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during the annual fairs are crowded with interested people. This society has for a number of years past held a joint exhibition in connection with the New England Agricultural Society, thus enlarging its premiums and drawing out the very
best of farm products. The yearly expenses of the society are about $25,000, including $13,000 paid out in premiums. The gross income is about $30,000. The premiums are distributed in suis calculated to bring out the best cattle, horses, sheep, swine, and farm and dairy produce in New England. The society has about 1,700 members. Lawyers, doctors and farmers are equally interested in the welfare of the society. Among the early presidents were the late Governors Lincoln and Bullock, Daniel Waldo, Isaac Davis and Wm. S. Lincoln. Most of the leading citizens are on the list of members.
The Worcester County Horticultural Society is closely allied to the Agricultural Society, although it confines its attention to floriculture and horticulture. It was organized Sept. 19, 1810, with the late Dr. John Green as president, and Wm. Lincoln as secretary. The society was incorporated in 1842, and has had a long and brilliant career. The first exhibition was in the town hall, and the society continued to hold its meetings in various halls until 1852, when it purchased the land this building stands on. The rise in value of this property has made the society financially independent. It yields a handsome income, which is expended in premiums and in making additions to its valuable library.
The Worcester Grange was organized in 1873. It has 267 members, being the largest grange in the State. This organization began in a very modest and quiet, way, in the library of this hall. As its membership increased, it removed to larger and still larger rooms, until this year, when the hall it had been occupying was to be remodeled, the Grange took the lease and fitted it up for its use in a tasteful and suitable manner. Just how much benefit these societies have been to the farmers of this vicinity, it is impossible to tell; but it is certain that a change for the better is indicated by improved stock, better cultivation, and by the evidences of comfort and refinement that mark the home of the farmer of to-day.
Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the State Board of Agriculture, may your stay here be both profitable and pleasant. I assure you the members of the Worcester Agricultural Society appreciate your labors, and the earnestness manifest on every hand for the advancement of the cause which you represent. If you should desire to visit some of our farms, factories, city departments or educational institutions during your stay in our city, we shall be pleased to afford you every facility for doing so.
The CHAIRMAN. There is a question box here, and any gentleman who has a question that he wishes answered by the members of the State Board, or any one present, will please deposit it in the box, and from time to time as opportunity occurs during our sessions the questions will be drawn out and answered as well as they can be by some one in the audience. The secretary, Mr. SESSIONS, will have charge of the box, and any question handed to him will be placed in it.
The first topic on our programme has reference to experiment stations. They are comparatively new here in New England, and the question arises, What have they done for the farmer? We have with us to-day Prof. G. H. WHITCHER, Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Hanover, N. H., who will now speak to us upon this subject.
AT HAVE OUR EXPERIMENT STATIONS DONE FOR THE
BY PROF. G. H. WHITCHER.
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN : – I propose to consider the subject of experiment stations under three heads :
1. Why do we have experiment stations ?
In any industry, it matters not what that industry is, there are constantly arising obstacles which stand in the way of perfect success, and it becomes necessary to overcome these obstacles in order that the best results may be obtained. Take, for example, some of the common industries that we have seen springing up and developing into vast proportions in recent years. I have thought several times of one illustration which I will bring up here to-day, and that is in connection with the Edison incandescent electric light. That has nothing to do with experiment stations; it will, however, show the principle that is involved. Edison gave to the world that form of electric light known as the incandescent light. He was puzzled to find something to take the place of platinum for the filament, the particles of which become white-hot and give out light without becoming fused. He saw that platinum was too expensive, and at once set to work to find some cheap substitute. It must be cheap, and it must have certain characteristics and qualities. Now, Edison knows no such thing as failure; that word is not in his vocabulary. He knew that carbon bad certain properties which would fulfil all the requirements, but it must be a certain forin of carbon, and must be very tough, not easily broken by the shocks and jars to which these lights are subjected. After a very long series of experiments, which he kept up day and night (it is said that he had only -four hours’sleep while he was conducting these experiments), he found that the fibre of bamboo carbonized would serve his purpose, and we have to-day the incandescent electric light in which those fibres of bamboo are used. There is a fact in connection with this matter which always struck me as interesting and remarkable, and that is, that Edison made a contract to furnish incandescent electric lights at the cost of twenty-five cents each for these little bulbs, when at that very time he was paying five dollars for every one of them that he received. Now, to some this may have seemed very
. foolish on his part, to assume that they could be manufactured at that price; and yet, with that clear insight which characterizes this wonderful man, he saw, first, that there would be a great demand for the lights, and therefore they could be manufactured cheaply; and, secondly, he saw that new processes, new apparatus, etc., would be invented when this demand was appreciated, which would enable manufacturers to give them to the world at the very small price which he put upon them, and the result has justified his faith.
This is merely an illustration. It brings out this one point, — that progress means the overcoming of obstacles,
and the overcoming of obstacles can only be brought about by invention, investigation and discovery.
Now, if we turn from manufactures, where many other specific illustrations might be brought up, to the agricultural industry, we shall find that that occupation is no exception to the general rule; that, if we are to have progress, we must overcome the difficulties and obstacles which have stood in the way of the development of that industry in the past.
For the purpose of bringing out a little more clearly the history of agriculture, I have been accustomed to divide it into three periods, which we may consider as tolerably well marked. Not that we can definitely fix upon any one year as marking the dividing line between one period and another, but each of these three periods has peculiar characteristics which distinguish it from the others. The first covers the period of original soil fertility; the second is the period of soil exhaustion ; the third is the period of renovation.
Now, in each of these there are a number of things to be considered. First, take the period of original soil fertility. In the history of any agricultural country there is a time, before the soil becomes impoverished, when the accumulations of plant food that have been stored up in the ground for ages appear to be inexhaustible, and no system of agriculture is required to secure abundant crops. The soil has only, as it has been said, to be “ tickled with a stick, and it will laugh in a harvest.” What is the result of this condition of things? It is that the systems of agriculture, or rather the methods of agriculture (there is no system), are very crude, very wasteful. What was the use of being careful to store plant food in the soil, so long as it was considered inexhaustible? There is the great fallacy that has existed during the period of original soil fertility in all countries, and this country is no exception. Every country has passed through this same period, when the idea has prevailed that the fertility of the soil was inexhaustible; that is, that the soil is full of plant food, that it can never be materially diminished, and all that the farmer has to do is to plough, sow the seed, and reap the harvest. If we look through the history of this country, we shall find some striking facts which bear upon this subject. , At the beginning of this century men were talking of “the inexhaustible fertility” of the western portion of the State of Vermont. In 1825 they were talking about “ the inexhaustible fertility” of the Mohawk and Genesee valleys in the State of New York. I have looked over the files of an agricultural paper published at Albany in 1834, and several years subsequently, and it is amusing to see the character of the articles running through all those papers. They simply held out the idea that there was no limit to the productive capacity of the soil. It is true that a few thinking men, who were looking forward, claimed that exhaustion of the • fertility of the soil was possible, and some even went so far as to say that in some parts of that section evidences of such exhaustion were already manifesting themselves; but, on the other hand, the great majority of the writers took the ground that the soil could never be impoverished, and that the farmers could go on raising wheat year after year, putting nothing back upon the soil, but dumping their manure into the canal or burning it, anything to get rid of it. Then about the year 1850 we find this inexhaustible fertility” that they talked about located farther west. For some reason it had crept toward the west, and at that time had got as far as Ohio. In 1875 it had pushed out as far as Minnesota ; and in 1890 we find that it has gone still farther, and men are now talking about the “ inexhaustible fertility” of the Red River valley.
But in this section of the country men have ceased to talk about “ the inexhaustible fertility of the soil.” In fact, that is a thing that does not exist, and never has existed. We come, then, to the second period, that of soil exhaustion. When this period is reached in any agricultural country, it is really a blessing to that country. By the continued cropping of one kind of crop, wheat, for example, as was the case in some parts of the Mohawk and Genesee valleys fifty-five or sixty years ago, the elements of plant food required to produce a crop of wheat were entirely exhausted, the crops failed, and men began to ask themselves the question, “Why is it that our fields yield less and less crops