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Given By 

V. S. SUPT. OF nn-n„ EMTg 



Vol. Ill - pt. 7 

IN 1954 











U. S. Department of Commerce 

Sinclair Weeks, Secretary 

Bureau of the Census 

Robert W. Burgess, Director 

United States 





Volume III Boston Public Library ?• J '/^J 3 / 

SPECIAL REPORTS Superin,e ^ ofn " \*ra 

NOV 5-1957 / :° T 

Part 7 J 

Popular Report— The American Farmer in 1954 

Prepared under the supervision of 


Chief, Agriculture Division 




A. Ross Eckler, Deputy Director 

Howard C. Grieves, Assistant Director , 9 I 

Robert Y. Phillips, Special Assistant - 0\ ) 

Conrad Taeuber, Assistant Director j^ Q 3 I ' 

Jack B. Robertson, Special Assistant 


Morris H. Hansen, Assistant Director for Statistical Standards 
Walter L. Kehres, Assistant Director for Administration 
Calvert L. Dedrick, Coordinator, International Statistics 
A. W. von Struve, Acting Public Information Officer 

Agriculture Division — 
Ray Hurley, Chief 
Warder fi. JenkinSj ^Assistant Chief 

Administrative Service Division — Everett H. Burke, Chief 

Budget and Management Division — Charles H. Alexander, Chief 

Business Division — Harvey Kailin, Chief 

Census Operations Division — Marion D. Bingham, Chief 

Field Division — Robert B. Voight, Chief 

Foreign Trade Division — J. Edward Ely, Chief 

Geography Division — Clarence E. Batschelet, Chief 

Governments Division — Allen D. Manvel, Chief 

Industry Division — Maxwell R. Conklin, Chief 

Machine Tabulation Division — C. F. Van Aken, Chief 

Personnel Division — Helen D. Almon, Chief 

Population and Housing Division — Howard G. Brunsman, Chief 

Statistical Reports Division — Edwin D. Goldfield, Chief 

Statistical Research Division — William N. Hurwitz, Chief 

Transportation Division — Donald E. Church, Chief 




U. S. Bureau of the Census. U. S. Census of Agriculture: 195i. Vol. Ill, Special Reports, 
Part 7, Popular Report — The American Farmer in 1954 
U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C, 1956. 

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington 
25, D. C, or any of the Field Offices of the Department of Commerce, Price 40 cents (paper cover) 



Volume III, Special Reports, comprises a group of special studies and 
compilations based upon the results of the 1954 Census of Agriculture and 
related surveys. Part 7, Popular Report. — The American Farmer in 1954, 
presents some aspects of present-day American agriculture that do not seem 
to be so widely understood, and gives an account of some of the changes that 
have brought agriculture where it is today. It is intended to be a general, 
easy-to-read, nonstatistical publication on the status and broad characteristics 
of United States farmers. 

The material for this report comes mainly from the United States Census, 
including the 1954 Census of Agriculture. Most of the photographs were 
supplied by the United States Department of Agriculture. The planning, 
compilation of statistics, and the preparation of publications of the 1954 Census 
of Agriculture were under the supervision of Ray Hurley, Chief, Agriculture 
Division, Bureau of the Census. This report was prepared principally by 
Gove Hambidge. 

December 1956. in 



Volume I. — Counties and State Economic Areas. Statistics for counties include number of farms, acreage, value, and farm operators; 
farms by color and tenure of operator; facilities and equipment; use of commercial fertilizer; farm labor; farm expenditures; livestock and 
livestock products; specified crops harvested; farms classified by type of farm and by economic class; and value of products sold by source. 

Data for State economic areas include farms and farm characteristics by tenure of operator, by type of farm, and by economic class. 

Volume I is published in 33 parts. 

Volume II. — General Report. Statistics by Subjects, United States Census of Agriculture, 1954. Summary data and analyses of 
the data for States, for Geographic Divisions, and for the United States by subjects. 

Volume in. — Special Reports 

Part 1. — Multiple-Unit Operations. This report will be similar to 
Part 2 of Volume V of the reports for the 1950 Census of Agri- 
culture. It will present statistics for approximately 900 
counties and State economic areas in 12 Southern States and 
Missouri for the number and characteristics of multiple-unit 
operations and farms in multiple units. 

Part 2. — Ranking Agricultural Counties. This special report will 
present statistics for selected items of inventory and agricul- 
tural production for the leading counties in the United States. 

Part 3. — Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, District of Columbia, and 
U. S. Possessions. These areas were not included in the 1954 
Census of Agriculture. The available current data from vari- 
ous Government sources will be compiled and published in 
this report. 

Part 4.— Agriculture, 1954, a Graphic Summary. This report will 
present graphically some of the significant facts regarding 
agriculture and agricultural production as revealed by the 1954 
Census of Agriculture. 

Part 5/ — Farm-Mortgage Debt. This will be a cooperative study 
by the Agricultural Research Service of the U. S. Department 
of Agriculture and the Bureau of the Census. It will present, 
by States, data based on the 1954 Census of Agriculture and a 
special mail survey conducted in January 1956, on the num- 
ber of mortgaged farms, the amount of mortgage debt, and the 
amount of debt held by principal lending agencies. 

Part 6. — Irrigation in Humid Areas. This cooperative report by 
the Agricultural Research Service of the U. S. Department of 
Agriculture and the Bureau of the Census will present data ob- 
tained by a mail survey of operators of irrigated farms in 28 
States on the source of water, method of applying water, num- 
ber of pumps used, acres of crops irrigated in 1954 and 1955, 
the number of times each crop was irrigated, and the cost of 
irrigation equipment and the irrigation system. 

Part 7. — Popular Report — The American Farmer in 1954. This 
report is planned to be a general, easy-to-read publication for 
the general public on the status and broad characteristics of 
United States agriculture. It will seek to delineate such as- 
pects of agriculture as the geographic distribution and dif- 
ferences by size of farm for such items as farm acreage, princi- 
pal crops, and important kinds of livestock, farm facilities, 
farm equipment, use of fertilizer, soil conservation practices, 
farm tenure, and farm income. 

Part 8. — Size of Operation by Type of Farm. This will be a coop- 
erative special report to be prepared in cooperation with the 
Agricultural Research Service of the U. S. Department of Agri- 
culture. This report will contain data for 119 economic sub- 


regions (essentially general type-of-farming areas) showing the 
general characteristics for each type of farm by economic class. 
It will provide data for a current analysis of the differences 
that exist among groups of farms of the same type. It will 
furnish statistical basis for a realistic examination of produc- 
tion of such commodities as wheat, cotton, and dairy products 
in connection with actual or proposed governmental policies 
and programs. 
Part 9. — Farmers and Farm Production in the United States. 
The purpose of this report is to present an analysis of the 
characteristics of farmers and farm production for the most 
important types of farms as shown by data for the 1954 Census 
of Agriculture. The analysis deals with the relative importance, 
pattern of resource use, some measures of efficiency, and prob- 
lems of adjustment and change for the principal types of farms. 
The report was prepared in cooperation with the Agricultural 
Research Service of the U. S. Department of Agriculture. 

The list of chapters (published separately only) and title 
for each chapter are as follows: 

Chapter I — Wheat Producers and Wheat Production 
II — Cotton Producers and Cotton Production 
III — Tobacco and Peanut Producers and Production 
IV — Poultry Producers and Poultry Production 

V — Dairy Producers and Dairy Production 
VI — Western Stock Ranches and Livestock Farms 
VII — Cash-Grain and Livestock Producers in the Corn 

VIII — Part-Time Farming 
IX — Agricultural Producers and Production in the 
United Slates — A General View 
Part 10. — Use of Fertilizer and Lime. The purpose of this report 
is to present in one publication most of the detailed data com- 
piled for the 1954 Census of Agriculture regarding the use of 
fertilizer and lime. The report presents data for counties, 
State economic areas, and generalized type-of-farming areas 
regarding the quantity used, acreage on which used, and 
expenditures for fertilizer and lime. The Agricultural Research 
Service cooperated with the Bureau of the Census in the prep- 
aration of this report. 
Part 11. — Farmers' Expenditures. This report presents detailed 
data on expenditures for a large number of items used for farm 
production in 1955, and on the living expenditures of farm 
operators' families. The data were collected and compiled 
cooperatively by the Agricultural Marketing Service of the 
U. S. Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of the Census. 
Part 12. — Methods and Procedures. This report contains an 
outline and a description of the methods and procedures used 
in taking and compiling the 1954 Census of Agriculture. 



Introduction 1 

Chapter 1 . — Bread 4 

( 'hapter 2.— Meat 13 

Chapter 3.— Milk 23 

Chapter 4.— Eggs 32 

C 'hapt er 5. — Cotton 40 

Chapter 6. — Tobacco 47 

Chapter 7.— Fruit (Part-Time) 50 

Chapter 8. — Honey (Residential) 56 



Gove Hambidge 


Farms and farmers differ 


$1O>00 Oft MORE 


$5000 & $10,000 

$2500 &$5000 


$250 & 



The 4.7 million Census farms in the United States include an 
immense range in the different kinds and sizes of farms operating 
under a very wide range of economic and social conditions. Some 
farms are only 1 acre in size; others have a physical plant contain- 
ing as much as 100,000 acres; some have annual sales of $200; others 
have Paul Bunyan operations with sales of as much as $1 million ; 
some are small enterprises operated by fanners who work at non- 
farm jobs; others provide full-time employment, for the farmer, 
his family, and hired employees; some are farms devoted to the 
production of a single product; others are devoted to the production 
of a number of important farm products; some farmers control 
resources with a value of only a few thousands of dollars; others 
manage resources totaling more than a million dollars. Moreover, 
the operators of our 4.7 million farms and their families represent 
individual human lyings, all differing in their abilities, experiences, 
ambitions, strivings, and problems. 

The Census of Agriculture provides numerous and detailed sum- 
maries of cold facts indicating the differences and likenesses of our 
millions of farms and farmers. The purpose of this booklet is to 
give life and warmth to these Census agricultural facts by de- 
scribing eight farmers and farms. These descriptions, based on 
the millions of cold facts drawn from a nationwide Census, do not 
relate to any actual, individual farmer or existing farm. There 
are tens of thousands of farmers and farms that differ from those 

The farmer's place in the world. 

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Farmers and farming have a place in the world that is very special. 
(Other occupants of that special place are those who harvest fish 
from the sea.) The stone, steel, and other materials that make our 
cities, railroads, highways, ships, airplanes, and automobiles are all 
important in this civilization of ours. The energy from electricity, 
coal, oil, and gasoline required to run our factories and our means of 
transport are likewise important. But more important than all of 
these is life itself — the life of the human beings who create the civil- 
ization and for whom its material and spiritual values exist. Life 
too requires fuel for its fires. The fuel is provided by food, which 
also furnishes a long array of complex substances needed to maintain 
the extraordinary mechanism of our bodies and minds — a mechanism 
far more marvelous and intricate than any atomic pile. 



To obtain this energy and these substances, each of us consumes 
on the average some 1,528 pounds of food a year, or a little over four 
pounds a day, day in and day out. With the United States popula- 
tion now about 170 million this means that as a people we require 
some 250 billion pounds of food a year. It is provided for us by 
those who harvest the crops from the soil and the sea. Their place is 
truly a special one; they are the maintainers of life. 

Their place has not diminished in significance in our modern 
economy, but it has diminished a great deal in magnitude. Anyone 
in the United States now over the age of 65 or 70 has lived during a 
period when almost, every other person was a farmer. At the turn 
of the century, half the population was tied to the land to produce 
food for themselves and the other half working in other pursuits. 
Within the lifetime of many of us, that proportion has gradually 
been reduced, decade by decade, until now the farm population is 
about one-eighth of the total ; and in 1954 only 8.5 million agricul- 
tural workers were required to produce the food supply for 164 
million people. 

Farming is not what it used to be. 

This is as it should be. These workers had to be released from 
farming to do all the other things that make modern civilization 

So radically and rapidly has agriculture changed even within a 
single lifetime that it is difficult for us to realize what has happened. 
Fanning obviously is not what it used to be, yet few people are more 
than vaguely aware of the nature and the extent of the transfor- 
mation. We still tend to think of it in terms that no longer apply to 
modern conditions. 

These are stubborn problems. 

But it is important that we should understand; for if the propor- 
tion of our people now engaged in farming is far smaller than it used 
to be, which means that providing food is now far less of a burden 
for society as a whole than it used to be, nevertheless adequate and 
efficient food production is still the most fundamental need for fur- 
ther advances in civilization and for life itself. And in spite of all 
the revolutionary changes in agriculture, at least as revolutionary 
as those that have occurred in industry, and in spite of the long 
forward strides agriculture has made, efficient production adequate 
for our needs and those of the rest of the world is not easy to attain. 
Stubborn problems that seem to be inherent in the business of pro- 
ducing food for mankind still remain, and solving these problems 
is a continuing process requiring continuous attention on the part 
not only of farmers but of all who consume the food they provide. 

Census harvests the facts. 


This booklet presents some aspects of present-day American agri- 
culture that do not seem to be so widely understood as they should be 
and gives an account of some of the changes that have brought agri- 
culture where it is today. The material for the booklet comes mainly 
from the United States Census, including the 1954 Census of Agricul- 
ture. Every five years the Census Bureau sends a small army of men 
and women called enumerators out over the United States to garner 
a harvest of facts and figures. These people visit every farm in every 
county, asking questions designed to obtain the facts a nation needs to 
know about an activity as basic as agriculture, (Not all the informa- 
tion comes from this complete farm coverage. For some material, 
scientifically selected samples are used.) The answers to most of 
these questions are in quantitative terms, that is, in figures; and 
millions of these digits are subsequently poured into the machines 
in the central office of the Census Bureau and into the brains of the 
statisticians who are responsible for analyzing them and putting 
them into meaningful order. 

Cold facts. 

The masses of statistics resulting from the agricultural Census re- 
semble an iceberg in a double sense: they seem cold to the ayerage 
person, and much of their substance is below the surface where it 
cannot be seen without special searching. After all, the Census 
enumerators gather their statistics in the first instance from several 
million farmers who are not abstractions but individual human beings 
with ambitions and strivings and disappointments and difficulties. 
To give life and warmth to the facts, this booklet includes some recog- 
nizable landscapes and figures in the picture of present-day American 
agriculture— farmers who though fictional, not actual", might be 
considered to typify some of the outstanding characteristics of our 
agriculture. The first farmer is a wheat grower, whom we will call 
Dan West, living in the central part of the State of Kansas. 

41235(5 O— 57- 

Dan West and daily bread. 



Central Kansas where Dan West lives is part of the Great Plains. 
It used to be a sea of waving grass. Now on a hot summer day 
you look out over a sea of wheat, which is another kind of grass, 
and there is nothing else as far as the horizon but the golden wheat, 
bending under the wind's touch, and a road as straight as taut wire, 
and gaunt poles stuck in the ground at regular intervals to hold up 
the telephone and electric lines. 


A precarious business. 


Research and the enemies of production. 

It is from Dan West and other farmers in the wheat business that 
you get your daily bread. This deep dark soil, slowly evolved under 
generations of grass, grows wonderful wheat; and the dry climate 
where Dan West lives makes the grain hard and thrifty, packing 
it with an intense concentration of that glutenous protein which 
makes good bread because it stretches and stretches like a piece of 
tine thin rubber when the fermenting yeast blows a million tiny air 
bubbles in the loaf. Wheat with that kind of quality of protein 
fetches a premium with the flour millers and the bread bakers, and 
it should ; for growing wheat in the place where Dan W T est lives is 
a precarious business in spite of all the advances that have been 
made by science. The rainfall here is supposedly 15 to 25 inches a 
year, but from one year to the next it may vary by 50 or 75 percent, 
and in the drier area west of where Dan lives it is even more fickle. 
This hard red winter wheat Dan grows is as good grain as you will 
find anywhere in the world, but the growing of it is not without un- 
certainty and anxiety. Even a good year may bring an ill wind. For 
if Dan and his fellow wheat farmers produce a bumper crop, the 
effect in lower prices might conceivably be almost as bad as a crop 

Ever}' year Dan leaves part of his cropland fallow — that is, he 
does not seed it but cultivates the soil every so often to keep down 
weeds. Farther west in Kansas, the wheat farmers leave about 
half their cropland idle each year because the rainfall is so scanty 
that it is not safe in any year to try to produce wheat on more than 
half the land. This system of cultivated fallow that saves up mois- 
ture, helps prevent wind erosion, and takes some of the risk out of 
wheat growing in dry areas, was developed through research in the 
agricultural experiment stations, and it is one of the many results 
of research that make it possible for Dan to be the able farm op- 
erator he is — or to stay in business, in fact. 

An even more striking result is the successful battle against wheat 
diseases. It was not so many years ago that wheat farmers were 
completely at the mercy of such deadly diseases as wheat stem rust, 
for example. The almost invisible spores of the rust fungus would 
steal over an area on the wind currents, alight on the wheat plants 
over thousands of acres, and kill them as effectively as an atom bomb 
can snuff out a city. Now, as a result of years of cooperative research 


Machinery does the work. 




in the United States and Canada, including the work of plant ex- 
plorers who sought disease-resistant (and likewise drought-resistant) 
breeding material the world over, wheat growers have varieties that 
can stand up against this enemy without succumbing. And you can 
be sure of your daily bread. But the tight is a never-ending one. 
Men like Dan West produce generous crops only because the plant 
breeders are continuously on the job creating varieties of wheat that 
will resist the ever-changing strains of the stem rust, which itself 
continually produces new strains like the many-headed monster of 
mythology that grew a new head as fast as you cut off the old one. 

This work of the plant breeders, important as it is, is only one small 
aspect of the complicated mass of research relating to agriculture 
that constantly goes on in our Federal and State experiment stations 
and in private industry. According to Professor Theodore Schultz 
{The Economic Organization of Agriculture, 1953) the Federal and 
State governments in the United States spent over 106.5 million 
dollars on agricultural research in 1951, and in 1950 they spent some 
73 million dollars on cooperative extension work largely devoted 
to bringing the techniques developed by research to the farmers of 
this country. Schultz calculates that the savings resulting from 
this research and extension work in agriculture amounted in the 
single year 1950 to a great deal more than all the expenditures of 
the Federal and State governments for this kind of work in the 
40 years between 1910 and 1950. The research and extension work 
in those 40 years cost 7 billion dollars. He calculates the savings 
in 1950, brought by the application of improved techniques, at some- 
where between 9.6 and 16 billion dollars — a return on the investment, 
he comments, many times as large as the returns on normal business 
investments elsewhere in the economy. 

Though Dan West may not realize it consciously, not only his 
adaptation of soil-management practices to climate and his use of 
superior disease-resistant wheat varieties but his whole farm opera- 
tion is based on the results of research and experiment just as truly 
as is production in, say, a modern automobile plant. The most im- 
portant factor in this complex business, and the most important one 
in shaping the character of present-day American agriculture, is 

When most people were farmers a man needed little more than a 
good piece of land, enough seed, some simple tools, reasonable 
weather, strong muscles, patience, and an observant eye to produce 
the bread for his family and perhaps a little more. Today the re- 
quirements are far more elaborate. Dan West must have land, of 
course, since food still comes from Mother Earth; she is necessary in 
about the same sense as air is necessary to an airplane ; it cannot fly 
in a vacuum, though you can produce food hydroponically nowadays 
with oidy water and fertilizer and no soil. As for muscle, Dan may 
not need much more of that than the pilot needs to run the plane. 
Petroleum products and some very complicated machinery do the 
work. What Dan does need is knowledge, skill, managerial ability, 
and money. 

Dan West is a large-scale farmer, owning 1,200 acres of land, of 
which some 875 acres are cropland — 500 acres in wheat, 295 in hay 
and pasture, 45 in grain sorghum (which substitutes for corn in this 
dry country), and 35 or so in cultivated fallow. Normally there are 
some 75 head of beef cattle on the farm, including 4 or 5 dual-purpose 
cows (good for meat and milk), a few hogs and sheep, and a flock of 


70 to 80 chickens. The milk and pork and lamb and eggs are pro- 
duced mainly for the family's own use — a practice that has been 
declining, however, as commercial farms become specialized and 
concentrate more exclusively on production for market. The beef 
cattle add materially to Dan's income, and in addition to grazing on 
pasture they are turned loose in the wheat fields for a while when 
the plants are young, lush, and high in feed value. 

Work animals disappearing. 

1900 TO 1954 

millions OF million; 








*v / 

/ \ 





1900* 1910* 1920 


1930 * 1940 



MULES: 1920 TO 1954 

1920 1925 1930 1935 1940 1945 

Estimates by the Agriculture Research Services of 'he 
United Slates Deportment of Agriculture 

One tractor or 60 horses. 

1950 1954 


Dan's farm is so thoroughly mechanized that in spite of the size 
of the operation, he and his son Don are able to do practically all the 
work themselves, with a little hired help during the busiest seasons. 
There is not a single work animal on the farm, or for that matter 
on any of the other wheat farms nearby. But in the days when the 
plowing and harvesting were done by horses, it was not unusual to 
see 12 or more (as many as 30 in some parts of the wheat country) 
harnessed in a complicated multiple hitch. In those days harvesting 
crews swarmed over the countryside at harvest time, and the women- 
folk were kept busy getting three big meals a day for them. Now 
the fuel for all this work does not come out of a hot kitchen or hay- 
tield or oat bin. It comes from the gasoline tank and electric power 
line. The. shift from animal to machine power is not yet quite 
complete in American agriculture, but it has made long strides in 
a short time. 

The change has not only altered the character of farm work; it has 
also freed a large amount of land from the production of fuel for 
work animals and made it available for the production of food and 
fiber. But this is only a side-effect of the machine revolution, 
though an important one, partly responsible for the development of 
surpluses. More significant and dramatic is the increase it has 
brought in the work capacity of farmers. The severe shortage of 
agricultural labor in the two world wars, against the urgent need 
for increased production, had much to do with speeding up this 

Dan has a large, heavy-duty tractor which he uses for preparing 
the soil for seeding and for harvesting his wheat. In work capacity 
it could easily take the place of 50 to 60 horses. The tractor takes 
up much less room than 60 horses and requires no stable chores. 
There are also two other tractors on the farm, one a small general- 
purpose machine used for all kinds of light work. The development 
of light, flexible, rubber-tired tractors during the last 30 years or so 
is what made machine- farming possible on even the smallest farms. 
In 1954, there were 4.7 million tractors on the 4.8 million farms of 
America, doing work once done entirely by animal and human 


Dan has a large truck for hauling, a light half-ton pickup, and 
two passenger automobiles. The part played by trucks in American 
agriculture today is strikingly indicated by the fact that the eighth 
of the population on farms owns more than a fourth of all the trucks 
in the United States. (There were 2.7 million on United States 
farms in 1054 — about a half million more than in 1950.) 

Airplanes and farms. 

It is also a fact that more airplanes are now used for seeding, dust- 
ing, spraying, and other agricultural operations than are employed 
by all the country's airlines put together for carrying passengers and 
freight — though the planes used in agriculture are, of course, smaller. 

In preparing some 500 acres for wheat each fall, Dan uses mainly 
big plows, each of which disks a ten-foot wide strip of soil at a time. 
This disk, which is actually a plow, also does the work of a harrow, 
and if a seedbox is attached the plowing, harrowing, and planting 
can all be done in a single operation. The wheatland disk is a good 
machine for cultivating summer fallow, too. During the past few 
veal's hydraulic, mechanical, pneumatic, and electric lifting devices 
have been developed for plows and cultivators so that merely by 
shifting levers the man in the driver's seat can regulate the depth at 
which each unit in a complicated gang of implements will operate. 

A farm horse worked on the average about five hours a day. A 
tractor equipped with lights can work around the clock if necessary. 
The flexibility, power, and speed of modern machines are impor- 
tant factors in directly increasing production per acre as well as per 
worker; for in agriculture the ability to carry out a given operation, 
such as plowing, planting, harvesting, or spraying, expeditiously and 
at exactly the right time can mean a great deal in making the most of 
good weather, soil, and crop conditions. 

Comes the harvest. 

For the wheat farmer, the harvest is the culmination of the year's 
effort. Dan West uses his self-propelled combine for this operation 
and generally rents a second one. This machine takes the place of 
the reaper or header that cut the standing wheat, the binder that tied 
it into bundles, and the threshing machine that removed the kernels 
and winnowed out the chaff. Clanking and whirring over the grain 
fields like some voracious mechanical monster, it does all these things 
at one time, and in addition pours the clean kernels into bags or into 
a truck, and either returns the straw to the field to be disked in or 
places it in windrows for loading or baling. So the need for harvest- 
ing crews and horses and an array of separate machines is eliminated, 
and the grain comes out cleaner and is likely to be of a higher grade 
than with the old methods. 

The first combines were large and cumbersome. Dan's machine 
cuts a swath 1-2 feet wide, or 24 feet for the two machines. "With 
these two machines he figures on harvesting his wheat crop in less 
than 10 days. 



More power at their command. 


Small combines have now been developed which give, the small-scale 
farmer the advantage of this device, and the machine lias also been 
adapted for use with many other crops besides wheat — notably oats, 
rye, barley, flax, clovers, alfalfa, grain sorghum, rice, soybeans, and 
dry beans and peas. 

American farmers today probably have more power at their com- 
mand than has ever been available anywhere for agricultural pro- 
duction, even in ancient empires with myriads of slaves. One result 
has been that as the work capacity of each farmer increased, so did 
his need and desire to farm a larger acreage to make effective use of 
his machines. So the size of farms in this country has been growing. 
And, by the same token, the big farms, such as that of Dan West, 
on which machines can be employed to the maximum advantage, have 
been increasing in number and taking over a larger share of total 
production. Only one farmer out of 36 in the United States runs an 
enterprise large enough to market at least $'25,000 worth of products 
annually. But in 1954, this 2.8 percent had more than 22 percent of 
the farmland, accounted for 31 percent of the value of all farm prod- 
ucts sold, produced 22 percent of the wheat and 38 percent of the 
cotton, and sold 27 percent of the cattle and calves and 33 percent of 
all poultry and poultry products. 

A family enterprise. 

But in spite of the steady increase in farm size, it is a striking fact 
that the family farm is still by all odds the predominant type 
throughout American agriculture, even in the case of the big opera- 
tions. Dan West's 1,200 acres is a family farm, and so are most of the 
other big farms in the region. There is in fact very little corporation 
farming in the United States and the number of farms run by hired 
managers is comparatively small. Throughout all the changes that 
have revolutionized our agriculture, farming has kept its original 
character as a family enterprise. In fact, this character seems to be 
more firmly entrenched than ever, in the sense that the proportion of 
families owning rather than renting their farms has been increasing 
in recent years, and likewise the proportion of farms free of mortgage 
debt. In Kansas, for example, the number of farms operated by 
tenants dropped from a little over 70 thousand in 1940 to about 35 
thousand in 1954, and the amount of farm-mortgage loans outstand- 
ing January 1, 1955, was 27 percent below the figure for 1940. 

It takes a lot more money nowadays. 

Capital investment per farm: United States' 


Land and buildings $20,406 

Machinery 2, 086 

Livestock 2, 352 

Total 25, 744 


Land and buildings $10,285 

Machinery 55S 

Livestock 1,243 

Total 12, 085 

Obviously it takes a lot more money to own a farm and the equip- 
ment necessary to run it nowadays than it used to take. In the case of 
Dan West the investment in land and buildings is close to $150,000; 
in machinery, close to $14,000 ; and in livestock, close to $6,500. The 
average for these items for that size of farm in Dan's area in 1954 was 
$170,000. While all farm costs have gone up over a period of several 
decades, the principal change has been the constant addition of in- 
creasing amounts for machinery of one kind or another, so that the 
trend has been toward a reduction in the relative amounts invested in 
the land and buildings as compared with mechanical equipment. 


Tractors and trucks are not cheap. A large self-propelled combine 
costs over $5,00(1, which is the reason a good many fanners do not 
buy combines but have their harvesting work done on contract, the 
main disadvantage being that you can't always have it done just when 
yon want to. In addition to these big items, Dan has a good deal of 
miscellaneous equipment. He does a careful maintenance job so that 
his equipment lias a relatively long life, but it is expensive just the 

Operating costs match investment. 

Operating costs also are high to match the investment and the 
size of the business. In 1954, a farm the size of Dan West's averaged 
expenditures of $1,526 for gasoline and oil, $996 for machine hire, 
$1,682 for hired labor, $7(il for commercial fertilizer (this is a new 
development; commercial fertilizers were not used in this region in 
the old days), and $1,690 for livestock feed— despite the fact that 
Dan raises a great deal of feed of his own. This is a total of $6,655 
for this particular group of expenses. The list is far from complete ; 
it does not include seed, livestock purchased, maintenance and re- 
pairs, depreciation, taxes, and interest on loans. 

High as the listed costs are, however, they are relatively moderate 
on a crop-acre basis, amounting to $1.16 for machine hire, $1.77 for 
gasoline and oil, $1.95 for hired labor, and $0.88 for fertilizer— a 
total of $5.76 per acre. No wheat farmer, no matter what the size 
of his place, can get along without some of these expenses, and the 
smaller the farm the higher they run per acre and per dollar of 
sales. This of course is one of the economic reasons for large-scale 

Gross and net income. 

Dan West's gross income in 1954 was $33,582. Of this, $27,112 
came from the sale of crops, mainly wheat, which brought $24,889. 
The sale of livestock and livestock products brought $6,470. While 
it is not possible to figure Dan's net income on the basis of data col- 
lected by the Census, one might guess that it is probably not over 
$6,000. His income situation is probably like that on large-scale 
farms of all kinds the country over. In 1950, according to a com- 
parative study made by the Census Bureau and the United States 
Department of Agriculture, the average value of products sold from 
these large farms (the gross income) was $54,860, and the average 
net income of farm-operator families in the group was calculated 
to be $8,880, which is 16 percent of the gross income. On the same 
basis, Dans net income would be $5,373. 

This analysis of Dan's costs and returns is neither complete nor 
conclusive; but it is sufficient to bring out some striking facts about 
his situation and that of other farmers today. He is the extreme case 
in the sense that he is one of the big operators who, because of the 
inevitable trend toward machine farming, are responsible, as we have 
seen, for a large share of modern agricultural production. But de- 
spite the size of the operation, his net return is not large in relation 
to his investment and operating costs. 



Lean years and fat years. 

KANSAS: 1934 — 1954 


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It is no easy thing: to get into farming today ; in fact it is so difficult, 
from the standpoint of the sum of money involved, that it is a wonder 
we have as many farmers as we do. Dan is relatively prosperous, 
and in some years, with the right combination of weather and price, 
he can make a great deal of money. But in this business of wheat 
growing in the Great Plains, the lean years are likely to be more 
numerous than the fat ones. Dan's costs are so high and his produc- 
tion is so comparatively precarious (though not so much so as in the 
still drier areas) that he must have a reasonable price and a relatively 
assured market or he will go under. 






If we ate as much bread. 

1920 =4.5 LOAVES 

Dan is producing an indispensable food, but one that has been 
steadily losing ground over a long period of time in its relative 
importance in our American diet. In 1954, we consumed for food 
practically the same amount of wheat in this country (474 million 
bushels) that we consumed nearly a half-centry ago in 1910 (478 
million bushels). Meanwhile the number of us who shared this 4% 
million bushels, grew from 92 million to 164 million. So each of 
us ate 137 pounds less of wheat, consuming 173 pounds in 1954 com- 
pared with 310 pounds in 1910. Since our total food consumption 
is about the same, we made up for that 137 pounds by eating mainly 
more vegetables and fruits and milk. If we ate as much bread now 
as we did in the old days, we would have required some 850 million 
bushels in 1954. 

1954 = 1.7 LOAVES 



A half million loaves of bread. 

The ability of wheat fanners to produce, however, has been steadily 
going up with the advance of agricultural technology. Dan 'Vest 
produced 19.7 bushels to the acre in 1954 on his 497 acres. That was 
a total of 587,500 pounds of wheat, which would yield 423,000 pounds 
of flour and 164,500 pounds of byproducts for animal feed. Since a 
pound of flour makes iy 2 pounds of bread, Dan's farm contributed 
the flour for 634,000 one-pound loaves to the United States food 
supply, plus 82 tons of byproducts for feedstuff's. A half million 
loaves of bread is a great deal to come off one farm in one year. 
Dan West can be proud of the achievement. But the sober fact is 
(hat the United States has now reached the point wdiere we have a 
two years' supply of wheat ahead. Over a sufficiently long period 
of time, the increase in the United States population might more 
than use up the surplus; but meanwhile the economic problems of 
wheat farmers justify all the attention and intelligence that can be 
applied to them. 

Unseen hands and brains. 

The main point about all this— a point not easy to grasp fully— 
is that not Dan West or any farmer is an independent unit in society 
in the sense that farmers used to be independent. Not only does he 
not produce his own food and clothing and much of the material for 
his shelter as his forebears did ; he could in fact not produce at all 
without the cooperation and assistance of a large number of other 
people outside agriculture. Dan West could not by his own effort 
alone produce the basic material for half a million loaves of bread 
a year. He can perform this prodigious feat only because a great 
many unseen hands and brains are helping him. These invisible 
presences are embodied in his machinery, equipment, gasoline, oil, 
cement, electric lines, etc. They are the brains that invented and 
continually improve the machines ; the hands that make them ; the 
drillers and transporters and refiners of petroleum products that 
provide the energy for Dan's work ; the roadbuilders who enable him 
to move so much wheat in so short a time ; the scientists who experi- 
ment endlessly with soils and plants and chemicals; the millers and 
bakers who turn his raw wheat into edible food; and finally the 
storekeepers and others who get it effectively into the hands of con- 
sumers. The forbears of practically all of them were farmers a few 
generations ago. 

Dan West's "hired hands." 

These invisible, unacknowledged presences are in effect Dan West's 
hired hands. He pays their wages in the cost of his equipment and 
fuel and other materials. In our society, the distinction between 
industry and agriculture grows more and more fuzzy as the coopera- 
tion this society demands among its various segments becomes increas- 
ingly intricate and complete. How many people actually produce 
Dan West's half-million loaves of bread it would be hard to say, but 
it takes the work of many more than Dan and Don, and Dan has to 
pay for all of it from the sale of his wheat. 

412356 O — 57 - 



So Dan's problems are not entirely his own and he could not solve 
them by himself. The problems of the people in production are like- 
wise problems of people in banking and industry and commerce, not 
to mention consumers. They will never be finally solved, for life 
itself does not stand still, and in moving forward it creates new 
problems. Then the new ones have to be solved to make another for- 
ward move possible. 

Some wheat in all States. 

Before leaving Dan West, we wish to point out that he is only one 
very small factor in wheat production in this country. A tenth of all 
the capital invested in land, buildings, livestock, and machinery in 
our agriculture has been invested by farmers whose main enterprise 
is wheat production. So Dan's investment is only a. drop in this 
bucket. Though our main wheat belt is in the West, extending 
from somewhere in Texas all the way to the Canadian border, some 
wheat is grown in all States. Western production is mainly hard 
red winter wheat where the climate is suitable for fall planting 
and hard red spring wheat where the winters are ordinarily too 
severe for the young plants to survive. Durum wheat, grown for 
macaroni and similar products, is also produced in the northern 
section of the wheat belt. Farther west, in Oregon and Washington 
and parts of California, farmers grow white wheat, which is used 
mainly for cake and pastry, not bread. 

In the eastern part of the United States soft wheat is still grown 
as a sideline on many farms, but most of the supply comes from 
commercial producers whose main business is producing wheat. 

Just as other kinds of wheat are produced in different parts of the 
country, so there are many farms producing wheat quite different 
from that of Dan West. Some, particularly on the West Coast, are 
much larger than his. Some involve much bigger investments and 
operating costs. Some produce much more per acre; 30 bushels is 
not uncommon in western irrigated areas. And of course there are 
more small farms than there are big ones. 




Corn and pork. 

We now shift to the Corn Belt, where Fred North operates what 
is essentially a huge biological apparatus for producing great 
quantities of corn and converting it into great quantities of 
pork and beef. The apparatus is a complicated one, including 
rich Indiana soil, plentiful rain, a generous supply of sunlight and 
summer heat, fertilizers and other chemicals, and a lot of intricate 
machinery. The plant products coming in at one end (not only corn 
but some oats and other grains, and grass, and legumes) are trans- 
formed by the animals into flesh — not only pork but some beef and 
lamb and chicken — and milk and eggs and wool. As a country poet 
once put it, a farm such as this is really just one gigantic alimentary 

Good living American style. 

Fred North's kind of production caters to and in effect epitomizes 
the American standard of living. Dan West's wheat provides fuel 
for the human body in the most direct and perhaps cheapest form. 
Fred North's corn, on the other hand, goes through a roundabout, 
time-consuming process to become ham or bacon or beefsteak; and it 
takes some seven pounds of corn and other ingredients to build one 
pound of live hog, which in turn yields only about six-tenths of a 
pound of the pork you buy at the butcher's counter. But in its con- 
verted form this flinty corn is a very different product, one with a 
palatability and succulence much sought after by human appetites; 
for who would choose a dinner of bread if he could get beefsteak 
or pork chops? These animal products are costly to produce, but 
they go along with other things that Americans consider essential 
for good living and that so many Americans can afford — good houses 
and clothes, automobiles, televisions, radios. 

The Census divides commercial farms into six economic classes, 
according to the size of the operation. Dan West's place would be in 
Class I, among those farmers selling products with a value of $25,000 
or more a year. There were well over 100,000 of these largest -scale 
producers in the United States in 1954. Fred North's place would be 
put in Class II — the big commercial farms selling between $10,000 
and $25,000 worth of products a year. In 1954 there were nearly 
450,000 farms in this growing group. 


A kindly land. 


This western Indiana is smiling, buxom country, more kindly 
disposed toward farmers, not so subject to violent weather hazards as 
the Great Plains wheat area. Probably most experts, in fact, con- 
sider the Corn Belt the best and richest agicultural region in the 
world. Midwest farmers are peculiarly alert to new scientific de- 
velopments in agriculture, and the combination of soil, climate, and 
people has been a singularly happy one from the standpoint of 

Flying over Indiana, you see no vast sweep of grain and grass but 
a neat pattern of fenced rectangles and squares — fields of tall dark 
corn interspersed with smaller patches of wheat or oats, or hay or 
pasture, woodland and orchard; and somewhere in each cluster of 
fields a white farmhouse and a group of farm service buildings: 
ample barn, silo perhaps, machine shed, workshop, hoghouses, 
chickenhouses, corncrib. 

Fred North does not live in the most intensively productive part of 
the Corn Belt, which is a little farther west, in Illinois and Iowa. 
Nonetheless, nature is very generous here, and the Norths are good 
farmers who can make the best of what she offers. 

A 250-acre, corn-hog farm. 

They farm 250 acres, only part of which they own, renting the 
remainder from others. This is a practice that is increasing over 
most of the United States as a result of the pressure to expand the 
individual farm because modern machinery makes it possible for the 
farmer to do more work and handle more land than ever before. 
Sometimes renting additional land is more advantageous than buying 
it; and the amount of expensive equipment needed in farming today 
may make it impractical in many cases for a family to buy all the 
land they farm. 

Of the 250 acres in the North farm, about 210 are classed as crop- 
land — 185 acres planted to crops for harvesting (80 in corn, 25 in 
oats, 20 in soft winter wheat, 40 in soybeans, 20 in hay), 20 acres 
used for pasture, 5 acres or so idle or unharvested for one reason or 
another. Another 22 acres are in woodland, of which over 15 acres 
are used for grazing. Some 10 acres that are not suitable for either 
crops or woods can also be used to pasture livestock. A big kitchen 
garden, a few fruit trees, roads and lanes, and the farm buildings 
account for much of the remaining 8 acres. 

Crops become meat. 

All the corn, hay, and oats Fred North produces are processed on 
the place into animal products — a situation roughly comparable, let 
us say, to that of an automobile manufacturer producing his own 
steel. The wheat and soybeans, which are sold as plant products, 
help to diversify the farm economy. Soybean production in partic- 
ular can serve to a limited extent as an economic shock absorber, 
expanding when prices of other products are down. In recent years 
this region has proved to be extraordinarily favorable for soybeans, 
a crop for which research has gradually opened a wide range of food, 
feed, and industrial uses and which also, properly handled, can be an 
important factor in soil conservation. 



A real family enterprise. 

Though Fred North's livestock operations center around hogs — 
he sold 185 head in 1954 — he carries some 27 head of cattle ( including 
calves) , of which usually four or five are milk cows and the remainder 
beef animals, shipped in from the western range to be fattened for 
market. There are also a few sheep and a flock of chickens on the 
place. In other words, this is not so exclusively a factory for turning 
corn into pork as some other Midwest farms are. Though too 
specialized to be a "general" farm in the Census classification, it 
maintains a certain diversity that, aside from possible economic ad- 
vantage, keeps the whole family actively interested and involved 
in running the place. Mom has the chickens as her province; they 
contributed $587 to the family income in 1954, mainly from the 
sale of eggs. Young Bill deserves much of the credit for handling 
the beef cattle, which brought in $2,700. Susan's specialty is dairy 
animals ; milk sales in 1950 totaled $627. Young Michael is learning 
to look after the sheep, which brought in another $175. (The young 
people are members of a national farm youth organization and take 
their work very seriously.) Fred, of course, is responsible for hog 
production, which is close to an $8,000 enterprise, and for the manage- 
ment of the crops, .vhich accounted in 1954 for about $2,900 of the 
farm income — wheat production was 620 bushels, with a yield of 
80 bushels to the acre; soybean production, over 1,000 bushels, or 26 
bushels to the acre ; oats, 1,048 bushels, 41 bushels to the acre ; and 
corn, 4,120 bushels, or 52 bushels to the acre. On a few acres, corn was 
also grown for silage. 

Fred's investment and expenses. 

Capital investment per farm, Corn Belt : 1954 

Land and buildings $33,541 

Machinery 5, 986 

Livestock 4, 567 

Total 44, 094 

The gross income from all these products totals close to $15,000. 

Fred's investment in land and buildings by 1954 was $60,000, with 
an average land value per acre of some $250. He had $9,000 invested 
in machinery, and his livestock investment might be put at $10,000. 
The total investment is considerably less than the $167,400 tied up in 
Dan West's thousand-acre wheat farm, but it is a sizable sum of 
money, nevertheless, and again underlines the fact that farming 
today requires a good deal of capital. 

Operating expenses are proportionately high. The biggest single 
item in 1954 was over $2,000 for feed for livestock and poultry to 
supplement the 4,000 bushels of corn and the hay and other products 
the farm itself produced. Next biggest was $1,000 for purchasing 
fertilizer and lime to maintain the high fertility of the soil. Next 
came an item of $700 for gasoline and oil and about an equal amount 
for hired labor. Machine hire cost about $200. These items total 
nearly $4,000, but they do not include such important expenses as 
repairs and depreciation, interest and taxes, seed and livestock pur- 
chased, veterinary fees and medicines. The net income of the North 
family was probably not over $8,000. 



Home-grown food an important item. 

On the other hand, they produce a good deal of their own food — 
pork, beef, veal, lamb, poultry, eggs, milk, vegetables, berries, apples, 
and other fruits — not without cost, of course, but a considerable sav- 
ing over retail prices. For storing a good part of this food they rent 
space in a nearby freezer-locker plant and also have a home freezer 
of their own. In 1954 almost three-fourths of the farmers at their 
economic level in this area had home freezers, which have consider- 
ably reduced the labor formerly put into food preservation. The 
development of quick-freezing may be making home food production 
seem more attractive and advantageous in spite of the general trend 
in commercial agriculture away from self-sufficiency. 

An intricate difficult profession. 




Not by the widest stretch of the imagination could Fred North be 
made to fit the old designation of "country hick" or "hayseed" once so 
generally applied by city people to farmers. He is a practitioner and 
student of an intricate, difficult profession as well as an able business- 
man ; and although not a Doctor of Science or Philosophy, both he 
and his wife Jane are graduates of a State college of agriculture, and 
they expect their children will go to college. The management and 
operation of the farm demands a range of knowledge and of skills 
considerably wider than those required by the average businessman 
at the same economic level. For most of the things done on this 
farm are based on a mass of research and experiment carried on in 
recent years by agricultural experiment stations and other agencies 
not only nearby but throughout the United States and in other parts 
of the world also ; for science can progress only by a constant, active 
exchange of knowledge. And here in the Midwest a corps of experts 
as capable and devoted as could be found anywhere are concentrating 
on the problems of Fred North and the thousands of other farmers 
in the region. 

Corn is the raw material. 

Corn, gift of American Indians to world agriculture, is his most 
important raw material (likewise the biggest single crop in the 
United States and the world's No. 1 feed grain). The corn now uni- 
versally grown in the Midwest is also the No. 1 achievement of 
modern plant breeding, and one not many years old. 

Corn is a wind-pollinated plant ; the male pollen landing on the 
female silk may be blown from anywhere and come from one or a 
great many different corn plants. Because of this random mating 
and mixed ancestry there is likely to be as much difference between 
two plants produced from seed even of a single variety as there is 
between two children of the same parents of the same race of human 



What is hybrid corn? 

In producing hybrid corn, the plant breeder suppressed random 
mating entirely. He inbreeds a line of corn for several generations, 
using pollen from the same plant to fertilize the silks of that plant, 
until the inheritance is purified to an unvarying set of genes identical 
in all the plants. Then he suddenly crosses two of these inbred lines 
(or, in a more complicated procedure, more than two) . The plants in 
the next generation will all be exactly alike, combining the genetic 
make-up of the inbred parents. They will grow at the same rate to 
the same height, mature at the same time with no ears ripening too 
early or too late, have the same disease resistance or drought resist- 
ance or other qualities, and so on. And if the inbred lines are 
properly chosen, the hybrid will be uniformly vigorous and pro- 
ductive. But the second generation, grown from the seed of the hy- 
brid, does not have this uniformity; it segregates into various types 
according to Mendelian laws of heredity. The original cross has to 
be made all over again to produce the seed for each year's planting. 

Hybrid corn has been responsible for a sudden upsurge in yields 
per acre. In 1954 some 87 percent of the total United States corn 
acreage was planted to hybrids, which were adding perhaps 750 
million bushels a year to national production. Increased use of 
fertilizer and other improved practices have brought a further 
increment in yield. In the prewar period, 1935-39, Indiana farmers 
used 220,000 tons of fertilizer a year. In the war periods, 1940-14, 
the amount had risen to practically 845,000 tons. By 1950 it was 
935,000 tons; and in 1954, over one million tons were used. 

Gifts of the plant breeder. 

Some years ago, before these changes, Fred North's corn production 
on the same acreage and with the same weather conditions would 
probably have been around 3,000 bushels instead of 4,000, and his 
livestock production would have been correspondingly lower. 

All the other crops he grows — oats, soybeans, alfalfa, grass, and 
most of the vegetables in his garden — are likewise products of 
modern plant breeding, and in general they are better than the old 
products in much the same sense that present-day airplanes are 
better than their forerunners. (But this is not to say that all the 
problems have been solved. Some diseases, for instance, still tend 
to keep ahead of the breeders.) 

Good farmer, good student. 

To keep up with the steady stream of new developments; to know 
what varieties of crop plants will give the best returns on his own 
farm; to know what fertilizers to use, and how much and when, and 
whether they should be broadcast or drilled in, and if the latter, how 
deep and how near the seeds or plants, and whether the new liquid 
fertilizers are better than the older, dry types; to be familiar with 
new materials for insect and disease control, and the chemical control 
of weeds, which saves so much time and labor — all this demands that 
Fred North (not to mention the other members of the family) be 
an assiduous student of books, bulletins, and journals, keep in touch 
with the county agent, and on occasion consult other experts in the 
State agricultural college. 

The animals are even more demanding from this standpoint than 
the crops. 


New styles in pigs. 


Fred North's pigs are a breed long favored by producers in his 
area, yet they are not the same type of animal his father had. The 
trend in hogs of practically all breeds now is toward leaner and 
meatier animals with considerably less fat. As the market demand 
for lard gradually fell off for various reasons, breeders responded 
by creating an intermediate-type hog, which brings a premium price 
in comparison with the lard type. Newer developments go con- 
siderably further. Stimulated by the spectacular advances made with 
the hybrid corn, livestock and poultry breeders have been trying 
similar methods, insofar as they can be used with the animal organ- 
ism. In the case of hogs, inbred lines have been used for controlled 
crosses which give evidence of hybrid vigor in the progeny; and a 
number of new strains have been developed by using such older 
breeds as Danish Landrace, Poland China, Yorkshire, Duroc-Jersey, 
Hampshire, Berkshire, and Tamworth as foundation stock for 
crosses. The aim is to produce hogs that will be prolific, reach market 
weight rapidly, require less feed per pound of gain, and yield 
carcasses of which at least 50 percent, slaughter weight, will be of 
the five primary cuts — hams, loins, bacon, picnic shoulders, shoulder 
butts — with a minimum thickness of back fat. 

In keeping with this trend, Fred North also markets his hogs at 
much lighter weights than was the practice in the early days. Care- 
ful studies have shown that for economy in the use of feed, hogs 
should be sold when they reach 210 to 225 pounds. Dispropor- 
tionately lar<je amounts of feed are required for gains beyond that 
weight, and feed is 70 to 85 percent of the cost of production. 

Complexities of feeding 

The whole business of feeding has also come in for intensive study 
and has been profoundly changed by the advances made in the sci- 
ence of nutrition during the past few decades. Although corn is 
the most important feedstuff, it by no means tells the whole story 
today. A balanced ration must contain the right amounts of a long 
list of minerals and vitamins and essential amino acids, the building- 
blocks of protein. So the feeding formula becomes extremely com- 
plicated — at least the formula for the supplement that must be added 
to the daily grain or good pasturage. For example, one supple- 
ment widely used by hog producers contains carefully proportioned 
quantities of fish meal, tankage (slaughterhouse scrap), soybean 
meal, linseed meal, alfalfa meal, iodized salt, steamed bone meal, 
pulverized limestone, iron sulfate, copper sulfate, and manganese 
sulfate. The recently discovered vitamin B12 is also being rather 
widely used in feed supplements. Even though Fred North buys 
these supplements ready-mixed, he must, if he is to do an intelligent 
job, know what is in them and why. A new practice with which 
he is experimenting is the use of very small quantities of antibiotics — 
drugs such as penicillin, ordinarily used to combat disease or in- 
fection — in the everyday feeding of young pigs. 

Some revolutionary ideas. 

A more revolutionary idea that he is watching with interest is 
the use of artificial milk for feeding baby pigs, weaning them from 
the sow after the first two or three days of nursing. A number of 
advantages are claimed for this practice : The baby pigs escape cer- 
tain infections, more pigs can be raised from a litter, the sow can- 
not lie on them and crush them, the sow is saved the physiological 
drain of nursing, which is as great as that of gestation, and so on. 



There have even been attempts to develop "pig hatcheries," devoted 
exclusively to breeding sows, raising baby pigs for the first few 
days, then selling them to the farmer to be grown for market, on the 
theory that he can thus avoid the whole troublesome breeding and 
nursing phase of hog production. 

Guard the young pigs. 

Whatever may come of such ideas as this, it is certain that the most 
critical part of a pig's life is its childhood. Close to 40 percent of 
all pigs farrowed never reach market, and most of these die before 
they are weaned. This is the reason for the now widespread use of 
the pig brooder or hover — a simple, shelter, often homemade, in one 
corner of the farrowing pen, where the little pigs can go to keep 
warm. Experiments at Indiana's Purdue University showed that 
the use of this supplemental heat kept 83 pigs alive out of every 100 
farrowed, compared with 66 without the brooder. According to 
Census figures, 117,000 farmers had electric pig brooders in 1954. 
Little pigs are very susceptible, to chilling, and in the old days, the 
farmhouse kitchen would sometimes be turned into a pig nursery 
during a cold spell in the farrowing season. 

Another progressive practice Fred North employs is the use of gilts 
(young sows) for breeding instead of mature animals. Kesearch 
has demonstrated that the progeny of these young mothers make 
faster, more economical gains up to market weight than those of 
mature sows; and shortly after the brood has been weaned, the gilt 
can be marketed at a price comparable with that of slaughter hogs. 

Progress in disease control. 

Everything that will keep pigs alive, healthy, thriving, and grow- 
ing as fast as possible is important in the swine business. Prevention 
and control of disease is one of Fred North's main concerns; and here 
veterinary science has been making notable advances in recent years. 
Outstanding is the development during the past 30 years of vaccines 
that effectively prevent hog cholera, a virus disease that used to 
sweep over large, areas causing losses as high as $65,000,000 a year. 
A new serum-virus gives lifelong immunity in all except a very few 
cases. Another new vaccine gives effective protection against swine 
erysipelas, the second most devastating disease. A long list of other 
diseases to which swine are subject have been, or are on their way 
to being brought under control. Control of parasites has also become 
increasingly effective and exact. 

All this means that in Fred North's system of management, clean- 
liness and sanitation are of prime, importance. Gone are the days of 
muddy hogpens and wallows, slops fed in unclean troughs, and 
crowded hoghouses, messy with litter and manure. The Norths' 
hogs are divided into small groups; they have concrete feeding Moors 
easily kept clean, and sun yards, and plenty of clean fresh water; 
they are watched and tested for certain diseases, vaccinated, quar- 
antined if they get sick, and so on. The writer of this booklet still 
remembers falling oh*' a fence into a hog trough when he was a very 
small boy. It would be a much cleaner experience today. 

4123. r )l>0— 57- 



The cattle breeding operation. 

The beef cattle operation too has gone through important changes 
in recent years. The present-day beef animal is as square-cut and 
chunky as though it were made from an oblong block of wood with 
a minimum of carving, and almost as low-slung as a dachshund or a 
1956 model automobile. The Midwest, rich in corn, alfalfa, and 
high-grade pasture, is a sort of gourmet's paradise for cattle shipped 
in from the vast Western short-grass rangelands; they stuff them- 
selves and fatten fast, emulating the Corn Belt pigs. The economics 
of the business depends primarily on the relation between the market 
price of beef and the cost of feedstuffs, whether farm-produced or 
bought. To take a hypothetical example, if a Midwest feeder buys 
steers at a weight of around 700 pounds and fattens them to around 
1,000 pounds in a period of 150 days, it would require approximately 
3,800 pounds of concentrates to build the added 300 pounds of body 
weight. Unless the feed costs less than the difference between the 
purchase price and the sales price, with an additional margin for 
interest, labor, etc., the feeder will lose money. So he tries to cut 
costs in every way he can, shop around for the best price, and sell 
at the most advantageous time. 

Beefsteak from nitrogen. 

One of the relatively new practices that may help to cut feeding 
costs, though this too is a question of price relationships, is the use 
of urea to replace part of the protein in feeds. Urea is practically 
pure nitrogen, the main ingredient of protein, in crystalline form, 
and it is manufactured synthetically by atmospheric fixation. No 
other animals except ruminants are equipped by nature to turn this 
inorganic chemical into body proteins; all others must get their 
protein ready-made. The ruminant does it by the round-about trick 
of nurturing a good supply of special bacteria in the first of its four 
stomachs, the rumen. It is the bacteria that actually utilize the 
inorganic nitrogen, building from it the protein of their microscopic 
bodies. Eventually, death overtakes them. The dead bacteria are 
then digested by the host animal, and duly converted into beefsteak, 
leather, and the other useful things we human beings get from steers. 

A pound of urea contains almost as much nitrogen as 6y 2 pounds 
of soybean meal of 41 percent protein content. It can safely replace 
up to a third of the total protein in the ration. The use of urea makes 
it possible to feed some low quality roughage — poor hay, straw, etc., 
as sources of carbohydrate to replace more costly high-quality 

A highly mechanized farm. 

Fred North is as machine-minded as Dan West, and his farm has 
to have an even greater variety of mechanical equipment than Dan's. 
In fact, whenever any machine can substitute economically for hu- 
man labor, Fred's aim is to make use of it, by buying or renting or 
even on occasion making it. 

On the North farm, and throughout the Corn Belt, the most 
important machines are those for the production and harvesting of 
the principal crop, corn ; and of those the most important is probably 
the corn picker. 



Fifty percent more cornpickers. 


Corn is u big, heavy, cumbersome plant, awkward to handle by 
hand, and harvesting it used to be a slow laborious process. Now the 
number of farms on which this work is done by machines is rapidly 
increasing; there were 680,000 farmers having corn pickers in 1954, 
for example — 50 percent more than in 1950. Between % and % of 
the corn acreage in the Corn Belt is now harvested with pickers. 
The machine cuts the labor required by almost three-fourths; it 
shortens the harvesting season so that all the corn can be in before 
winter hits. Powered by a tractor, the corn picker moves along the 
rows, grinding the corn plants between two rollers, which snap off 
the ears. The ears then fall to another pair of rollers that strip off 
the husks; they then ride up a slanting conveyor and are dumped 
into a wagon trailed behind. 

There are also picker-shellers that pick, husk, and shell the corn, 
delivering the shelled grain to the trailed wagon ; stationary shellers; 
driers that lower the moisture content of the corn so it can be stored 
safely; husker-shredders, which handle corn already cut and cured 
in the. shock; stalk-cutters, which cut up stalks left in the field after 
harvesting; power feed grinders, for grinding corn and other grains 
(over 700,000 farmers had these machines in 1954) ; mixers, for 
making up feed mixtures; wagons equipped to deliver feed auto- 
matically in measured amounts to feed troughs; field harvesters for 
cutting and chopping green corn for silage (reported by about 
200,000 farmers in 1954) ; hydraulic lifts and chain hoists for raising 
and moving heavy weights; and so on. All this work used to be 
done much more slowly and laboriously by the muscle of man and 

Economics of machines. 

One of the problems of mechanized fanning is to make full enough 
use of some of these machines to achieve maximum economy. A corn 
picker costs around $1,500. The one-row machine can harvest up to 
200 acres in a season ; the two-row, 400 to 450 acres. Fred North has 
75 acres in corn. How get the full benefit of such costly equipment 
before it becomes obsolete? A partial answer is custom work and 
joint ownership. Fred North owns his corn picker and harvests corn 
for other farmers; in turn, he hires a combine with an operator to 
harvest his wheat, oats, and soybeans; and he and two other farmers 
jointly own a pick-up hay baler. This too is an expensive device; 
a self-propelled machine costs around $2,500, one operated from the 
power take-off of a tractor, around $1,500. But it makes an easy, 
quick job of what used to be the hard, sweaty, uncomfortable, time- 
consuming work of getting in the hay crop. Even with such de- 
velopments as power forks, mechanical loaders, slings, and conveyors, 
handling loose hay was troublesome. The pick-up baler takes the 
hay up from the windrow, compresses it into a tight rectangular bale 
with a plunger device, ties it mechanically with twine or wire, and 
drops the bales to the ground, where they can be picked up by me- 
chanical loaders and put on a truck or trailer. ( Another type flattens 
the hay in the windrow and rolls it up like a carpet into round bales.) 



Three-fourths of all hay now baled. 

The automatic pick-up baler operated by one man (all the earlier 
methods required a crew) was developed about 1940. So great is the 
saving of labor that its use has spread rapidly. Between 1950 and 
1954, the number of pick-up balers on farms increased from 192,000 
to 443,000, according to Census figures; and in 1954 almost three- 
fourths of the 100 million tons of hay in the United States was baled, 
the part of the crop still handled in long loose form being mainly 
in dry areas or on western ranches where hay can be left stacked in 
the field. A still newer device, even more economical of time and 
labor, is the pick-up chopper which chops the hay from the windrow. 
The amount of hay chopped and baled increased from 2 percent of 
the crop in 1944 to 7 percent in 1954. 

The work saved in handling the hay crop by these new methods 
compared with hand labor must add up to a very impressive total. 
Even the thought of lifting one hundred million tons of hay by the 
forkful, first to the wagon and then to the hayloft, entirely with arm, 
back, and leg muscles, is fatiguing. It all used to be done that way. 

Billions of hours saved. 

Haymaking is, of course, only a part of the transformation. In 
1920 it took some 24 billion man-hours to produce this country's ag- 
ricultural products, according to U. S. Department of Agriculture 
figures. In 1955 it took only 14.6 billion — a reduction of about 40 
percent, Meanwhile, output (or that part of it intended for use by 
human beings) increased by 60 percent, and the number of workers 
on farms fell from 13.4 to 8.2 million — a drop of almost a third. In 
1920, each farmworker produced enough food and fiber for eight 
and one-half people, including himself, and in 1954 enough for 20 
people. An hour's work in 1954 was equal to two and one-half hours 
in 1920. The number of farms in this period decreased from 6.4 
to 4.8 million, but the average size expanded from 148 to 242 acres. 

This prodigious change in 35 years parallels the same kind of prog- 
ress in industry, which, as we said earlier, is now inseparably meshed 
with agriculture in a new T kind of unity, based on the discoveries of 
physics, chemistry, and biology that apply to both. 

Old legends tell about the knight or warrior who was an ordinary 
weak mortal until he got the magic weapon that gave him gigantic, 
untiring strength. This is what science has done for Fred North, 
but more dependably than magic. 



Jack Lait's dairy farm. 

Milk production an exacting business. 

True conservation farming. 

There were 20 million milk cows in the United States in 195-4. 
Only half of them, 10.7 million, were on commercial dairy farms; 
but this half produced four-fifths of the whole milk sold for con- 
sumption as fluid milk, condensed milk, and cheese. On the other 
hand, the dairy farms produced less than a fifth of the cream sold, 
largely to be made into butter. The rest came from farmers who 
did not make dairying their main business. 

The principal milk-poducing region in the United States is the 
Northern dairy belt. It extends from New England through Wis- 
consin and Minnesota and is divided into five major dairy areas. 
The oldest of these is the Northeast dairy area, which takes in 
Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, most of New York, and parts of 
Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. 

In the heart of this area are the lovely rolling green hills and 
meadows of south-central New York, where Jack Lait runs a 215- 
acre farm with some 38 head of cattle — 24 of them milking cows and 
the remainder young stock. 

Jack Lait is not a large-scale producer. His gross income in 1954 
was a little over $7,000, which puts him in what the Census calls 
Economic Class III; the big Class I dairy farm would probably 
gross five times as much, around $35,000. Eighty to ninety percent 
of his returns comes from whole milk, though the sale of cattle and 
calves brings in around $500 a year; few people realize that a con- 
siderable portion of the beef marketed in the United States comes 
from cows culled from dairy herds, and bull calves are of course 
ordinarily sold for veal. The Laits usually have a pig or two and 
some 60 to 70 chickens, which provide a little cash from the sale of 
eggs; but on the whole, the business is strictly dairying, for the fresh 
milk market. An exacting business it is too, requiring meticulous 
attention to detail, with a couple of dozen cows to be milked at least 
730 times a year, and half again as many to be fed, watered, and 
cleaned up after just about as frequently. Of all farmers, the suc- 
cessful dairyman has to have a temperament peculiarly suited to his 
work. "The eye of the master fattens his cattle." It must be a 
calm as well as a knowledgeable eye; for if the ruminating cow seems 
to be as placid as a statue, the fact is that she is singularly sensitive 
to good or bad treatment and that even a change in the daily 
routine can have a prompt effect in reducing her milk production. 

The soil here is what is known as gray-brown podzolic, leached by 
the 40-inch yearly rainfall and developed under the immense forest 
that originally covered this area. It is not particularly fertile but 
responds well to manure and to the fertilizer which the daily farmers 
use as liberally as they can afford to. The system of farming is 
calculated to keep the soil in good condition, for this is primarily a 
hay-and-pasture area, with a minimum amount of land in row crops. 
Of the Laits' 215 acres, 70 are harvested cropland, and most of this 
is hay ; there are hardly 20 acres in oats and corn, the latter grown for 
silage. The total pasturage adds up to a hundred acres, about 
a fourth of it pastured woodland. Another 25 to 30 acres is in 
woodland not pastured. So more than nine-tenths of this farm has a 
year-round vegetative cover such as might gladden the heart of a 
conservationist. The whole countryside, in fact, looks as pastoral as 
though it had stepped out of a poem by John Milton. 



Jack Lait's invisible partners. 

This does not mean, however, that the dairy cows of the area 
manufacture their milk entirely from grass and clover. They also 
get carefully calculated rations of grain and concentrates. But Jack 
Lait does not produce this part of the feed. Like the other dairymen 
of the region, he has it shipped in from the Middle West. If he had 
to raise all his feed himself, he could keep only half as many cows 
on the same amount of land. By having other farmers raise some of 
it, he can about double his production. Expensive as this process is, 
the demand for fresh milk in the cities and towns of this most densely 
populated part of the United States is so great that it pays. In effect, 
then, a sizable share of Jack Lait's milk production comes from 
Midwest soil, and Midwest farmers are unseen partners in his 

In fact, of all farm businesses dairy production is one of the most 
intricate, integrated, and highly organized within and among pro- 
ducers and handlers. This is fundamentally because of the nature of 

The universal food of youngsters. 

Infants the world over start life with milk as their only food. 
In the United States they graduate from the breast to cow's milk ; and 
from then on, the milk of cows is the most universal and important 
food of every American youngster, though children in many other 
countries are not so fortunate. Increasingly it has become an im- 
portant part of the diet of all young people, even up to the age of 20 
or so, and nowadays of people from 20 on. In fact this most nearly 
complete food has so grown in popularity, largely as a result of 
modern nutritional research and education, that the per capita con- 
sumption of milk and milk products — other than butter — increased 
about a fifth from 1925 to 1954. Though milk is not in the same 
category as air and water from the standpoint of human need, in 
this country it is probably the most nearly indispensable food; and 
if some catastrophe suddenly cut off the milk supply of any sizable 
part of the population, the result would be calamitous. At the same 
time, this well-nigh indispensable food is peculiarly perishable, be- 
coming loaded with germs when it is wrongly handled and requiring 
at every stage from production to consumption the utmost cleanliness, 
sanitation, refrigeration or other sanitary safeguards, and dispatch. 

7 '' 



Safeguarding the milk supply. 

So the United States economy, with its rapidly growing nonfarm 
population and rapidly shrinking number of farmers (in Jack Lait's 
part of the country, central New York, less than 15 percent of the 
population are farmers), has developed a remarkably complex milk 
industry. The producers themselves are well organized in most of 
the big dairy areas — so well that they can register effective protests 
when they think something is seriously wrong with prices or mar- 
keting conditions. Since 1!>.'5T, a Federal law, the Agricultural Mar- 
keting Agreement Act, has operated in most of the major areas (ex- 
cept where it is not needed or where there are adequate State controls) 
to fix the prices handlers must pay for milk and prescribe the method 
of prorating the returns to producers. This is a very complicated 
procedure since the price varies according to the use to which the 
milk is to be put, which in turn varies with the area and the season, 
and also according to the fat content and quality of the milk, the 
price and supply of feed locally available, handling costs, and other 
factors. The law, based on the fact that milk is so peculiarly essen- 
tial a food, provides for public hearings and is designed to insure an 
adequate supply, adequate returns to producers, and orderly mar- 
keting in the public interest. In addition, of course, sanitary regu- 
lations govern production and handling from the cow's udder 
through collection and pasteurizing and bottling to the ultimate re- 
tail outlet, and they are especially strict in the case of milk to be 
used fresh. 

No farmer can go it alone. 

The general truth that no farmer today can be self-sufficing or 
independent in the sense that almost all farmers used to be applies 
with particular force to dairymen in the position of Jack Lait. At 
one end, he is dependent on others for an important part of his feed. 
At the other end, his product has to be taken off his hands regularly, 
promptly, and efficiently, and go through an elaborate, rather costly 
distribution system. He is subject to a cost squeeze at one end and 
a price squeeze at the other that might crush him without some such 
protection as the marketing agreements provide. Even so, he has 
to do an increasingly efficient production job to stay in business, and 
this requires cooperation of another sort. 

As in all branches of agriculture, two factors have a particularly 
vital bearing on the efficiency and profitableness of a dairy opera- 
tion — how much production per cow? — how much milk per man- 
hour of labor? 


Dairy-cow breeding program. 


Of the various elements that determine the former, breeding is the 
most important. The average production of United States dairy 
cows has been steadily rising. From an average of 4,167 pounds 
a year in 1924 it has gone up to 5,512 in 1954, an increase of almost 
one-third in 30 years. To a considerable extent this is due directly 
or indirectly to the nationwide Dairy Herd Improvement Associa- 
tion (DHIA) movement which began in the United States in 1906 
(having originated in Denmark) and had spread to about 21,000 
herds by 1956. In the interval, two simpler plans adapted to smaller 
herds, the Weigh-a-Day-a-Month and the Owner-Sampler programs, 
grew out of the DHIA movement ; and the cow-testing, recordkeep- 
ing habit became so widespread that it was possible to inaugurate 
the national Proved Sire Program in 1935. 

Throughout the country there were some 2,266 associations in 
the DHIA program in 1956. Each association has a supervisor who 
spends one day a month at each member's farm and makes an official 
record of each cow's production, feed consumption, etc., for that day. 
This costs the producer about $0.40 a cow a month or, say, about $105 
a year for the average of 22 milking cows in a herd the size of Jack 
Lait's. In the two other plans the owner himself does the weighing 
and recordkeeping. The Owner-Sampler plan costs about $0.25 a 
cow a month, or some $66 a year for a herd the size of Lait's, and 
the Weigh-a-Day-a-Month plan (which omits butterfat testing) 
about $0.05 a cow a month — $13 a year for a herd the size of Lait's. 

In addition to these programs involving the county agents, the 
State Extension Service, and the Federal Government, there is the 
work of the breed associations, which keep official Herd Improvement 
Registry (HIR) records of all the animals in purebred herds, and 
in the case of some breeds, Advanced Registry (AR) records of 
selected animals. Finally, the Proved Sire Program makes sys- 
tematic use of the production records of all the daughters of each 
sire to determine his ability to raise production levels when bred 
to cows in a given herd. A dairyman who uses only proved sires, 
selected to fit the production of his particular herd, should be able 
to increase yields consistently with each new generation. 

Improvement more rapid than ever. 

Now a new element has come into the picture which promises a 
far more rapid advance in average production than could possibly 
have been achieved before. This is artificial insemination. The first 
United States artificial breeding association for dairy animals was 
organized in New Jersey in 1938. Within two years a million cows 
were involved in these organizations. Artificial breeding can extend 
the merit of a good sire from the normal 40 to 50 cows a year by 
natural mating to 5,000 or even 10,000; and with further technical 
improvements the number may be increased before many years to 
25,000. Moreover, distance, is no barrier since the seminal fluid can 
be shipped long distances, even overseas, under refrigeration. For 
a small herd the cost of artificial breeding is far less than that of 
keeping a bull ; the dangers of handling these animals are eliminated ; 
and the dairyman is saved the slow and often disappointing process 
of proving his own bulls by breeding them and raising all the daugh- 
ters to producing age. Artificial insemination also prevents the 
spread of certain diseases. Proved sires are now used for about 
two-thirds of all cows bred artificially, and the other third are bred 
to bulls of exceptional merit in the process of being proved. 



Production up, feed costs down. 


;iV,'> v Y»'--''-' '»■.;. V 


1929 1954 

At least half the cost of producing a hundred pounds of milk is 
the cost of the feed. A cow weighing 1,200 pounds and producing 
4,000 pounds of milk a year requires just as much feed every day 
to maintain herself as does a 1,200 pound cow producing 14,000 
pounds of milk. All the latter needs is enough extra feed to produce 
the extra quantity of milk ; she needs nothing extra for maintaining 
life processes. The result is that the cost of feed per 100 pounds of 
milk drops rapidly with higher production. DHIA records for 
1953-54 show that for a cow producing 4,000 pounds the feed cost 
is $3.15 per hundred pounds. For a cow producing 14,000 pounds 
the feed cost is $1.61 per hundred pounds — about 50 percent less. 

The average DHIA cow in 1!)54 produced 9,363 pounds of milk. 
Jack Lait's herd is far below that figure, averaging about 6,600 
pounds. His milk sales per cow were about $260 in 1954, whereas 
herds in the same area averaging 8,000 pounds brought returns of 
more than $300 per cow. The Laits probably do the best they can 
with the limited resources of a $7,000 gross income — which nets a 
good deal less than half that. At any rate Jack is among the 10 
percent of producers who are well aware of the relation between pro- 
duction levels and costs, keep careful records, cull their cows, use 
the better producers for breeding, and follow a program calculated to 
upgrade the herd. At best this is a slow process, but it would be far 
slower without the widespread cooperation between producers and 
scientists involved in the recordkeeping, breeding, and artificial 
insemination organizations. 

Feed the major expense. 

We noted that Jack Lait's milk sales per cow amounted to some $260 
in 1954. To get this return he had to spend $100 per cow on grain 
and concentrates, or a total of $2,400 for the 24 milkers. Nor is this 
all, because the $275 he spent for fertilizer and lime to spread on 
pasture and cropland was an indirect feed cost, and so was some of the 
$365 for gas and oil, and the $120 for machine hire, and the $370 for 
hired labor to supplement the work of himself and his family ; 
so that in fact most of the direct production expense of $3,500 to 
$3,600 given in Census figures went for feed. Expenditures for seed 
and for machinery repair, not reported in the Census of 1954, would 
add a little more. 

So Jack Lait tries to figure out rations that will keep feed costs 
down as much as possible. Roughage — pasture, hay, ensilage — is the 
cheapest source of energy and also provides a good deal of protein, 
especially if the roughage is high quality clover or alfalfa. He gives 
the animals all they will eat; a cow will clean up 50 pounds of corn 
silage a day in the barn, and 20 to 25 of hay a day even when on 
pasture. But milk is 3.6 percent protein, and a sizable amount of 
this most expensive feed ingredient must be fed daily to keep up 
the milk flow. Tbe aim is to get it from the cheapest available 
soiu'ce. Corn is 7 percent protein, oats 10 percent, barley 9 percent; 
Jack may use one or all in various proportions, plus soybean or 
linseed meal or wheat bran or some other concentrate running much 
higher in protein than the grains. In the end he comes out with 
a mixture averaging, say, 16 percent protein if his hay is not of the 
highest quality, or 14 percent if it is. 



Emphasis on grass. 

gifi'f ' 


1 30 








The cost of high-protein rations, especially in a grain deficit area 
such as Jack Lait's, puts increasing emphasis on getting all the 
nutritive value possible out of the roughage part of the feed. Partly 
this is a matter of pasture management. Pasture forage changes in 
composition and nutritive value with the seasons of the year and the 
stage of maturity of the plants, and fertilized grass may be twice as 
high in protein as unfertilized. In the case of bluegrass, for example, 
the use of manure may mean a yearly increase of as much as 325 
pounds of protein to the acre. This is as good as feeding 800 pounds 
of soybean meal of 41 percent protein content. Using fertilizer and 
manure also stimulates new growth and makes the grass more ap- 
petizing to the animals. 

Better ways of handling and preserving forage are equally im- 
portant. More and more hay, for instance, is being chopped in 
the field, blown onto wagons, blown into the barn, and artificially 
dried, to save not only labor but the maximum amount of nutrients. 
Also, more and more farmers are turning grass and legumes into 
silage, which preserves the nutritive values of the green plants better 
than any other method. The fine-cut fresh material is packed tight 
in the silo, usually with molasses or some other carbohydrate added to 
feed the bacteria that produce the lactic acid needed to preserve the 
silage; or more recently sulphur dioxide gas is injected into the en- 
silage as the cheapest kind of preservative. This grass silage is often 
fed at the rate of more than 100 pounds a day per cow. Good milk 
yields can be produced on roughage alone with this kind of feeding. 
They are not as high as with grain and concentrates, but the economics 
of production may force a stronger trend toward straight roughage 
feeding in some areas. 

Mastitis the biggest disease problem. 

Prevention and control of disease is also more or less constantly 
on Jack Lait's mind. Fortunately, tuberculosis is now completely 
under control, as all herds are tested regularly. Bang's disease 
is still responsible for losses amounting to $100,000,000 a year, but 
testing, vaccination of calves, and other measures have achieved a 
considerable degree of control. 

The most common and serious disease is mastitis. Sooner or later 
practically every cow in the United States gets this udder infection, 
which always brings a temporary and sometime a permanent re- 
duction in milk yield, boosts the bacteria count of the milk, and may 
in extreme cases ruin whole herds. Losses are estimated by the United 
States Department of Agriculture at $225,000,000 a year. No dairy- 
man can hope to succeed who is not constantly on the alert for 
mastitis and conscientious in preventing and controlling it. Several 
kinds of micro-organisms cause the disease, particularly streptococci 
and staphylococci. At one time there were high hopes that penicillin 
might completely control mastitis, but there are too many causes for 
any one remedy to be effective in all cases. Good dairymen have 
learned that they can minimize the damage by very careful herd 
management, unremitting emphasis on sanitation, periodic testing of 
all animals, accurate diagnosis of those affected, and treatment with 
the proper drug, depending on the cause in each specific case. 



A horse-and-tractor farm. 

From the standpoint of labor-saving devices, Jack Lait is reason- 
ably well equipped. Like more than half the dairy producers in this 
area, he still uses both horse and gasoline power for field work. The 
biggest labor saver in harvesting is the field forage harvester, a ma- 
chine that not only cuts and chops standing corn, grass, and legumes 
for ensilage, but can also be adapted to picking up and chopping bay 
and straw from the windrow. These machines, first introduced about 
1920, are becoming so popular, especially in dairy areas, that the 
number on farms jumped from 80,000 in 1950 to 200,000 in 1954. 
Though they represent a considerable investment, one-third of those 
in the East were owned by farmers with less than 180-acre farms. 
In many cases the cost is reduced by joint ownership or by doing 
contract work for other farmers. 

Milking by machine. 

The most universally used mechanical device among dairy farmers 
is of course the milking machine; 90 percent of the producers in the 
Northeast area had them in 1954. This machine takes the tedious- 
ness out of the milking chore. Each machine more than doubles 
the number of cows one man can handle in an hour, and he can run 
several machines simultaneously. Vacuum cups attached to the four 
teats are actuated by rhythmic pulsators that suck out the milk, which 
is emptied into a container; or in the most up-to-date and economical 
method, it is passed along through a pipeline to a stainless steel tank 
in the milkroom, where it is cooled by refrigeration and stored until 
the refrigerated tank truck of the dairy company collects it each day, 
all without any direct handling and therefore with greatly reduced 
chances of contamination. 

The well-run farm. 

The Laits' big, clean, well-lighted barn is arranged for handling 
and distributing feed in carts and for ease in the twice-a-day removal 
of manure from the gutters, to be spread on the fields daily with a 
mechanical manure spreader (not pitched with a fork from the tail 
of a wagon as in the old days) or if necessary stored temporarily 
under cover to keep the fertility elements undamaged by weather. 
Ja^k Lait would like to have one of the gutter cleaners that removes 
manure mechanically with a revolving-screw pushing device but has 
not. been able to afford it yet. 

Home life reflects agricultural advance. 




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The revolutionary developments that have occurred in agriculture 
in recent decades are nowhere more strikingly evident than in the 
home and community life of farm families. Like Dan West and 
Fred North, John Lait has a good paved road running past the farm, 
which is not many miles from a good-sized town. He and Mary and 
the three youngsters do not feel that they live away out in the coun- 
try, isolated from city life like the older generation. In the car or 
truck they can get to town quickly to see movies, visit a wide array 
of shops and stores, eat at a restaurant, and in fact enjoy most of the 
advantages of a city without the disadvanage of having to live in one. 
Although they seldom have occasion to travel by air, they are not far 
from an airport. They have a radio in the house and another portable 
one that as often as not is in use in the barn. This, witli a daily paper 
delivered at the door, keeps them in touch with the news, daily market 
developments, and so on. In fact, like city folk, they are constantly 
bombarded by air with news reports, commentaries, music, drama, 
advertising, and a regular farm program. 



It. need hardly be said that like almost all farm families in their 
economic group in the area, the Laits also have electricity, telephone, 
electric refrigerator, and washing machine. They want to get a 
freezer as soon as they can afford it ; over half of the families in their 
economic group in the area had freezers in 1954. 

Television comes to the farm. 

Recently the Laits acquired a television set. The purchase of tele- 
vision sets by farm families within the past few years is the most 
striking current evidence of the rapid disappearance of traditional 
differences between city and country. The farm Census collected 
statistics on television ownership for the first time in 1954. In 1950 
there were very few sets on farms. By 1954 a third of all the farmers 
in the United States had them. The concentration is of course great- 
est where there are nearby broadcasting stations. In this 4- to 5-year 
period, more than 8 out of 10 farmers in New Jersey bought television 
sets; almost 8 out of 10 in Rhode Island; about 7 out of 10 in New 
York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio ; about 6 out of 10 in Indiana, 
Delaware, Maryland, California; more than 5 out of 10 in Michigan, 
Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire. In Montana, Wyoming, and 
Nevada less than one farm in 10 had television — but many more un- 
doubtedly would have had if programs had been available. 

In other words Jack and Mary Lait want the same good things 
for themselves and their children that city families have, and they 
get these things as soon as they can afford to. This particular device 
for entertainment and education is especially well calculated to make 
them feel in intimate contact with persons and events far beyond 
their own neighborhood. Also, it is well calculated to stimulate the 
sale throughout rural areas of the same products that are sold in 
the cities — clothing, household devices, breakfast foods, and every- 
thing else — so that farm and city people will become even more 

Differences in dairy areas. 

While Jack Lait's farm is typical of the Northeast dairy region, 
conditions vary considerably among the different major areas, of 
which there are 4 others — Eastern Ohio- Western Pennsylvania, 
Central Michigan-New York Lake Shore, Northern Lake, and 
Northern Woods. The Northern Lake area, for example, produces 
only twice as much milk as the Northeast area but 10 times as much 
butter and 16 times as much cheese. In fact, the North Central 
States produce 80 percent of the United States butter supply, about 
79 percent of the American cheese, 65 percent of the farm-type 
cheeses, and 50 percent of the evaporated and condensed milk. But 
as we have noted earlier, much of the cream supply, which goes into 
butter, comes from farms where dairying is secondary to other kinds 
of production. 

Besides these main dairy areas there are seven smaller ones where 
dairying is important — Nashville Basin, Gulf Coastal, Ozark- 
Springfield, Snake River-Utah Valley, Southern California, Sacra- 
mento-San Joaquin, Puget Sound-Coastal. 



Of all the dairy areas, Southern California is the most unique, 
not to say fabulous. Here a handful] of farmers, comparatively 
speaking, have made Los Angeles the leading county in the United 
States in milk production and number of milk cows. Of 23,847 
commercial farms in the Southern California area in 1954, only 1,101 
were dairy farms, four-fifths located around Los Angeles. The 
herds run from 200 to 300 cows each. Average sales in 1954 were 
$107,000 per farm, over nine-tenths from dairy products. Average 
production per cow was 11,112 pounds and average sales per cow 
$548. Total investment per farm averaged $136,502. Most of the 
farms do not raise their own feed; they buy high-quality baled al- 
falfa hay, often trucked from considerable distances, or fresh-cut 
green alfalfa delivered daily by truck. Cows are replaced every two 
to three years by animals not raised on the farm but bought from 
other farmers, often in distant parts of the country. The average 
expenditure for feed in 1954 was $48,000, and for labor, $15,000. 
One man handles as many as 60 cows. This system of utilizing the 
cow's endocrine system to produce milk in big, highly specialized, 
biological factories seems to be a product, of climatic and economic 
factors in that particular area. 

The Los Angeles area is an extreme case, not likely to be duplicated 
elsewhere. By contrast with the average investment of more than 
$135,000 per farm there, Jack Lait's total investment is $24,000— 
$14,000 in land and buildings, $10,000 in machinery and livestock. 
But in his area as elsewhere, the general trend is toward larger farms, 
bigger herds, more production per cow, more machinery, heavier 
investment, an increase in the proportion of farms in the higher in- 
come brackets — more of almost everything, in fact, except low-income 
producers and young people to go into dairying. 





Jim Avery. 

Born and raised on a farm, Jim Avery had gone to work in one 
of northern Oregon's big lumber mills when he was a young man ; 
but farming was in his blood and he always had a hankering to get 
back to it. His chance came when he was almost 50 years old. An 
accident at the mill left him with a bad leg and a small pension, 
not enough to live on. The children were grown by then and had 
their own families to take care of. It took Jim and Martha no time 
at all to decide what they were going to do — buy a farm with their 
small savings and some borrowed money and raise chickens. (It is 
an interesting fact, incidentally, that nearly half the poultrymen in 
that region are past the age of 55, and about a fourth of them are 
over 65.) 


They liked chickens. 

That was ten years ago. They never regretted it. They made 
very little money, but they liked the life, they liked the country, they 
liked chickens, and they produced enough fruit, berries, vegetables, 
and milk on the place, plus the eggs and poultry, to eat, as Jim put it, 
like royalty. For this was a beneficent land they lived in, this valley 
area between the Cascades and the Coast Range — mild winters, cool 
summers, plenty of rain, magnificent trees and mountains, a climate 
and soil admirable for the production of fruits and nuts and dairy 
products and poultry, good neighbors, and booming towns and cities 
to provide nearby markets. 

Jim's income. 

Jim's income from the farm in 1954 was about $3,600, so he was in 
what the Census Bureau calls Economic Class IV. The place had 35 
acres, which is very small as farms go but not as small as many highly 
specialized poultry farms. With that much land he could devote 
14 or 15 acres to pasture and 9 or 10 acres to growing a little hay, oats, 
wheat, bailey, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. There was enough to sell 
about $170 worth of crop products in 1954, besides what he fed and 
used in the house. In addition Jim and Martha kept a couple of milk 
cows and usually had a calf or two and a pig. The cows were in pro- 
duction practically only during the long grazing season, but they 
produced enough milk to bring a return of some $140 from a local 
factory making Oregon's excellent cheddar cheese. The sale of other 
livestock products aside from eggs and poultry brought in about the 
same amount. 

Around $3,100 of the $3,600 farm income came from poultry prod- 
ucts — $2,300 from eggs, $440 from broilers, $310 from other chickens 
sold for meat, and $60 from minor items. Essentially, then, Jim 
and Martha were in the egg business, which contributed two-thirds of 
their farm income while other poultry products brought in another 
•20 percent or so. 



Small-scale producer in a squeeze. 

Not much of the $3,600 was left after meeting expenses. The 
ratio of costs to returns is exceptionally high in the poultry business, 
and it squeezes especially hard on the small-scale producer. Jim 
Avery, with a flock of 500 chickens (excluding those under 4 months 
old) of the egg-meat breed highly favored in Oregon, was on the 
small side as poultry farms go, and the year's work he and Martha 
put in did not net them more than a few hundred dollars at best. 
Farther down the scale, the Economic Class VI producer is more than 
likely to lose money. Altogether, in specialized poultry production 
the pressure is particularly heavy to operate on a bigger and bigger 
scale to make any reasonable profit. In 1954 there were almost 32,300 
fewer small poultry farms (Economic Classes IV, V, and VI) in the 
United State- than there were in 1950, but there were 11,000 more 
large ones (Classes I, II, and III) ; and the number of the biggest 
farms (Class I) increased by half. (This does not mean more acre- 
age; the trend is toward less land but larger flocks.) The net de- 
crease in the total number of poultry farms, therefore, was around 
'21,000 in the five-year period. One out of five in Jim Avery's eco- 
nomic group either went out of the poultry business or enlarged to a 
bigger size. 

How much profit? 

In fact it is questionable whether Jim Avery actually made a profit 
from farming in 1954. According to Census figures, poultrymen in 
his economic group in that particular area spent an average of $2,660 
for feed, $1 14 for gas and oil, $12 for lime and fertilizer, $64 for hired 
labor, and $43 for machine hire. These cash expenses total $2,893, 
leaving a return of $707. Jim did not spend anything for hired 
labor or machine hire that year, which increases the return by about 
$100. But he did have other expenses. These the Census does not 
pinpoint specifically for Oregon poultrymen in his economic group 
but does estimate for poultry farms in the United States as a whole. 
They include purchase of chicks and other stock, machinery repair 
and maintenance, marketing cost, miscellaneous expenses (vaccines, 
veterinary services, etc.), real estate tax, interest, construction and 
land improvement, and purchase of machinery and equipment. The 
average of these expenses for the smaller-scale operations (Economic 
Classes IV, V, and VI) is about $1,800. Assuming that Jim Avery 
did not have all of them in 1954, he did have to buy baby chicks (a 
sizeable item — 500 at 40 cents would cost $200), get machinery re- 
paired, pay the veterinarian, and meet the cost of taxes and interest, 
all of which might well add up to enough to eliminate any profit. 
Certainly if you consider the poultry operation alone, with gross 
sales of $3,100, it could hardly be considered remunerative. 

A sense of accomplishment. 

That is why Jim's small pension comes in handy, and also why, 
being a good mechanic and in demand, he occasionally puts in a few 
days working at the mill during rush periods. Considering all the 
food he and Martha get from the farm and the house, which is old 
but comfortable to live in, and the work to keep a vigorous man like 
himself busy and interested, he considers that fanning pays; but 
he would admit that a good deal of the return is not in the form 
of hard cash but in the psychological sense of accomplishment and 
healthful living. He is one of the cases, increasing in number, where 
the. city meshes directly with the country in the sense that it provides 
part of the fanner's livelihood, though in his case not very much. 



In 1954 well over a third of the poultrymen in Jim's economic group 
in that area earned more money from outside work than the value 
of the farm products they sold, and a fourth of them worked at 
least 200 days off the farm. 

How much capital invested? 

Capital investment per poultry farm, United States : 

Land and buildings .$13,646 

Equipment 2, 496 

Livestock 1, 536 

Total 17, 678 

Although it is not possible from the 1954 Census figures to de- 
termine just how much capital an Oregon poultryman in Jim Avery's 
position has invested in his place, the figures are available for the 
United States as a whole. The average for a poultry farm in Eco- 
nomic Class IV in 1954 was a little over $14,000— almost $11,000 
in land and buildings, about $1,200 in poultry and other livestock, 
and about $2,000 in machinery and equipment. In the case of Eco- 
nomic Class I poultry farms the average investment in 1954 was 
three times as much, close to $45,000. 

A business of paradoxes. 

Jim Avery is in a business that rather bristles with paradoxes. 
It has about the highest sales return yet the smallest margin of profit 
of any type of farming. It accounts for 28 percent of all the returns 
from livestock production — more than half as much as dairying does; 
yet it, adds the least value over and above costs. 

Since a large share of the cost of production goes for feed, poultry 
producers contribute materially to the income of other farmers and 
of feed dealers. In particular, poultry use a lot of grain. They 
consume about a billion bushels a year to produce the same number 
of calories in the form of eggs and meat that people could get (if 
they had to) from one-eighth that number of bushels consumed 

Almost everybody used to keep chickens. 






^JT>-.- 1 

1 B-^i 

Almost everybody used to keep chickens — 9 out of 10 farmers and 
a great many villagers and townspeople as well. On the farms they 
were commonly a sideline, often a source of "pin money" for the 
womenfolk ; in the villages, a backyard companion of the vegetable 
garden, fed mainly on scraps. Today only one farm in 3 sells eggs 
(though 7 out of 10 still keep chickens, most of them for the home 
table), and 5 percent or less of commercial farms specialize in 
poultry production. 

The big and little flocks. 

Percent of chickens in big flocks (1600 or more 


1954 18. 7 

1950 9. 4 

1940 3. 8 

1935 2. 9 

Chickens are scattered all over the country, but the hens in 5 
States— California, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and New Jer- 
sey—laid two-fifths of the eggs sold in 1954. In three geographic 
regions (of the 9 designated by Census) the small precentage of farms 
with big flocks of 1,600 or more had a large share of the chickens. 
Two-thirds of the chickens in New England were on 11 percent of 
the farms; over half of those in the Middle Atlantic and the Pacific 
regions were on less than 7 percent of the farms. On the other hand, 
in the East North Central and West North Central regions, which 
account for a little less than half of the eggs sold, over 80 percent of 
the chickens are in small flocks of less than 400 and one-third in 
flocks of 200 or less; very few farms have as many as 1,600 birds. 



Obviously, in this huge area, egg production is seldom the main farm 
business. But the region produces most of the country's grain, and 
farmers there can feed chickens a good deal more cheaply than the 
specialized poultry producers in the East and West who have to im- 
port feed. Egg prices are generally higher in the East and West 
than they are in the Midwest. 

How can the Atlantic Coast and the Pacific Coast producers com- 
pete with this situation? Partly because, devoting practically all 
their time to poultry, they are extremely efficient. The 15 States 
where laying hens averaged more than 200 eggs per bird in 1955 in- 
cluded all three on the Pacific Coast, where the averages were very 
high, around 210 eggs or more ; 7 of the 9 States in the North Atlantic 
and Middle Atlantic regions, on the East Coast ; but only 5 of the 36 
States in all the other regions. The lowest egg production per bird 
is in some of the Southern States. But — another paradox — the 
South does an extraordinary job with broilers ; the 16 South Atlantic 
and South Central States accounted for two-thirds of the 3.3 billion 
pounds produced in the United States in 1955, and Georgia alone 
contributed more than a sixth of the total United States production. 

Where the chickens are located. 






/ ~T~— L_ / 

i i m ^Tkf 






: V 

~- \ Jh\ 



\ -f lD0T.5a0OC 


The first of the three maps shows where the chickens are located. 
Notice the intense concentrations in a relatively few coastal areas 
and the diffuse scattering in the Midwest. The second shows where 
the eggs are sold; again there are intense coastal concentrations and 
diffusion in the center. Finally, the third map shows the main 
strictly commercial poultry areas. 


Gigantic setting hen. 


A hatchery is a gigantic artificial setting hen much bigger than 
any Paul Bunyan ever had. At intervals it turns out hundreds of 
thousands of fuzzy baby chicks, which are shipped a day after hatch- 
ing either in cartons by mail or in special trucks or vans. Artificial 
hatching on a large scale, is not new ; the Egyptians and Chinese were 
experts at it probably thousands of years ago, with no way to judge 
temperature except by touch. The modern hatchery with automatic 
temperature and moisture control, mechanical turning of the eggs, 
and so on, is new, and so is mail shipment of chicks, which began in 
the United States in 1918. 

Progress in control of disease. 

The hatchery business is now one of the highly specialized branches 
of the poultry industry, and it was a major factor in making present- 
day commercial production possible. The egg or broiler producer no 
longer breeds his own stock. The hatchery does the breeding or buys 
eggs from breeders. This end of the industry, then, is a particularly 
vital one, for the hen's rate of production, viability of the eggs, rate 
of growth, rate of feathering, size of egg, and other characteristics 
important to the egg- or meat-producing chicken are inherited. 
Progress in poultry genetics and breeding, and the specialization in 
breeding fostered by the development, of hatcheries, are foundation 
stones of the industry today. Control of pullorum disease, which 
once killed off young chickens like a man blowing out candles on a 
birthday cake, is also an achievement of the hatchery business. Not 
that the threat is by any means removed; but the system of blood 
testing for carriers and accrediting hatcheries as "pullorum clean" 
or "pullorum passed" under the National Poultry Improvement 
Plan — initiated in 1935 — is a major development. 

From cheepers to chickens. 

Though Jim Avery does not have to be a poultry genetics expert, 
he is well aware of the importance of good stock and selects his source 
of chicks accordingly. The van delivers the little cheepers to him 
around the first of the year. He uses small movable colony houses, 
each equipped with a stove to supply heat and a hover to keep the 
heat confined. The young chickens are kept in these houses until 
they are -1 months old. This early period is an anxious one. The 
chicks are let out into a small yard as soon as possible, and later the 
houses are moved to the range, where good grass and other green 
plants provide excellent forage and help to reduce the feed bill — high 
enough in any case. Feed and water must be supplied regularly, 
temperature and ventilation and humidity watched, overcrowding 
prevented, and hawks, crows, owls, rats, dogs, and other marauders 

About the time the pullets mature they are moved to the laying 
house. Jim converted one end of the big barn, originally built when 
the farm was much larger, to house chickens — not an easy job but, 
less expensive than putting up a new building. The setup is as 
conveniently arranged as possible to save time and labor in collecting 
eggs, feeding, watering, cleaning out litter and manure, spraying 
and painting for cleanliness and sanitation, and inspecting the birds 
on the roosts to cull out or separate the sick, the poorly developed, 
the poor layers, the premature molters ; and the building has good 
ventilation and admits a fair amount of sunlight. 



Meanwhile, before, moving the pullets, the Averys have sold off 
their young cockerels as broilers at the age of about 3 months. They 
buy "straight-run" rather than sexed chicks — sexing being the process 
of separating males and females at the hatchery. Many specialized 
egg producers prefer to get only female chicks ; but they cost more, 
and in the case of a large breed such as the Averys use, the cockerels 
can bring a sizable return which offsets some of the costs of egg 
production. In 1054 in Oregon broilers brought an average of a 
little over 25 cents a pound, or about 75 cents a bird, so that the 
Averys' $440 broiler income represented around 600 birds. Later 
on, at the end of the laying season, they begin selling off the hens 
for meat (at a lower price per pound than broilers) and get ready 
to house a new batch of pullets. 

Same problems, less equipment. 

Jim's problems, and the factors that determine success or failure 
in his poultry business, are the same as those of the big producers 
except that he operates on a small scale and cannot afford to do 
many things the big producer does. 

The main scientific and technological advances of recent years that 
have made specialized poultry enterprises possible include breeding 
for high production; greatly improved feeding; better disease con- 
trol; the prevention of nutritional diseases; the development of ef- 
ficient labor-saving practices; and, especially in the case of poultry 
meat, progress in wholesale and retail handling to reduce spoilage 
and improve quality and convenience (quick freezing has been espe- 
cially important). 

Feed, the big expense. 






Feed, as we have noted, is the biggest single expense; the heavy 
breeds consume about 5 pounds for each dozen eggs produced, plus 
more than four and one-half pounds per pound of body weight up 
to laying time. Poultry rations have been worked out to a fine point, 
and the Averys try to do a good job of feeding. It does not involve 
as much figuring as it might, however, because Jim buys from the 
feed dealer, a large part of his feed already mixed, either in the 
mash form or as pellets. This makes up the entire ration to the 
age of 8 weeks, after which he adds scratch grain, though not all 
producers feed scratch grain nowadays. 

Feed dealers naturally have a large stake in the success of the 
poultry enterprise — so much so that they give a good deal of help 
to producers in the form both of printed material and of an exten- 
sion type of advisory service. In the case of specialized broiler pro- 
duction, feed dealers frequently finance the whole operation. A 
broiler producer who raises, say, 10,000 chicks a year buys them in 
four lots ?> months apart and markets the broilers at the same inter- 
vals. With no income in between, he faces a problem of short-term 
credit, since his outlay for chicks and feed alone may be well over 
$2,000 for each of the four batches, and he operates on a small margin 
of profit, in a fluctuating market, with no Government supports. In 
his case there is an especially high premium on efficient feed use. 



Eggs and meat are the products. 




On the other hand, the birds must be kept eating as much as they 
need ; eggs and meat are conversion products of feed. So when the 
days begin to shorten in the fall Jim starts the clock-regulated light- 
ing system in the laying house, with the lights turned on morning 
or evening so the hens will stay active and eating for a full 13-hour 

He has to be on the watch for several diseases ; some could do a vast 
amount of damage. Pullorum control is now largely in the hands 
of the hatcheries. A number of diseases can be controlled more or 
less effectively by vaccination or immunization — fowl pox, infectious 
bronchitis, laryngotracheitis (to some extent), Newcastle disease. 
For a few, medication is useful — coccidiosis and coryza, for example. 
For some there is no preventive except good management and meticu- 
lous sanitation — chronic respiratory disease, fowl cholera, lympho- 
matosis, which kills as many chickens as all other diseases together. 
If fowl plague or paratyphoid shows up, the affected birds have to 
be eradicated. 

A highly segmented industry. 

SOLD . . . 




1,060 MILLION 

SOLD . . . 






Plainly the Averys are only one segment in a highly segmented 
industry which includes the hatcheries, the hatchery egg producers, 
the market egg producers, the broiler producers, a few producers who 
specialize in roasting birds or capons, the turkey producers, the duck 
producers, and even producers of guineafowl and game birds. A 
large-scale enterprise may resemble a manufacturing plant more 
than it does a farm, at least in the old sense. Instead of small colony 
houses, young chicks may occupy a solid permanent brooder house 
heated by a hot-water system; and the chicks may be bought in 
batches at intervals to make continuous year-round use of the brooder 
house, in which there is a fairly heavy investment. Laying houses 
may be. two or three stories high rather than spread out horizontally. 
There may be automatic self-feeders, automatic watering systems, 
overhead trolleys to haul manure, electric machines to stir the thick 
layer of litter on the floor, hydraulic lifts, electric egg washers, and 
so on. Some of the big farms have metal battery brooders — cages 
stacked one above the other for young chicks; and even laying hens 
may be kept separately confined in small metal cages like guinea 
pigs in a laboratory. But innovations such as cages for layers have 
disadvantages as well as advantages, and, in any case, they are 
practical only in large operations. 

Modern specialized broiler production is perhaps the most factory- 
like of all agricultural production. This business lias grown spec- 
tacularly in recent years. In 1045 the average American ate 21.3 
I>ounds of chicken, of which only 5 pounds was in the form of broil- 
ers. In 1956 he ate only a little more chicken, 23.4 pounds, but 16 
pounds was in the form of broilers. In the same period turkey 
consumption expanded greatly— from 3.5 to 5.4 pounds a person. 
The marked stepping up of broiler and turkey consumption was pro- 
bably due to a combination of high employment, good wages, in- 
creased consumer attractiveness of the product, and economies in 
production due partly to technical advances. 



Eggs were still eggs. 

Meanwhile eggs were, still eggs, and the competition of other foods 
seems to have crept up on them a little. Consumption per person 
averaged 397 in 1045 but dropped to the equivalent of one egg a 
person a day in 1956. Poundwise, of course, 365 average-size eggs 
weigh considerably more than the 28.8 pounds of poultry meat con- 
sumed per person, but dollarwise somewhat less than half of the $2 
billion farm returns from poultry products came from eggs as com- 
pared with meat. A little more than one-fourth of the poultry 
income came from broilers. 

The number of broilers produced in 195-1 reached a total of 1.3 
billion — 97 percent of them coming from 28,000 farms that turned 
out more than 8,000 apiece and only 3 percent from 22,000 smaller 
enterprises such as Jim Avery's. The big plants need very little 
land; practically everything is done indoors. One building may 
house 20,000 birds. Conversion of feed to meat is highly efficient; 
in 1955 it took only 8.8 pounds to produce a three-pound broiler com- 
pared to 12.3 pounds in 1933. The farmer delivers live birds to the 
dressing plant, where killing, plucking, singeing, cleaning, dressing, 
packing, chilling are carried out as a continuous line production 
process; there are even specialists for different stages of evisceration. 

They got what they wanted. 

This kind of operation is far beyond Jim Avery's reach, and in 
fact he is not sure he would want to be in the business on such a large- 
scale even if he could. He prefers to take life a little easier without 
quite so much drive. On a better equipped place, even with no out- 
side help, he and Martha between them could probably handle well 
over 2,500 chickens instead of a few hundred, and make more profit ; 
but they tell themselves they have enough worries as it is without 
taking on more. All in all, they think they have about what they 
want — an old but liveable house fitted out with much younger con- 
veniences, a good town nearby, a faithful old automobile to get 
there, a still-usable tractor and small truck, and a better chance to 
make a little extra money than many men of Jim's age have. 


Ned Doxey, cotton cropper. 


The high cost of poultry production makes Jim Avery a borderline 
case from the standpoint of profitable farming; without off- farm 
work and past savings, he would not be nearly as well off as he is. 
Many farmers do not have these advantages, and many of them are 
still lower down on the economic scale. 

Ned Doxey is one. Ned grows cotton in that wonderfully produc- 
tive area in northwest Mississippi where the Father of Waters has 
deposited layer on layer of soil as rich as that laid down by the Nile 
in Egypt. He and his wife Sarah are both descendants of slave 
families on plantations lower down on the river before the Civil 
War. They have never been outside of Mississippi and don't want 
to be. But their two older boys, Lester and Howard, live in New 
York, and their daughter Miranda has just married a young Phila- 
delphia preacher, and a third son, Adam, has made it clear that as 
soon as he gets old enough he is going to leave and get a job some- 
where else too. 

The striking progress made in American agriculture has passed by 
Ned and Sarah Doxey, as it has some D/t million other families 
making up well over a third of the 3.3 million commercial farmers 
in the United States; unless you want to say that the better op- 
portunities opened to Lester and Howard and Miranda are an in- 
direct outcome of changes in agriculture, which is true, since in the 
old days the young Doxeys would probably have stayed where they 

Two-thirds of the cotton farms are small. 

Farms growing cotton 


1 bale or less 16 

2 bales or less 29 

3 bales or less 39 

4 bales or less 48 

5 bales or less 55 

6 bales or less 60 

7 bales or less 69 

The most intensive cotton area. 







/ / 1 

| \ 


if j^p 



\, ?■ l^fV" 5 *^ 

y i 00T -10,000 ACRES 


These D/i million families are the ones earning less than $2,500 a 
year from the sale of farm products. The Census divides them 
into two groups. A farmer is listed in Economic Class V if he 
earns $1,200 to $2,499 from the farm. He is in Economic Class VI if 
his' farm earnings are between $250 and $1,199, provided he does 
not work 100 days or more off the farm during the year or receive 
more income from outside sources than from farm sales, in which 
case he would not be considered a commercial fanner by the Census 
bul a part-time, noncommercial farmer. 

The farm families with incomes under $2,500 are scattered pretty 
well all over the United States, but there are more of them in the 
South than anywhere else. Nearly two-thirds of the 525,000 com- 
mercial cotton farms in the United States in 1954 were in that cate- 
gory, and there were more cotton farms than any other type at the 
Class V and Class VI levels. Most of them are in the old Cotton Belt 
States east of the Mississippi Kiver. 

The part of Mississippi where Ned Doxey lives is in the Delta 
area, one of the main cotton regions in the United States. This 
long narrow strip is now more intensively planted to cotton than 
almost any other part of the country; more than 8 out of 10 farms 
grow cotton and about 87 cents of every dollar of farm income is 
from cotton sales. The cotton farms include some of the best and 
the biggest, but also half of the smallest, with the lowest incomes. 
In fact 53 percent of the cotton farms there were in Classes V and 
VI in 1954, but they produced only 19 percent of the Delta area 
cotton. By contrast, less than 3 out of every 100 cotton farms were 
in Economic Class I (over $25,000 a year farm income), but they 
accounted for more than 26 of every 100 bales produced. 



Most of the cotton growers in Ned's economic group in the Delta 
area are Negroes and more than a third are croppers. A cropper is 
different from a crop-share tenant who pays a share of the crop in lieu 
of cash rent but normally provides his own equipment, livestock, feed, 
and so on. The cropper furnishes none of these things. He gives 
half the proceeds of crop sales to the landlord, who in turn furnishes 
not only house and land but power, equipment, feed, and usually half 
the fertilizer. The cropper contributes only his labor. In effect, 
he is a hired worker who shares the risk of crop and price failures 
but is reasonably sure of having a roof over his head, though it may 
be a leakv one. 

Typical cropper family. 

Of 28 acres in the farm Ned Doxey works, 17 are in harvested crop- 
land — about 11 in cotton, most of the rest in corn. He normally 
produces considerably less than a bale to the acre, and it is practically 
his sole source of income; few cotton farmers in this region have any 
outside work and very few croppers earn more than a pittance from 
selling any product other than cotton. Ned's total farm income in 
1954 was a little over $1,700. Half of this went to the landlord. Out 
of his own share he had to pay around $160 for his half of the ferti- 
lizer bill and some extra help at cotton picking time. His year's 
income, then, was about $700 plus a four-room house rent-free, wood 
he could cut for the kitchen stove, an outdoor toilet, a shed for a couple 
dozen chickens, another for some of the landlord's farm equipment, 
a pigpen in which he sometimes had a pig, and space for a garden 
where he could grow some vegetables. 

Because he is a cropper and not a cash-rent tenant farmer or an 
owner, Ned's situation does not fairly represent that of Economic 
Class V farmers in general. Many woidd have been somewhat 
better off financially, even after deducting expenses, which in Ned's 
case Mere met almost entirely by the landlord. 

A meager home and a meager diet. 

The Doxeys' small frame house was old, and not in very good condi- 
tion, but it was home, and Sarah kept it neat and clean. Up to a 
short time ago they still used kerosene lamps; now they have electric 
lights but no other conveniences except an antique car bought second- 
hand years ago and a radio which the two older boys sent them the 
Christmas after the electricity went in. Sarah nurses a secret hope 
that some Christmas the children might chip in for a washing 

Sarah is a good enough cook, but the diet of the Uoxeys does not 
give much chance for variety. Cornbread and syrup and salt pork 
are staples; eggs, unless they are sold to get a little cash; some fresh 
meat for a while when a pig is killed; now and then a hen in the 
pot, or occasionally a fried chicken; Itlackeyed peas; sometimes 
collards cooked with a bit of salt pork. Perhaps the limited, rather 
meager diet is one reason why Ned and Sarah seem older than their 
actual age, the midforties. This is younger than the median age 
of farmers in the X'nited States, but people in the Doxeys' position 
tend to die young, having few of the comforts of life, sketchy medical 
care, and too little education to know much about the fundamentals of 
health. Neither Ned nor Sarah got through grade school. The three 
older children did, and young Adam, influenced by the preacher 
brother-in-law, even thinks he is going to go to high school. 



Changes are on the way. 

Some of the Doxeys' neighbors do better from the food standpoint. 
There is a growing awareness of the inadequacy of the traditional 
diet, and some landlords believe it pays to help their cropper families 
get a cow, pig. and chickens, have an adequate garden, and raise some 
hay and feed. It is good for the landlord, good for the tenants, 
good for the land. This attitude is part of the widespread change 
that has been going on in the South, but Ned's landlord has not yet 
got around to it. 

The changes that have occurred in cotton production result from 
the efforts of growers to cope with problems of great magnitude and 
difficulty, of which three are outstanding : the problem of labor, the 
problem of the boll weevil, the problem of competition. All of them 
together have brought a series of interrelated adjustments that are by 
no means ended. 

Before 1793 cotton was an impractical curiosity because separating 
the fiber from the seed by hand involved so much labor. Then Eli 
Whitney invented the cotton gin to do the work mechanically. The 
United States became the world production center, England, the 
manufacturing and trading center, for a vast industry. 

Cotton demands much labor. 

The boll weevil arrives. 

The production of cotton was voracious in its labor demands. 
Preparing the soil, planting the crop, weeding, chopping (thinning) 
all required a huge amount of work; and worst of all was picking 
the cotton by hand, careful fingers pulling the lock or bunch of fiber 
from each boll as cleanly as possible with a minimum of adhering 
trash. This problem was solved first by indentured labor, then by 
importing slaves from Africa and developing the plantation system. 

The abolition of slavery in the sixties nullified that solution and 
made it necessary to start over again. The South went through an 
agony of readjustment, and it was many years before cotton produc- 
tion was again functioning smoothly, with the cropper system to 
provide an ample supply of cheap labor. 

In 1892, just 99 years after Eli Whitney knocked down one hurdle, 
an inconspicuous little insect not more than a quarter of an inch long 
ambled up from Mexico to set up another. The boll weevil has a 
wicked, piercing snout. It feeds almost entirely on the cotton plant. 
It likes to travel in search of its favorite food. The female lays her 
eggs in the squares (blossoms) or the young boll, which then falls off 
the plant in six or seven days. She lives only a month at most, during 
which she lays up to 300 eggs. There may be as many as seven 
generations in one season. 



And brings tragedy. 

Within 30 years after the first weevil immigrant crossed the border 
near Brownsville, Texas, the insect had overrun almost the whole 
Cotton Belt. The results were catastrophic. Production dropped 
25, 50, even 90 percent a few years after the little weevils wandered 
into an area. Growers went bankrupt, farms were abandoned, banks 
failed, trade and industry stagnated, credit dried up, workers went 
north. This was the plight to which a small persistent insect reduced 
a land solely dependent on a single crop, America's greatest cash 
crop and one of Iter main exports. 

Changes caused by an insect. 

As the South eventually adjusted to the changes brought about 
by the Civil War, so it has been adjusting to this situation. Partly 
liecause the boll weevil does not survive cold winters or thrive in 
dry areas, it did not become established in western cotton-growing 
regions (they have pests of their own, however) ; so production has 
tended to move northward in the original Cotton Belt and westward 
across Texas and Oklahoma into New Mexico, Arizona, and Califor- 
nia. Georgia, the Carolinas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas are 
now far less dependent on cotton than they used to be. In fact only 
in Mississippi and Alabama is cotton still the major source of farm 
income: in the former case largely because of the natural advantages 
of the hill and alluvial areas in the northwestern part of the State. 
Even in Mississippi, however, the larger-scale growers are diversi- 
fying their production considerably, adding more livestock, hay, 
soybeans, and other crops, though such changes have hardly begun 
to filter down to the little fellows like Ned Doxey. 

A blessing in disguise. 






Elsewhere in the Southeast other types of farming — livestock, 
peanuts, broiler production, for example — are taking hold more 
and more extensively to replace cotton. In Georgia, 81 percent of 
the farms were producing cotton in 1930; in 1954, only 48 percent. 
In South Carolina in the same period the percentage dropped from 
83 to 61 percent, in Louisiana from 80 to 46 percent, in North Caro- 
lina from 54 to 29 percent. Not only has farming improved as a 
result of these changes; the region has also been developing indus- 
trially so that in many areas there are increased opportunities for 
nonfarm employment. The South may be compared to a man who 
has had a bad heart attack. If he survives, he may be healthier and 
stronger than ever and also take better care of himself. The shock 
of boll weevils or heart attacks may be looked on as warnings of 
something basically wrong that needs to be corrected. 

1920 '25 '30 '35 '40 '45 '50 '55 



A challenge that brought progress. 

Advance of mechanization. 

Also, through various cultural practices and the use of insecticides, 
scientists and growers have learned much more about combating 
not only this insect but a host of others that seem to find the cotton 
plant especially delicious. Some of the newer insect poisons are 
particularly effective. Growers like Ned Doxey watch the cotton 
patch carefully for boll weevil infestation, and if it is bad enough, 
plod up and doM'ii the rows with small hand or wheelbarrow or one- 
mule dusters. The bigger-scale growers use multiple-row tractor- 
drawn equipment, or if the acreage is large enough, contract to have 
the dusting done by airplanes, a swift and rather hair-raising oper- 
ation with small planes skimming a few feet off the ground strafing 
the insects with clouds of poison at the rate of 350 acres an hour. 
Even so, boll weevils have not been eradicated, and in the weevil 
territory cotton yields are more uneven from year to year than before 
the advent of the weevil ; and the guerrilla warfare is expensive, 
adding a good deal to the cost of production. 

Use of large-scale equipment for insect and disease control is part 
of the accelerating trend toward mechanization of cotton growing. 
In the earlier days when labor was plentiful and cheap there was 
no need to mechanize production ; in fact it might have created a 
tremendous problem of surplus workers. Also, there was no use 
in mechanizing soil preparation, planting, cultivation, weeding, 
thinning as long as an army of pickers had to be on hand to harvest 
the crop as the Doxeys do by finger-power, trailing a long bag into 
which they stuff the white fluffy locks, and managing to pick, say, 
150 pounds of seed cotton a worker a day, which means about a third 
of that much lint after ginning. Then the field has to be gone over 
perhaps three times to get the later-ripening cotton. Ned does well 
if lie can do an acre in less than 70 hours. 

Cotton picking the biggest hurdle. 

Man-hours for harvesting 1 acre of cotton 

Delta, Miss. : 

Hand picking 100 

Machine picking 5 

High Plains, Texas: 

Hand snapping 24 

Machine stripping 1.3 

Development of the mechanical picker. 

Farther west in Texas and Oklahoma they developed a faster 
method, snapping the whole boll off the plant instead of carefully 
picking the locks from the bur. By snapping, a worker can average 
perhaps a hundred pounds more seed cotton a day than by picking; 
but since it includes much more trash, the grade is lower. Then in 
1914 someone in northwest Texas got the idea of attaching a 
piece of picket fence to a sled and dragging it through the field. 
The plants got caught between the pickets and the cotton was 
stripped off as the sled moved along. Gradually this crude device 
was elaborated and perfected until today tractor-mounted mechan- 
ical strippers are widely used in western areas where level land 
is well adapted to machinery. 

Though efforts to develop a mechanical picker (as distinguished 
from a stripper) go back to 1895, they were not operationally and 
commercially successful until a few years ago. The Census does not 
collect figures on either strippers or pickers, but their use has been 
rapidly increasing where cotton is grown on large acreages and the 
topography is suitable. This is particularly true in the West, but 
the Delta region too is using mechanical pickers. The revolving 
steel spindles of this machine, which are kept wet, are pushed into 
the cotton plants on both sides: they catch and wind the fibers of the 
lock much as you might wind a lock of hair around your own finger, 
and persuasively tug it out of the boll. Then the fiber is mechan- 
ically doffed from the spindles and lifted or blown into a container. 
A one-row picker can cover as much as eight acres a day and harvest 
as much as 5,000 pounds (10 bales), the exact amount depending on 



yield and other conditions; and a two-row machine picks 50 to 75 
percent more. Sometimes the cotton grades are lower than hand- 
picked, but even so the machine saves time and money. 

There are certain requirements. The plant should be specially 
adapted to machine picking (breeding takes care of that) and it 
should be completely stripped of leaves before the picking begins 
or the cotton would be mixed with green trash very hard to eliminate. 
The latter requirement has been met by development of chemical 
defoliants, which are dusted or sprayed on, sometimes by airplane, 
and make the leaves drop as effectively as the coming of winter. 

Completely mechanized production 

The westward shift. 

• 1919: 

5.3 million bales 

• 1954 





These developments furnish another example of the combination 
of biology, chemistry, mechanics — agriculture and industry — nature 
and man — which is so potent a mixture for solving and creating 
problems. The mixture is finally bringing cotton — which, with to- 
bacco, is about the last holdout — into the fold of mechanized produc- 
tion. Cotton can now be produced and harvested like corn entirely 
by machine, without the use of hands except at throttles and levers. 

The present significance of this revolution, at least for United 
States producers, is perhaps connected chiefly with that third major 
problem, competition, which we have not yet defined. It has two 
aspects. First, the competition of other cotton-producing countries 
has in recent years been cutting deeply into United States export 
trade on the basis of lower prices. Second, synthetic fibers, notably 
rayon, have progressively been capturing a larger and larger share 
of the fabrics market from the "natural" fibers. Experts generally 
agree that if cotton is to regain any of this lost ground, or forestall 
further losses, it must be on the basis of lower production costs 
and the development of fabrics with qualities equal or superior, in 
the consumer's judgment, to certain special qualities of competing 

Cotton is moving West. Unless adequate small-scale equipment 
can be developed, mechanization will probably continue to pull cot- 
ton westward away from the eastern areas of hills and small fields 
(and boll weevils) to the level western land admirably suited to 
large-scale machinery. Half of the cotton crop in 1954 came from 
Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, and in at 
least three-fifths of the area it was grown under irrigation, which 
produces exceptional yields. The number of cotton farms had been 
reduced during the past 25 years or so in a number of the eastern 
States. The contribution made by cotton to the farm income of these 
States decreased accordingly. By contrast, in California, cotton 
contributed only 4 percent of the farm income in 1929 but more than 
12 percent in 1954; in Arizona, 38 percent in 1929. 50 percent in 1954; 
in New Mexico, 17 percent in 1929, 38 percent in 1954. In the High 
Plains area of Texas the acreage in irrigated cotton doubled between 
1950 and 1954. The consequence was a sharp decrease in total acre- 
age but an increase in production — and in the number of Economic 
Class I cotton farms. 

The Delta region where the Doxeys live is very much in this pic- 
ture and has been adapting to changed conditions and practices. 
The bigger farms, some of them a thousand acres or more, use tractors 
for plowing, planting, cultivating, thinning: tractors or airplanes 
for dusting; mechanical pickers; and in some cases, Maine for weed- 



ing, Mississippi having been the first State to try this method with 
cotton. "Multiple Units" (plantations using the cropper system) are 
in some cases being reorganized into single units using hired labor in- 
stead of croppers — a development made possible by machinery. In 
1954 the acreage in cotton in Mississippi was 51 percent less than in 
1929, the period just before Government price supports and acreage 
controls began, but production was only 17 percent less. 

A past that is disappearing. 






'IN fl 


. : > 

-?.■■'!■ "*V 


KS -'. : X 

- ' ■+% 

1920 1925 1930 1935 1940 1945 1950 1954 

Meanwhile only one out of four farmers in the Doxeys' economic 
group owns even a mule, let alone a tractor. Ned and Sarah belong 
to a past that for better or worse is disappearing. Even between 
the two most recent Agriculture Censuses, 1950 and 1954, the number 
of cotton farmers in Mississippi decreased by 18 percent — mostly the 
little fellows. Perhaps in a sense the Doxeys too are adapting to 
changed conditions, through their children, who have new horizons 
and a new outlook; but as individuals Ned and Sarah are chips 
circling in an eddy oft' from the main current. Busy about 200 days 
of the year, they are idle the rest. The opportunities for outside 
work where they live are limited. Always they are desperately 
poor. When they die the tradition of generations will be broken; 
there will be no more of their direct line on the land. 




Will Ashton, Burley grower. 

Fewer acres, more production. 

Still lower on the economic scale is Will Ashton. He has a small 
farm in the Highland Rim area of Kentucky, not far from the Ten- 
nessee boundary. The land here is very hilly. Some of the hills are 
so steep you wonder why the corn does not slide of!'. A good deal of 
soil does. 

Will raises tobacco. It has been grown here for a long time, though 
not so long as in the old original tobacco country. John Rolfe de- 
serves fame for something more than marrying Pocahontas; he 
started the modern tobacco growing business at Jamestown, Vir- 
ginia, in 1612, learning from the Indians. Six years later Virginia 
was shipping 20,000 pounds to England, and before 1630 overpro- 
duction brought the first crop-control law, limiting the number of 
leaves a man could harvest from each plant. 

The tobacco that Will Ashton grows is Burley, now used mainly for 
cigarettes. His whole farm is less than 40 acres, but he gets prac- 
tically all his cash income from the part planted to tobacco, which in 
1954 was 2y 2 acres. That year about 10 percent of the Burley crop 
was pledged for Commodity Credit Corporation loans, but in 1955 
this increased to 20 percent. The following year acreage allotments 
were reduced, and Will was not allowed to grow tobacco on more 
than one and three-fourths acres. Four out of five Burley producers 
were in the same situation. This process splits up tobacco produc- 
tion in still smaller pieces (they were small to start with), but how 
much it reduces production in the long run is debatable. Since 1920 
the United States tobacco acreage has changed very little, but pro- 
duction has greatly increased— in the case of Burley, more than 
100 percent. When prices go down, a man tries to plant more land 
to get the same amount of income; if his land is cut in half, he tries 
to grow two leaves of tobacco where only one grew before. Ap- 
parently he has a good chance of succeeding. 

Tobacco farms are small. 

Farms growing tobacco in the South 


Less than 1 acre 33 

Less than 2.5 acres 54 

I^ess than 5 acres 81 

Less than 10 acres 97 

This is evidence of progress in production techniques such as you 
find elsewhere in agriculture. Yet tobacco growing has, on the 
whole, been curiously static, not following the trends in other types of 
farming. There has been little mechanization, at least in the great 
Middle Atlantic region where most of the tobacco is grown. Though 
tractors are coming in, most of the work even on the bigger farms 
is still done by mule or horse. But a big tobacco farm is small in 
comparison with a big farm of practically any other type. In the 
main the crop is grown in small patches and at small profit. More 
than half the growers, and over 70 percent of those producing Burley, 
are at the lower end of the economic scale, Classes V and VI in the 
Census terminology. A grower may not actually lose money, but 
he is likely to get little for his labor, and tobacco demands a great 
deal of labor. Very few farmers are getting rich supplying the needs 
of the devotees of Lady Nicotine. In the Kentucky Burley area 
in 1954 only about one grower in a thousand had as much as 20 acres 
in tobacco. 



Will's net cash return, $675 a year. 

Farm sales per tobacco farm in the South : 1954 

Crops $3, 043 

Livestock and livestock products 275 

Other 10 

Total 3, 328 

Where Will Ashton lives, more than 9 out of 10 growers are white, 
though farther east, in the flue-cured tobacco areas of the Carolinas, 
a third are Negro. Also, more than three- fourths of Will's fellow 
growers own their farms, though in the flue-cured tobacco areas 
croppers and other tenants outnumber owners. The value of the 
total investment in the Ashton place as of 1954 might be reckoned at a 
little over $5,000, of which land and buildings accounted for some- 
thing less than $4,000, equipment (no power machinery) for $1,000, 
and livestock for about $300. The livestock consisted of a mule, a milk 
cow, a heifer, a young home-raised steer, a pig or two and a couple of 
dozen chickens. Of the 40 acres in the farm about half was crop- 
land — the bulk of it pasture, plus corn and the tobacco patch. Wood- 
land took about another 10 acres and grazing land and wasteland the 
remaining 10. 

Aside from tobacco sales of $685 in 1954, the Ashtons were able to 
sell other crop products worth about $15 and meat and eggs worth 
about $100. The total cash expenses amounted to at least $125, not 
including interest and other costs, so the net return was not over $675. 
Of course Will and his wife Sophie (they are no longer young, being 
close to 60) and their grown daughter Anna Mae (the other children 
left the farm when they married) get a fair amount of food off the 
place, which helps to make ends meet. There is in fact still a good 
deal of out-and-out subsistence farming in this area, which remains 
one of the most rural and least urbanized in the United States. 

Of comforts, little. 

Of comforts they have little more than Jim and Sarah Doxey — a 
somewhat more solid house because the climate is colder, but a well 
for water, an outhouse for toilet, a tin basin for washing, a galvanized 
tub for bathing and laundry, a spring house on the hillside for refrig- 
eration, a stove and woodpile for cooking and heating, a wagon and 
the mule for getting around. Electric lights and a radio they do have, 
and a good small tobacco barn for curing the crop, and enough other 
barn and shed space for the animals and tools. 

Hand work and mule work. 

« ,. 

Neither Will nor Sophie have any outside work to supplement 
their farm income, but Anna Mae does a day's housework away from 
home whenever she can get it. The opportunities for outside employ- 
ment are very limited, especially without an automobile for trans- 
portation, and no bus nearby; and besides, the Ashtons are about 
as closely tied to the land as all farmers used to be before modern 
machinery so greatly expanded what a man could do in a day. In 
the first place, his operation is too small to afford machinery or hired 
labor. In the second place, there is no way, yet, to harvest tobacco 
except by hand, just as there was no other way to harvest cotton 
until a short time ago. Will has all he can do, with help from the 
womenfolk and children, to cut the plants when harvest time comes, 
wilt them in the field, spear the big stalks on tobacco sticks, lift the 
heavy drooping plants with their enormous leaves to the racks on the 
long wagon, unload them at the barn, and lift them again to the hori- 
zontal poles that rise in several tiers up to the roof, where they hang, 
witli carefully watched ventilation, to dry; and finally to sort them 
leaf by leaf into grades, tie the leaves in flat bundles, or hands, and 
haul the hands to the annual tobacco auction in a warehouse not far 
away, where they are sold along with the thousands of other bundles 
in the picturesque, hectic ceremony that a tobacco auction is. 



Since there are no machines to reduce the time and labor required 
for this part of the work and Will ran seldom hire help or power 
machinery for seed planting (which is done in coldframes anyway), 
plowing, transplanting the delicate plants, spreading and placing 
the fertilizer (of which he has to use a good deal), cultivating and 
weeding, topping or cutting out the tip of the plant at just the right. 
stage, suckering or removing the side shoots as they develop in the 
leaf axils, and combating the diseases and insects that have accumu- 
lated in the main tobacco areas from nearly 300 years of growing 
the same crop in the same place. Even if power machines were 
available for all of these operations, as they are not, he can manage 
the work with hand tools and mule tools and do the farm chores 
besides. So why get anything more elaborate even if he had the 
money ? 

Some growers are more prosperous. 

Not all tobacco growers are in Will Ashton's situation, of course, 
and not all tobacco-growing districts are like this one. For example, 
a big-scale grower in Economic Class I in this area (only three-tenths 
of one percent were at that level) might have had gross sales amount- 
ing to $30,000 in 1054, of which $20,000 would come from tobacco 
and about $10,000 from livestock and livestock products, including 
dairy, beef, and pork. A healthy diversification such as this is 
increasing. There are other differences. In the central bluegrass 
area of Kentucky, where Hurley is also grown, the soil is better and 
more productive than where the Ashtons live and the tobacco does 
not need so much commercial fertilizer, which reduces production 
costs. In the Hue-cured tobacco areas near the Atlantic Coast, less 
than half of the growers are in Economic Classes V and VI instead of 
about three-fourths where the Ashtons live. And the cigar-tobacco 
districts in the North — Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, 
Wisconsin — are of course quite different from, the tobacco areas in 
the South, but also much less important in the whole tobacco picture. 

Yet under these variations is the stubborn fact that on the average 
an acre of tobacco takes 18 times as many man-hours of work as an 
acre of small grain, and seven times as many as an acre of corn, and 
•Ji/o times as many as an acre of cotton, and twice as many horse- 
hours as an acre of corn ; so that in 1942, according to W. W. Garner, 
who quotes these figures in Production of Tobacco (Blakiston 1951 ), 
it took an hour's work for a man to produce three pounds of tobacco, 
worth at that time $1.10. This was during the War. Minus ex- 
penses, the net return would be considerably less. It seems like small 
profit for the experience, knowledge, judgment, and hard work re- 
quired to grow tobacco successfully. 



Meet Axel Peterson. 

NUMBER. 1954 


Now we are going to look in on the affairs of Axel Peterson, the 
youngest of the three Peterson boys who run a rilling station in the 
San Joaquin Valley in California. Axel also runs a fruit farm 
though at present he makes more money selling gas than fruit. In 
combining agricultural and nonagricultural work he is more or less 
typical of some 2 million of our present-day farmers. 

About 1880 this country reached a turning point in its economic 
development at which only half of the working population was in 
agriculture while half was in industry and business. The same proc- 
ess that brought us to that state seems now to be bringing us close 
to another turning point at which farm people, who today are only 
an eighth of the population, may earn only half their income from 
agriculture while the other half will come from off-farm sources — 
mainly wages and salaries for work in industry and business. 

Off-farm earnings going up. 


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Many commercial farmers have off-farm 

We have not yet reached this point, but we are not far from it. Out 
of every $10 of farm family income in 1954, $5.90 was the net return 
from the farm operation (including Government payments and 
products consumed at home), and $4.10 came from sources outside 
the farm. This is not true, of course, for every farm family, but it is 
true for farmers as a group. The total income of farm families in 
1955 was about 19.3 billion dollars, of which 11.3 billion was the net 
return from farming while 8 billion dollars came from off-farm 
sources. The amount of off-farm income varied in different regions, 
with different types of farming, and at different economic levels, but 
the trend is evident almost everywhere at all levels. 

Of the 8 billion dollars of off- farm income, the farmers at the two 
top economic levels, selling $10,000 to more than $25,000 worth of 
products a year, received over one billion dollars; those at the two 
lowest levels, with farm sales of $250 to $2,500 a year, over 1.4 bil- 
lion; and the middle group, with farm sales of $2,500 to $10,000, 
about 1.8 billion. That leaves about 3.7 billion dollars, which went to 
families not counted as commercial producers — the part-time farm- 
ers, who received almost 1.7 billion dollars of the nonfarm income, 
and residential farmers, who received a little over two billion. Part- 
time farmers, under the Census definition, are those selling $250 
to $1,200 worth of farm products who either work more than 100 
days a year off the farm or whose off-farm income is bigger than 
their farm income. Residential farmers are those selling less than 
$250 worth of farm products a year, many of these having a bigger 
off-farm than farm income. 

The distinction between commercial and noncommercial farmers 
is useful since the former are responsible for 98 percent of the value 
of farm products sold and the latter for only two percent. But it 
is also somewhat artificial in view of the fact that the commercial 
producers, as we have just noted, get 4.3 billion dollars of the off- 
farm income and a little more than half of them did some off- farm 
work in 1955, while the noncommercial producers get only 3.7 billion 
dollars and less than half of them did off-farm work. True, the 
residential farmers, being limited by definition to farm sales under 
$250 (when they run over that they are counted as part-time 
farmers) cannot contribute very much to total agriculture produc- 
tion, even though they are numerous — almost 900,000 of them, about 



one farmer out of five. The so-called part-time farmer, however, 
may be very much a commercial producer in spirit, intent, and fact. 
But he too is limited by definition — in this case, to farm sales of 
less than $1,200, which puts him agriculturally at the lowest eco- 
nomic level, Class VI. When he sells more than this, he is no longer 
counted as a part-time farmer; he has graduated to the status of a 
commercial farmer, no matter how many days he may work off the 
farm or how big his nonfarm income is. It is an odd fact that between 
1950 and 1954 the proportion of commercial producers working off 
their farms a considerable part of the year — more than 100 days — 
increased from 26.8 to 32. 5 percent, and the proportion with more 
nonfarm than farm income increased from 21.4 to 25.2 percent, 
while on both counts the proportion of noncommercial producers 

Today city and country mingle. 






I I I 

■ ■■ill 
I I I I I I 

1930 1940 1945 1950 I9M 


^^ I TO 49 
50 TO 99 

In other words, four out of every ten farmers in the United States 
today are actually part-time farmers, not in the Census classification 
but in the sense that they spend only part of their time farming. 
In fact if time could be measured by income, which of course it can- 
not, they spend on the average 22 weeks a year in off-farm work and 
30 weeks farming. 

Perhaps nothing illustrates more strikingly how in this Ameri- 
can civilization the city has been moving to the country and the 
country to the city in a steady growth of interpenetration and 

This digression was necessary to give some of the background. 
Now to return to Axel Peterson. 

Axel and Hilda both have jobs. 

Axel and Hilda have not set out on an easy road, but they are 
doing what they want to do. The service station business itself is 
an exacting one, but with three brothers working together Axel is 
able to stagger his hours and get stretches of time off when he needs 
to. His farm is not far from the station, which is on the ed^e of a 
large town. Hilda has a job in town as a stenographer; she is a good 
one and makes around $1,(100 a year working part-time. Axel*s share 
of the service station earnings totals about $3,500 a year. The Peter- 
sons have no children yet, but they want a big family. Whether 
Hilda will continue working after the first baby arrives remains 
to be seen. Probably not; but many women do nowadays, and even 
when they have children a considerable number of farm as well as 
city wives work in offices or stores or factories nearby. In 1955 
more than a tenth of the total off-farm income of part-time farm 
families was earned by the wives, and those families reporting this 
source of income averaged over $1,400. 



But they are farmers too. 

The Petersons both came from a California farm background; 
Axel's third brother, the oldest, inherited the home place when their 
father died. The young Petersons have put all the money they could 
scrape together into their farm. The service station too was a good 
deal of a strain in the early days, but the biggest share of that expense 
was borne by the two older brothers while Axel was still in school. 

This is a great fruit area, the value of the fruit crop went up twenty 
million dollars between 1950 and 1954 while the number of fruit 
growers went down. Especially is it a great peach area, one of the 
best in the United States; and the Petersons' first ambition is to 
have a sizable peach orchard. It takes five years for peaches to 
bear, and their trees had not come into bearing at the time the last 
United States Agricultural Census was taken. But they had set 
out close to 500 trees in a three-year period, like a lot of other farmers 
in the area, where the acreage in both clingstone and freestone peaches 
expanded materially between 1950 and 1954 — the latter, the predom- 
inant type, by 30 percent. Axel figured that if they could get around 
three bushels per tree, which was the average production for Cali- 
fornia's 7.5 million trees (it was less than two bushels for the United 
States as a whole), and if the price were somewhere near the 1954 
level of $1.50 a bushel, they should gross close to $2,200. They 
plan to enlai'ge their farm production as their circumstances make 
it possible to get more free time or hire more help, and especially to 
bring more land under irrigation; for practically all fruit here is 
irrigated, as is much other crop and pasture land. 

Strawberries while waiting for peaches. 

Meanwhile they were using strawberry production in part of the 
peach orchard as a source of cash income, probably temporary. This 
is also an important crop in the area, where the number of farmers 
growing strawberries, though small compared with the number of 
peach growers, nearly doubled between 1950 and 1954, the acreage 
tripled, and production increased tenfold — a trend shared by the rest 
of California except that the number of growers decreased for the 
State as whole. Yields in California are extraordinarily high, aver- 
aging more than 8,800 quarts to the acre in 1954, compared with about 
2,500 for the entire United States, and 6,200 for California in 1950. 
(In part the remarkably high California average is due to the prac- 
tically year-round harvesting in the central coast area, the only place 
in the United States where this is possible.) The Petersons have 
the equivalent of some two-thirds of an acre in strawberries — the 
actual area is larger because the planting is among young peach 
trees— from which they got about 4,000 quarts in 1954. At $0.30 a 
quart, the State average, their gross return was close ot $1,200. 

Growth of irrigation. 



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1899 1909 1919 1929 1939 1949 1954 

One of the major developments in United States agriculture has 
been the steady increase over a long period in the amount of land 
under irrigation, with an especially steep rise since 1939. This is 
true not only in California and the other 19 Western States where 
rainfall is scant, but also in the East, where the use of overhead 
irrigation has been expanding to supplement rainfall in dry periods. 
Irrigation is expensive, however, especially when it is an individual 
enterprise, with each farmer pumping his own water, as is the case 
in much of California, where 7 million acres was reported under 
irrigation in 1954. And the cost of operation and maintenance has 
been rising rather than decreasing as the pumps have to reach down 
to deeper and deeper levels to get water. 



So Axel does not have any more land under irrigation than he 
actually needs for his young peach trees — at present, five to six acres. 
He has plenty of room for expansion, however, since there are twelve 
acres, all irrigable, in the farm. The rest is land he is not now using 
because he has all he can handle for the time being; and the work of 
spraying, pruning, and other maintenance will increase as the trees 
get bigger and begin to bear fruit, which will have to be picked. 
Picking fruit is still a hand operation though almost every other 
aspect of production, including much of the handling of the harvested 
crop, can be mechanized. Axel and Hilda can set out and tend the 
peach orchard and strawberry patch themselves, but they will have to 
hire some help for picking peaches as they do for strawberries. This 
is one of the biggest items of expense. 

Equipment for the fruit farm. 

The total value of the Petersons' land and buildings in 1954 might 
be estimated at about $20,000. Aside from the house itself, the build- 
ings were not elaborate — a packing shed, used for strawberries but 
big enough for the peach crop in due course; shelter for a light trac- 
tor, small truck, power equipment, hand tools, spray materials, fer- 
tilizer; a workshop with power tools. Most part-time fruit growers 
do not own a tractor or a truck, but Axel did, partly because-, in his 
business, he was in a position to get favorable prices on good used 
equipment, partly because he was headed for a somewhat larger oper- 
ation than most part-time growers have. Under ordinary circum- 
stances it might have been better to rent machines or get heavy work 
done on contract, but with a tight time schedule he preferred to have 
things handy for use at odd hours — or for Hilda to use, since she 
could run the tractor and truck as well as he could. 

The Petersons had no livestock, not even chickens; most fruit 
growers in the area don't have, and in their case there was a special 
reason not to get tied down to daily chores; seasonal peaks of labor 
were more manageable. They did have a good vegetable garden and 
enough of California's gorgeous flowers to make the place colorful. 

The house was a bungalow, well furnished and with the conven- 
iences that would go with a good modern town or suburban house. 
Getting the more expensive items was not easy while also paying 
for a farm. Since the kind of living they did was on the strenuous 
side, it was necessary to have everything as time-saving as possible 
from the housework standpoint. Naturally they had a car. On 
the days when she went to town to work, Hilda took a bus that went 
by the door. 

Many kinds of part-time farmers. 

Part-time farms (575,000) by type, United States: 


Livestock, except dairy and poultry 32. !) 

Cotton 14. 4 

CHsh-grain 11. o 

Tobacco, other field crop 9.4 

Dairy !>. 3 

Poultry 8 8 

Vegetable, fruit, nut 5.6 

General, miscellaneous N.<> 

There are many kinds of part-time farmers. Axel and Hilda 
Peterson represent only one type. More part-time farmers are wage 
earners than proprietors or partners in a business like Axel, but they 
come from practically every occupation. Some run a farm to supple- 
ment other income. Some work in town to supplement farm in- 
come. Some use part-time farming as a step toward full-time 
farming. Some stick to it only until they can get out of farming 
altogether. Some take other work localise farming with modem 
equipment leaves them with spare time and energy. Some run a 
farm because modern business hours leave them with spare time and 
energy. Some just like the rich meaning and challenge and sights 
and sound and smells that are part of a farm. 



Similarly, there are as many variations in the kinds of farming 
part-timers undertake as there are types of farms, with correspond- 
ing regional and local differences; but some types are less suited than 
others to small-scale part-time operations. 

The marked decrease in the number of 
small farms. 



N NUMBER, 1950-1953 



"I NUMBER. 1950-1954 

Until recently the number of part-time farmers fitting the Census 
definition had been steadily increasing, together with the number 
of residential farmers. Between the 1950 and the 1954 Censuses, 
however, this trend was suddenly reversed. The number of part- 
time farms in the United States dropped from 639,000 to 575,000, a 
loss of 10 percent, and the number of residential farms from a little 
over one million to 878,000, a loss of more than 14 percent. You will 
remember that under the Census definition both these groups are 
very small-scale farms. The third group of very small-scale opera- 
tions is the Economic Class VI commercial farm. The number of 
farms in this group decreased even more between 1950 and 1954, 
from 717,000 to 462,000, a loss of more than 35 percent. Thus in a 
five-year period, 470,000 of the smallest farms dropped out of United 
States agriculture, either raised to a better economic level by expand- 
ing operations or abandoned ; or perhaps the operator quit farming 
because he had a nonfarm job. 

In the same period the number of commercial farms at the next 
higher level, Economic Class V, decreased by nearly 15 percent, the 
number in Class IV, by 8 percent, and the number in Class III, by 2 
percent. This adds up to an aggregate loss of 222,000 middle-size 

The only farms that increased in number were the biggest, those 
in Economic Class I, up 30 percent, and in Economic Class II, up 
about 18 percent, making a combined increase of 99,000. The net 
decrease in the number of all farms was 596,000, or about 10 percent. 

These are striking phenomena, though it may be said that they 
merely carry to a further stage two trends that have long character- 
ized United States agriculture — a steady reduction in the number 
of farms and a steady increase in the magnitude of the operation 
of those that remain. The total amount of land in farms has not 
decreased; it is only divided into fewer and bigger units. 

But another striking phenomenon not so evident or expected 
showed up between 1950 and 19.54 — a decided increase in the number 
of commercial producers, in all the four higher economic groups, 
who with their families made more money from off-farm work than 
from farming, and a corresponding increase in the number working 
off the farm more than 100 days in the year. 

New light on part-time farming. 

These developments are analyzed and interpreted in detail in 
another Census Bureau publication, Part-time Farming, which puts 
situations such as that of Axel Peterson in an interesting light. 
Axel seems to be in a group that is diminishing in number and 
importance — the part-time-farmers-according-to-current-definition. 
But actually he is in a group that is increasingly important in the 
agricultural picture — the commercial farmers who are enlarging the 
size of their farm business and at the same time earning more and 
more from off-farm sources. If all goes well, Axel will be selling 
enough fruit in another year or two to put him in Economic Class V 
or Class IV, with farm sales around $2,500 or more. The next Census 
enumerator may not be able to list him as a part-time farmer. Yet 



he will still be farming probably less than half his time and he 
and Hilda will be making more money off the farm than on it. 

What is a part-time fanner? Perhaps the conception or defini- 
tion needs to be changed. Perhaps part-time and commercial farm- 
ing are not two entirely different things. Maybe each is shading 
more and more into the other. Maybe there are getting to be as many 
hybrids as purebreds. 

A large percentage of fruit farms are 

The Census publication mentioned makes an interesting analysis 
based on the assumption that an Economic Class V farm, with sales 
of $1,200 to $2,500, is also a part-time farm if the family gets more 
than half of its income from outside sources. On that basis, almost 
54 percent of all the farms in this economic class in the western 
part of the United States are part-time farms, and only about 46 
percent are ''commercial". But many of these "commercial" farmers 
may also earn a good deal from other work — though not enough to 
make half their income. 

In the case of fruit-and-nut farms, the situation is even more 
surprising. Practically three out of four fruit-and-nut farms in the 
Western Region are part-time farms in the $1,200 to $2,500 income 
bracket; and "curioser and curioser," as Alice in Wonderland put it, 
so are more than two out of three in the United States as a whole. 

Is there a new agricultural ladder? 

People like Axel and Hilda Peterson, working so hard to make a 
success of two major occupations, may have a rather special signifi- 
cance in the current American scene. Mobility — freedom to move 
from one place to another, one job or occupation to another, one eco- 
nomic level to a higher level — has been one of the most outstanding 
characteristics of American life. In the old days it was represented 
in agriculture by the Westward frontier, homesteading, and the "agri- 
cultural ladder," which a man climbed by first getting a job at the 
bottom as a hired man, then climbing one step by renting a farm, 
then another step by buying one. Today the first two of these 
great types of opportunity have disappeared, and the last may be 
flickering out because of the high cost of buying, equipping, and 
operating a farm. Put it is still possible in many cases for a deter- 
mined man to get the necessary capital by holding down another job 
while he is acquiring and building up a farm. 

Maybe it means no more hard work and less actual hardship than 
the other ways. At any rate, the Petersons are trying it. 




Frank Quinby retires. 

When Frank Quinby retired at the age of 60 from his job as expert 
accountant after a rather strenuous life which included roaming over 
much of the United States, he did what so many of his generation 
wanted to do — headed for a little place in the country, his native 
country, Connecticut, where the hills are so green and the streams 
and woods so inviting. He had bought the place some years before. 
He and his wife Josephine spent vacations there with their two 
youngsters and the grandchildren, then just beginning to come along 
with satisfying regularity; and Jo often stayed alone at the farm, 
with a couple of good dogs for company, while Frank went away on 

About the time he retired Frank stocked the place with a small 
menagerie of cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, and honeybees. He had 
been brought up on a farm as a boy, liked it, and wanted just the 
kind of physical and mental exercise such a place would give him. 
Retirement, to him, was an opportunity not for loafing but for a 
challenging kind of work. The Quinbys also had a well-stocked 
vegetable garden, some dwarf apple trees, and a variety of other 
tree and bush fruits. In effect, this was a miniature general farm 
of the subsistence type that used to be very common, though on a 
larger scale, before commercialization and specialization dominated 

It was not a fancy place but a modest and practical one. Frank 
had enough small power equipment to mechanize most of the work of 
cultivating, weeding mowing, spraying, etc., plus a good carpenter 
shop. For the heavier jobs like plowing and getting in hay he hired 
a man with a tractor. 

A man who likes bees. 

The bees were a special hobby, going back to his boyhood days on 
the farm. Being something of a nature student even then, he found 
their ways fascinating and thought that being out on a fine spring 
day among millions of bees so intent on honey gathering that the air 
shimmered with bright wings was one of the headiest of experiences. 
Now he kept a dozen colonies or so, which usually brought in about 
100 pounds of honey apiece — not a large yield but good enough for 
that particular area. Frank had a small hand-operated extractor 
in the cellar and a storage tank for warming and bottling the honey, 
which he put up in attractive jars and sold. There was a sign, Honey 
for Sale, in the front yard. The sales amounted to some $200 to 
$250 a year, besides what he and Jo ate with pancakes and hot bis- 
cuits, and what he gave away to family and friends; a jar of honey 
makes a nice Christmas present. He made no serious effort to sell 
anything else from the farm, but he and Jo got a lot of pleasure out 
of a generous sharing of fruits and vegetables and what not with 
others. It was one of the dividends of this kind of life. 

Good farming takes brains. 

Besides the small amount from honey sales, Frank had his retire- 
ment income of almost $4,000 a year and occasionally took on an 
accounting job in winter. He bad no investment income, having 
put all his savings into this place, which he owned free and clear. 
He knew this kind of farming did not pay from the standpoint of 
giving an adequate return for the work he put in; but if he could 
break somewhere near even on expenses, not counting his own labor, 
he figured he got a remarkably good food supply, fresh, frozen, and 




canned, for very little — with a sense of down-to-earth achievement 
and satisfaction thrown in. And let no one belittle the achievement. 
Running even a small farm really well and economically takes ability 
and brains. 

Like the Petersons, the Quinbys are only one example of a kind of 
farming now widespread in the United States. There are various 
types, from the well-to-do executive or professional man who runs 
a sizable place as a particularly satisfying but quite often expensive 
hobby to the poverty-ridden family in the Appalachian area where 
subsistence farming is a holdover from the past and represents not 
opportunity but a desperate lack of it. The accompanying maps 
show that this area has the densest concentration of both residential 
and part-time farms anywhere in the country. They also show that 
most of the residential and part-time farms are in the southeast, as 
are most of the lowest income (Class VI) commercial farms, which 
leads to the conclusion that they may be born of necessity more often 
than of free choice. But no-hard-and-fast generalization can be 

The rural tradition is still strong. 

In this case too the Census definition draws a sharp line where 
in fact there is an area of shading. As we have noted, if a family 
with the necessary outside income makes anything over $250 a year 
from the farm where they live, it is no longer a residential but a 
part-time farm. The industrialist or professional man who lives on 
a big farm outside the city and has large cattle sales is a commercial 
farmer even though he may invariably lose money. Frank Quinby's 
place might be classed as a residential farm one year, a part-time 
farm another, and a commercial farm still another, with no change 
in Frank's outside income or habits or attitudes, only a relatively 
small change in the farm earnings. This undoubtedly happens in 
some cases — how many no one knows. It may account for some of 
the marked reduction in the number of residential farms between 
1950 and 1954 that we noted earlier. Perhaps some of these lost 
farms merely moved into another category. 

Whatever else may be said about residential farms, it would seem 
that they do represent a continuation of the rural tradition in 
America in the face of a steady decline in the farm population. 
Most Americans are not too far away from a farm background. If 
their parents were not fanners, their grandparents likely were. We 
retain a high opinion of the virtues of farming not only as a way 
to live but as a way to build character. With fast transportation, 
shorter working hours, longer weekends, rural electrification, and 
farm equipment that saves time and lessens drudgery, a great many 
people can seek to recapture that experience even if they have not 
"retired" like the Quinbys.