the ingoing tenant had to pay the outgoing tenant, not the landlord, for the agricultural improvements)-a custom raaintained till nowadays 24 -the small holdings system and the culture of vegetables and fruit have developed to a remarkable extent. The result is that out of a rural area of 10,000 acres, 7,000 have already been taken in small holdings of under fifty acres each, and the demand for them, far from being satisfied, is still on the increase, so that in 1911 there were still nearly four hundred farmers waiting for 2,000 acres. A new town has grown at Evesham, its population of 8,340 persons being almost entirely composed of gardeners and gardeners' laborers; its markets, held twice a week, remind one of markets in the south of France; and the export traffic on the railways radiating from that little town is as lively as if it were a busy industrial spot.
One cannot read the pages given by Mr. Rider Haggard to the Bewdley and Evesham districts without being impressed by what can be obtained from the soil in England, and by what has to be done by the nation and all those who care for its well-being in obtaining from the soil what it is ready to give, if only labor be applied to it.
In the Bewdley district we see very well how the efforts of a Small Holdings Society are giving the opportunity to a number of small farmers to transform an indifferent and sometimes very poor or stony land into a fertile soil which yields rich crops of fruit, and upon which the keeping of milech-cows is combined with fruit-growing. We see also how in the big farms, as well as in the small ones, fruit-groiwing is carried on with knowledge and care-and, consequently, with a substantial profit for both the community and the farmers-which makes the author exclaim: "How different in most counties! In Norfolk, for instance (and I may add in Devonshire), the ordinary farm orchard is stocked as a rule with fagot-headed trees pruned only by the wind. Even the dead, wood is left uncut; yet it is common to hear farmers complain of the quality of the fruit, and that it will not pay to grow" (vol. i., p. 338).
Speaking of Catshill, Mr. Haggard gives also a very interesting instance of how a colony of people called " Nailers," who lived formerly by making nails by hand, and compelled to abandon this trade when machine-made nails were introduced, took to agriculture, and how they succeed with it. Some intelligent people having bought a farm of 140 acres and divided it into small farms, from 2 and a half to 8 acres, these small holdings were offered to the nailers; and at the time of Mr. Haggard's visit "every installment which was due had been paid up." No able-bodied man out of them has gone on to the rates.
But the vale of Evesham is still more interesting. Suffice it to say, that while in most rural parishes the population is decreasing, it rose in the six parishes of the Evesham Union from 7,327 to 9,012 in the ten years, 1891 to 1901.
Although the soil of this district offers nothing extraordinary, and the conditions of sale are as bad as anywhere, owing to the importance acquired by the middlemen, we see that an extremely important industry of fruit-growing has developed; so important that in the year 1900 about 20,000 tons of fruit and vegetables were sent from the Evesham stations, in addition to large quantities exported from the small stations within a radius of ten miles round Evesham (Vol. i., p. 350). The soil, of course, is improved by digging into it large quantities of all sorts of manure-soot, fish guano, leather dust for cabbage (chamois dust being the best), and so on-and the most profitable sorts of fruit-trees and -vegetables are continually tested; all this being, of course, not the work of some scientist or of one single man, but the product of the collective experience of the district.
It must not be thought, however, that fruit-growing has been overdone. On the contrary, the imports of fruit into the United Kingdom, both for food and for jam-making, continue to be enormous, and to increase every year. Suffice it to say, that this country imports every year about £ 1,000,000 of tomatoes and £ 2,000,000 of apples, half a million worth of pears, nearly £ 730,000 worth of grapes-giving thus a total of £ 4,200,000 worth of all fruit. And at the same time we learn that immense quantities of land go every year out of culture, to be transformed into game reserves for rich Englishmen and foreigners.
Finally, I also ought to mention the recent development of fruit culture near the Broads of Norfolk, and especially in Ireland; but the examples just given will do to show what is obtained from the land in England where no obstacle is laid to the development of horticulture-are, and what amount of food can be obtained in the climate and from the soil of this country whenever it is properly cultivated. Let me only add that a similar development of fruit cult-are has taken place within the last thirty years everywhere in the civilized countries; and that in France, in Belgium, and in Germany the extension taken by horticulture during the last twenty or thirty years has been much greater than in this country. 25
As regards market--gardening, it has undoubtedly made remarkable progress in the United Kingdom within recent years. However, accurate data are failing, and those who have traveled over this country with the special purpose of studying its agriculture have not yet given sufficient attention to the recent developments of market-gardening; but it is quite certain that within the last five-and-twenty years it has taken a great development, especially in Ireland, but also in several parts of England, Scotland, and Wales.
Such are, for instance, the neighborhoods of Penzance, in Cornwall; those of St. Neots, in Huntingdonshire; Scotter, in Lincolnshire, where the agricultural depression-we are told by Mr. Rider Haggard--was not so badly felt as elsewhere on account of market-gardening; Benington, in the same county, where the soil is a rich loam with silty subsoil, and where all sorts of vegetables, potatoes, and flower-bulbs are grown on a large scale, together with wheat.26
Orpington is a well-known center for market-gardening, as well as for fruit-growing, and in this district culture under glass has also taken lately some extension.
There are many other interesting centers of market-gardening, especially in the neighborhoods of all large cities, but I will mention only one more-namely, Potton, in Huntingdonshire. It is-we are told by Mr. Haggard- "a stronghold of small cultivators who grow vegetables upon holdings of land varying in size from one up to twenty acres, or even more." It has thus become an important center for market-gardening, "120 trucks of produce leaving Potton daily during the season for London, in addition to fifty trucks which pass over the Great Northern line from Sandy station, together with much more from sidings and other stations." This is the more interesting as within a short distance from this animated center "thousands of acres are quite or very nearly derelict, and the farmhouses, buildings, and cottages are slowly rotting down." The worst is that "all this land was cultivated, and grew crops up to the 'eighties." 27
Another oasis of market-gardening is offered by the county of Bedfordshire. "Being a county of natural small-holdings, carved out before the passing of the 1907 Act," it is rapidly becoming-we are told by Mr. F. E. Green-"a county of market-gardens." The fertility of its soil, the fact that it can easily be worked at any time of the year, and that a race of skilled gardeners has developed there long since, have contributed to that growth; but, of course, the whole is hampered by the heavy rents, which have grown up to £4 an acre for the sites near the station, where manure is received in large quantities from London. 28
Happily enough, the Bedfordshire County Council has been eager to acquire land for small holdings, and, after having spent £ 40,000 in the acquisition of land, they have, up to 30th June, 1911, provided one-third of the applicants with 2,759 acres-the total demand, by a thousand applicants, having already attained 12,350 acres.
And yet all this progress still appears insignificant by the side of the demand for vegetables which grows every year (and necessarily must grow, as is seen by comparing the low consumption of vegetables in this country with the consumption of homegrown vegetables in Belgium, indicated by Mr. Rowntree in his Lessons from Belgium ). The result is a steadily increasing importation of vegetables to this country, which has attained now more than £8,000,000. 29
A branch of horticulture which has increased enormously since the first edition of this book was published, is the growing of fruit and vegetables in greenhouses, in the same way as it is done in the Channel Islands. All round London -we are told by Mr. John Weathers in the last edition of the Encyclopadia Britannica-the hothouse culture has taken a great development, and, in fact, along the railways which radiate from London in all directions the glass-houses have already become a familiar feature of the landscape. Immense quantities of grapes, tomatoes, figs, and of all sorts of early vegetables are grown at Worthing, where eighty-two acres are covered now with glass- houses, as also in the parish of Cheshunt, in Herts, where the area under hothouses is already 130 acres; while a careful estimate put in 1908 the area of individual hothouses in England at about 1,200 acres (Encyclopadia Britannica, vol. xi., p, 266). The elements of this culture having been developed by the experience of the Channel Islands growers, and by the wide extension which hothouses for the growing of flowers had taken long since in this country, it may be concluded from the various evidence we have at hand that on the whole this sort of culture is finding its reward, and is now firmly established.
The same, however, cannot yet be said of the culture maraîchère of the French market gardeners which is being introduced now into this country. Many attempts have been made in this direction in different parts of the country with varied degrees of success; but little or nothing is known about the results. An attempt on a large scale was made, as is known, by some Evesham gardeners. Having read about this sort of culture in France, and the wonderful results obtained by it, some of the Evesham gardeners wentt went to Paris with the intention of learning that culture from, the Paris mariaîchers. Finding that impossible they invited no French gardener to Evesham, gave him three-quarters of an acre, and, after, he had brought his Paris marais his glass bells, frames and lights, and, above all his knowledge, he began gardening under the eyes of his Evesham colleagues " Happily enough," he said to an interviewer I do not speak otherwise I should have had to talk all the time and give explanations, instead of working. So I show them my black trousers, and tell them in signs: Begin by making the soil as black ass these trousers, then everything will be all right.'" Of course, to be profitable, immense quantities of stable manure are required' as also immense numbers of glassbells and glass-frames, which represent a very costly outlay, and plenty of watering, to say nothing of the powers of observation required for developing a new branch of gardening in new surroundings.
What were the results obtained at Evesham it is difficult to say, the more so as the money results which, according to some papers, were obtained the first year (brutto income of £750 from three-quarters of an acre) seem to have been exaggerated for a first-year crop, and thus awakened skepticism with regard to that sort of culture altogether.
Another experiment in the same direction was made on the estate of Maryland, in Essex, which was bought by Mr. Joseph Fels in order to promote small farming in England. It must be said that, apart from the cold, damp climate of this part of England, the heavy clay of Essex represents the least appropriate soil for spade culture. In England, as everywhere, this sort of culture has always been developing in preference on a light loam, or in such places, like Jersey, where a meager granitic soil could easily be manured-in this special case by sea-weeds.
Nevertheless, the aim of Mr. Fels having been chiefly educational, this aim has certainly been achieved, as we have now, in three different works of Mr. Thomas Smith, the manager of the farm, practical manuals teaching the would-be gardener the essentials of "French Gardening." 30
A French maraicher having been invited for this purpose, and 2,500 glass-bells, 1,000 lights for frames, a windmill pump, etc., having been bought at a considerable cost, the work of the French gardener on two acres of land was carefully followed by the manager of the farm, Mr. T. Smith, day by day, to be afterwards described and illustrated by photographs for the use of those who would like to try their hand at the same work.
Most of my readers will probably ask first of all: What were the money results of this venture? But it would have been foolish to expect that in this first experiment everything should have run as smoothly as it runs, let us say, in the Channel Islands, where the many years' practice of a whole population has worked out the best methods of culture.
Thus the frames were not ready in time for giving an early crop of melons; and although the melons grown at Maryland were excellent, and gave the first year as much as £ 188, they would have given much more than that had they been ready in the middle of June, which would have been possible if the frames and lights had been supplied in time.
With all that, the results obtained during the first year were really striking. All taken, Mr. Smith shows that if the gardener has a one-acre garden, and if £494 (say, £550) be spent for 1,000 glass-bells, 300 lights and 100 frames, 500 mats, the water-supply, the packing-shed, the fencing, the cart, horse and harness, etc., and £413 (say, £450) for 500 tons of manure, the rent, rates and water, and the wages and salaries (£250), the gross returns for the first year would reach £300 (making full allowance for "inexperience in this special work"). They would reach from £400 to £450 during the second year, there being greater productiveness and a lower expenditure after the loam has been made by heavy manuring, and personal experience has been won, as well as experience for a given locality.
Taking a one-acre farm, of which only one-third is used for a French garden, the first year's expenditure for bells, lights, fencing, horse manure, water, and rent and taxes would be a little less than £300, and the returns by the end of the first year would be about £150.
"Afterwards the returns ought to reach from £200 to £250 each year," Mr. Smith writes.
All that need be added to these words is, that Mr. Smith is extremely cautious in his estimates, and that, seeing the high crops obtained at Maryland, and fully dealt with in Mr. Smith's works, one is entitled to expect even better money results.
Unfortnnately, after having worked at the farm for one year, the experienced French gardener, who had obtained the just-mentioned results, left Maryland. Two young French gardeners, far less experienced, were invited instead, and they began to undo what their predecessor had done, in order to carry on the work on the lines they had learned themselves. So that it is impossible to know yet what the results of these new methods will be.
Every pioneer work has its unforeseen difficulties. But, so far as can be. judged from the facts I have at my disposal, the two ventures have proved that the climate of England is no obstacle to French gardening. Of course, the small amount of sunshine is a great obstacle for ripening the produce as early as it can be ripened in France, even in the suburbs of Paris. But homegrown fruit and vegetables have always many advantages in comparison with imported produce. Another disadvantage-the lack of horse manure-a disadvantage which will go on increasing with the spread of motor cars-is felt in France as well. This is why the French growers are eagerly experimenting with the direct heating of the soil with thermosiphons.
Let me add to these remarks that a decided awakening is to be noticed in this country for making a better use of the land than has been made for the last fifty years. There are a few counties where the County Councils, and still more so, the Parish Councils, are doing their best to break at last the land monopoly, and to permit those small farmers who intend to cultivate the soil to do so. Here and there we see a few timid attempts at imparting to the farmers and their children some knowledge of agriculture and horticulture. But all this is being made on too small a scale, and without a sincere desire to learn from other European nations, and still more so from the United States and Canada, what is being done in these countries to give to agriculture the new character of intensive culture combined with industry, which is imposed upon it by the recent progress of civilasation.
The various data which have been brought together on the preceding pages make short work of the over-population fallacy. It is precisely in the most densely population parts of the world that agriculture has lately made such strides as hardly could have been guessed twenty years ago. A dense population, a high development of industry, and a high development of agriculture and horticulture, go hand in hand: they are inseparable. As to the future, the possibilities of agriculture are such that, in truth, we cannot yet foretell what would be the limit of the population which could live from the produce of a given area. Recent progress, already tested on a great scale, has widened the limits of agricultural prod-action to a quite unforeseen extent and recent discoveries, now tested on a small scale, promise to widen those limits still farther, to a quite unknown degree.31
The present tendency of economical development in the world is-we have seen-to induce more and more every nation, or rather every region, taken in its geographical sense, to rely chiefly upon a home production of all the chief necessaries of life. Not to reduce, I mean, the world-exchange: it may still grow in bulk; but to limit it to the exchange of what really must be exchanged, and, at the same time, immensely to increase the exchange of novelties, produce of local or national art, new discoveries and inventions, knowledge and ideas. Such being the tendency of present development, there is not the slightest ground to be alarmed by it, There is not one nation in the world which, being armed with the present powers of agriculture, could not grow on its cultivable area all the food and most of the raw materials derived from agriculture which are required for its population, even if the requirements of that population were rapidly increased as they certainly ought to be. Taking the powers of man over the land and over the forces of nature-such as they are at the present day-we can maintain that two to three inhabitants to each cultivable acre of land would not yet be too much. But neither in this densely populated country nor in Belgium are we yet in such numbers. In this country we have, roughly speaking, one acre of the cultivable area per inhabitant.
Supposing, then, that each inhabitant of Great Britain were compelled to live on the produce of his own land, all he would have to do would be, first, to consider the land of this country as a common inheritance, which must be disposed of to the best advantage of each and all-this is, evidently, an absolutely necessary condition. And next, he would have to cultivate his soil, not in some extravagant way, but no better than land is already cultivated upon thousands and thousands of acres in Europe and America. He would not be bound to invent some new methods, but could simply generalize and widely apply those which have stood the test of experience. He can do it; and in so doing he would save an immense quantity of the work which is now given for buying his food abroad, and for paying all the intermediaries who live upon this trade. Under a rational culture, those necessaries and those luxuries which must be obtained from the soil, undoubtedly can be obtained with much less work than is required now for buying these commodities. I have made elsewhere (in The Conquest of Bread) approximate calculations to that effect, but with the data given in this book everyone can himself easily test the truth of this assertion. If we take, indeed, the masses of produce which are obtained under rational culture, and compare them with the amount of labor which must be spent for obtaining them under an irrational culture, for collecting them abroad, for transporting them, and for keeping armies of middlemen, we see at once how few days and hours need be given, under proper culture, for growing man's food.
For improving our methods of culture to
From : Anarchy Archives
No comments so far. You can be the first!
<< Last Work in Fields, Factories, and Workshops
Current Work in Fields, Factories, and Workshops
Next Work in Fields, Factories, and Workshops >>
All Nearby Works in Fields, Factories, and Workshops