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The waste of productive power by subdivision of the land often amounts to a great evil, but this applies chiefly to a subdivision so minute, that the cultivators have not enough land to occupy their time. Up to that point the same principles which recommend large manufactories are applicable to agriculture. For the greatest productive efficiency, it is generally desirable (though even this proposition must be received with qualifications) that no family who have any land, should have less than they could cultivate, or than will fully employ their cattle and tools. These, however, are not the dimensions of large farms, but of what are reckoned in England very small ones. The large farmer has some advantage in the article of buildings. It does not cost so much to house a great number of cattle in one building, as to lodge them equally well in several buildings. There is also some advantage in implements. A small farmer is not so likely to possess expensive instruments. But the principal agricultural implements, even when of the best construction, are not expensive. It may not answer to a small farmer to own a threshing machine, for the small quantity of corn he has to thresh ; but there is no reason why such a machine should not in every neighbourhood be owned in common, or provided by some person to whom the others pay a consideration for its use ; especially as, when worked by steam, they are so constructed as to be moveable.* The large farmer can make some saving in cost of carriage. There is nearly as much trouble in carrying a small portion of produce to market, as a much greater produce; in bringing home a small, as a much larger quantity of manure, and articles of daily consumption. There is also the greater cheapness of buying things in large quantities. These various advantages must count for something, but it does not seem that they ought to count for very much. In England, for some generations, there has been little experience of small farms; but in Ireland the experience has been ample, not merely under the worst but under the best management; and the highest Irish authorities may be cited in opposition to the opinion which on this subject commonly prevails in England. Mr. Blacker, for example, one of the most experienced agriculturists and successful improvers in the North of Ireland, whose experience was chiefly in the best cultivated, which are also the most minutely divided parts of the country, was of opinion, that tenants holding farms not exceeding from five to eight or ten acres, could live comfortably and pay as high a rent as any large farmer whatever. “I am firmly persuaded,” (he says,”) “that the small farmer who holds his own plough and digs his own ground, if he follows a proper rotation of crops, and feeds his cattle in the house, can undersell the large farmer, or in other words can pay a rent which the other cannot afford; and in this I am confirmed by the opinion of many practical men who have well considered the subject. . . The English farmer of 700 to 800 acres is a kind of man approaching to what is known by the name of a gentleman farmer. He must have his horse to ride, and his gig, and perhaps an overseer to attend to his labourers; he certainly cannot superintend himself the labour going on in a farm of 800 acres.” After a few other remarks, he adds, “Besides all these drawbacks, which the small farmer knows little about, there is the great expense of carting out the manure from the homestead to such a great distance, and again carting home the crop. A single horse will consume the produce of more land than would feed a small farmer and his wife and two children. And what is more than all, the large farmer says to his labourers, go to your work; but when the small farmer has occasion to hire them, he says, come : the intelligent reader will, I dare say, understand the difference.” One of the objections most urged against small farms is, that they do not and cannot maintain, proportionally to their extent, so great a number of cattle as large farms, and that this occasions such a deficiency of manure, that a soil much subdivided must always be impoverished. It will be found, however, that subdivision only produces this effect when it throws the land into the hands of cultivators so poor as not to possess the amount of live stock suitable to the size of their farms. A small farm and a badly stocked farm are not synonymous. To make the comparison fairly, we must suppose the same amount of capital which is possessed by the large farmers to be disseminated among the small ones. When this condition, or even any approach to it, exists, and when stall feeding is practised (and stall feeding now begins to be considered good economy even on large farms), experience, far from bearing out the assertion that small farming is unfavourable to the multiplication of cattle, conclusively establishes the very reverse. The abundance of cattle, and copious use of manure, on the small farms of Flanders, are the most striking features in that Flemish agriculture which is the admiration of all competent judges, whether in England or on the Continent.” The disadvantage, when disadvantage there is, of small or rather of peasant farming, as compared with capitalist farming, must chiefly consist in inferiority of skill and knowledge ; but it is not true, as a general fact, that such inferiority exists. Countries of small farms and peasant farming, Flanders and Italy, had a good agriculture many generations before England, and theirs is still, as a whole, probably the best agriculture in the world. The empirical skill, which is the effect of daily and close observation, peasant farmers often possess in an eminent degree. The traditional knowledge, for example, of the culture of the vine, possessed by the peasantry of the countries where the best wines are produced, is extraordinary. There is no doubt an absence of science, or at least of theory ; and to some extent a deficiency of the spirit of improvement, so far as relates to the introduction of new processes. There is also a want of means to make experiments, which can seldom be made with advantage except by rich proprietors or capitalists. As for those systematic improvements which operate on a large tract of country at once (such as great works of draining or irrigation) or which for any other reason do really require
* The observations in the text may hereafter require some degree of modification from inventions such as the steam plough and the reaping machine. The effect, however, of these improvements on the relative advantages of large and small farms, will not depend on the efficiency of the instruments, but on their costliness. I see no reason to expect that this will be such as to make them inaccessible to small farmers, or combinations of small farmers.
* Prize Essay on the Management of Landed Property in Ireland, by William Blacker, Esq. (1837,) p. 23. 2 N
* “The number of beasts fed on a farm of which the whole is arable land,” (says the elaborate and intelligent treatise on Flemish Husbandry, from personal observation and the best sources, published in the Library of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,) “is surprising to those who are not acquainted with the mode in which the food is prepared for the cattle. A beast for every three acres of land is a common proportion, and in very small occupations where much spade husbandry is used, the proportion is still greater. After comparing the accounts given in a variety of places and situations of the average quantity of milk which a cow gives when fed in the stall, the result is, that it greatly exceeds that of our best dairy farms, and the quantity of butter made from a given quantity of milk is also greater. It appears astonishing that the occupier of only ten or twelve acres of light arable land should be able to maintain four or five cows, but the fact is notorious in the Waes country." (pp. 59, 60.) This subject is treated very intelligently in the work of M. Passy, * Des Systêmes de Culture et de leur Influence sur l'Economie Sociale," one of the most impartial discussions, as between the two systems, which has yet appeared in France. ** Sans nul doute, c'est l'Angleterre qui, à superficie égale, nourrit le plus d'animaux ; la Hollande et quelques parties de la Lombardie pourraient seules lui disputer cet avantage : mais est-ce là un résultat des formes de l'exploitation, et des circonstances de climat et de situation locale ne concourent-elles pas à le produire ! C'est, à notre avis, ce qui ne saurait être contesté. En effet, quoiqu'on en ait dit, partout où la grande et la petite culture se rencontrent sur les mêmes points, c'est celle-ci qui, bien qu'elle ne puisse entretenir autant de moutons, possède, tout compensé, le plus grand nombre d'animaux producteurs d'engrais. Voici, par exemple, ce qui ressort des informations fournies par la Belgique. * Les deux provinces où règne la plus petite culture sont celles d'Anvers et de la Flandre orientale, et elles possèdent en moyenne, par 100 hectares de terres cultivées, 74 bêtes bovines et 14 moutons. Les deux provinces où se trouvent les grandes fermes sont celles de Namur et du Hainaut, et elles n'ont en moyenne, pour 100 hectares de terres cultivées, que 30 bêtes bovines et 45 moutons. Or, en comptant, suivant l'usage, 10 moutons comme l'équivalent d'une tête de gros bétail, nous rencontrons d'un côté, 76 animaux servant à maintenir la fécondité du sol ; de l'autre, moins de 35, différence à coup sûr énorme. (D'après les documents statistiques publiés par le Ministre de l'Intérieur, 3me publication officielle.) Il est à remarquer, au surplus, que le nombre des animaux n'est pas, dans la partie de la Belgique dont le sol est divisé en très-petites fermes, beaucoup moindre qu'en Angleterre. En l'évaluant dans cette dernière contrée à raison seulement du territoire en culture, il y existe, par centaine d'hectares, 65 bêtes à corne et près de 260 moutons, c.-à-d. l'équivalent de 91 des premiers, ou seulement 15 de plus que dans l'autre. Et encore est-il juste d'observer qu'en Belgique presque rien n'est perdu des engrais donnés par des animaux nourris à peu près toute l'année à l'étable, tandis qu'en Angleterre la pâture en plein air affaiblit considérablement les quantités qu'il devient possible de mettre entièrement à profit. * Dans le département du Nord aussi, ce sont les arrondissements dont les fermes ont la moindre contenance qui entretiennent le plus d'animaux. Tandis que les arrondissements de Lille et de Hazebrouck, outre un plus grand nombre de chevaux, nourrissent, l'un l'équivalent de 52 têtes de gros bétail, l'autre l'équivalent de 46 ; les arrondissements où les exploitations sont les plus grandes, ceux de Dunkerque et d'Avesnes, ne contiennent, le premier, que l'équivalent de 44 bêtes bovines, l'autre, que celui de 40. (D'après la Statistique de la France publiée par le Ministre du Commerce : Agricul ture, t. i.) * Pareilles recherches étendues sur d'autres points de la France offriraient des résultats analogues. S'il est vrai que dans la banlieue des villes, la petite culture s'abstienne de garder des animaux, au produit desquels elle supplée facilement par des achats d'engrais, il ne se peut que le genre de travail qui exige le plus de la terre ne soit pas celui qui en entretienne le plus activement la fertilité. Assurément il n'est pas donné aux petites fermes de posséder de nombreux troupeaux de moutons, et c'est un inconvenient ; mais, en revanche, elles nourrissent plus de bêtes bovines que les grandes. C'est là une nécessité à laquelle elles ne sauraient se soustraire dans aucun des pays où les besoins de la consommation les ont appelées à fleurir ; elles périraient si elles ne réussissaient pas à y satisfaire. ** Voici, au surplus, sur ce point des détails dont l'exactitude nous paraît pleinement attestée par l'excellence du travail où nous les avons puisés. Ces détails, contenus dans la statistique de la commune de Vensat (Puy de Dôme), publiée recemment par M. le docteur Jusseraud, maire de la commune, sont d'autant plus précieux, qu'ils mettent dans tout leur jour la nature des change