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ESSENTIALS TO SUCCESS IN FARMING.
BY P. M. HARWOOD OF BARRE.
Human happiness, and not wealth, as many suppose, is the great object of human effort. The question, then, of how to obtain happiness or success in life, becomes a most important one to the young, and a most interesting one to all. And in no degree is this less true of farmers than of those engaged in other occupations. If farming is the occupation chosen, then success in farming should be the ambition and form the purpose of the farmer's life, to the end that he may, in so far as his business is concerned, add not only to his own happiness, but as well to the comfort and happiness of all those about him, – bis family, his neighbors, his friends, his townspeople, and the State. This purpose in life is an all-important essential to success. Without it, no one will succeed. With a well-defined purpose, and a determination to adhere to it through whatever difficulties, the battle of life is half won before a gun is fired. Even after this labor ceases to become drudgery, all effort becomes directed to the accomplishment of the ends in view ; blows count, and life itself is clothed with renewed beauty. Most people have a purpose, even though it be the purpose of a day. But the great difference between marked successes and multitudinous failures lies in the difference in the magnitude and grandeur of the purpose primarily, and secondarily in the manner in which that purpose is carried out.
I apprehend that much of the comparative failure among farmers is due to the half-heartedness with which they engage in their work. Some are there because ill health has driven them from the cities to seek the invigorating air of the
country; others, because of father or mother who needed tender care through declining years, — most admirable devotion and most commendable self-denial, it is true; others still, because they were born there, and had not the moral courage to get away. Not one of the above classes is on the farm, you will observe, because he wanted to be, or because that was his chosen occupation, or because of his desire to excel in farming, or because that was his purpose in life. On the other hand, there is hardly a professional man and but comparatively few business men in this State who did not enter their professional or business calling from choice, and because they had a greater or less ambition to succeed.
This is only one of a vast number of burdens which agriculture has to bear. It must be a reasonably profitable calling, for certainly no other could stand such a variety of loads. Unjust taxation, government land distribution, railroad monopolies, insurance frauds, trusts, grain gamblers, milk contractors, etc., from without, to say nothing of the half-heartedness and the unbusinesslike principles too often adopted by the farmers themselves. What other business could stand it? Thank God there are some farmers in Massachusetts who are not guilty of these last-named errors. We have them in this Board of Agriculture. We know them in every county in this State. We only wish there were more of them.
In addition to the first great essential to success, - purpose, – there should be love of calling, knowledge of the business, perseverance, and the application of business principles. There are two habits which should be formed, indeed, they are imperative, - the habit of industry and the habit of economy. Add to these virtue and integrity, and we have a man fairly well equipped to become a successful farmer. There are other things greatly to be desired, such as good health, good judgment, good executive ability, power to say no, and, lastly, the family relation. These are the essentials, absolute and relative, which will be considered in this paper as essentials to success in farming ; and we shall have in mind farming in Massachusetts.
PURPOSE. In addition to what has already been said concerning the desirability and value of purpose, let us consider, as subdivisions, foresight, plan and ends. The man with foresight has a great advantage over his fellowman who has it not. About everybody is blessed with hindsight. But the ideal man of hindsight is found in the little coterie of loafers hanging about the country grocery store of a Saturday night. Who of us has not seen him, and who has not heard the wisdom expounded by this wiseacre ?
Foresight can be cultivated. The man of purpose sees this — sees the advantage to be derived, and soon becomes himself a man of foresight. He also becomes a man of plans. He plans wisely and hopefully for the future. He not only has his life plan, but he has a plan for each year, another for each month, another still for each day. Great indeed is the advantage of all this. Labor shaped to the accomplishment of an object, no hesitation, no lost time, blow follows blow, all blows count, wonders are accomplished, and all this while his neighbors are hunting, fishing, or talking about him or somebody else in the neighborhood. The ends accomplished by the man of purpose are not always what he intended them to be. Man proposes, but God disposes. This should discourage no one, however. Nine times out of ten success is attained, if not just in the way we planned, still, in some other and very likely on the whole equally satisfactory way. Life at all events has not been without its fruits ; it has been worth the living
LOVE OF CALLING. Love of calling involves adaptability to calling. Wherever there is a will there is a way. Adaptability follows love in natural sequence. But love for farming does not necessarily imply that one will love all the details of farm life, or that he will not be called upon to do much that is unpleasant and distasteful to him. And he who has not learned the valuable lesson disciplining him to cheerfully perform this sort of work, has missed one of the most important conditions of success. There is great advantage to be derived from love for one's calling; it is an important essential to success.
KNOWLEDGE. A thorough knowledge of the business of the farm is of the highest importance. Thorough knowledge involves a great deal. It not only includes the lessons of past experience, but also the lessons which each day brings with it. Every man should be posted in his particular line of farming up to date. In that way alone can he hope to keep in the front rank. He must read, he must think, he must act. Agricultural newspapers and experiment station bulletins bear to him the advanced thought of the day, and the latest results in the way of experiments. He must glean from these with rapidity and unerring accuracy the results which are of use to him in his business; and, if there is anything that comes to him which will aid him, it is not enough for him to say,
“I ought to apply this to my business,” but he must get right down to work, and apply it, — be the first man, if possible, to reap the benefit in a practical way. If these things are of use to anybody, they are of use to those who are first to apply them.
A thorough knowledge of the commonest details of farming are of vital importance. A man ought to be able to perform any and all kinds of farm labor in the best possible manner. He is then able not only to work to advantage himself, but also to show his men how to work to advantage. To-day a knowledge of mechanics is highly essential to successful farming. The use of farm machinery is on the increase every year, and it takes a mechanic to run a machine economically. From want of knowledge on this score a great amount of waste occurs upon our farms every year. Many repairs can be made by farmers themselves, thus saving many dollars which would otherwise go into other hands. Knowledge is indeed power.
PERSEVERANCE. The class of which I was a member in the Agricultural College had for its motto “knowledge, perseverance, success.” If I were to write this essay in three words, I would use my old class motto. Perseverance is indeed an essential to success. It has íought the noble battles of life in its every department. Victory belongs to him that overcometh. It was perseverance that carried the hero of Appomattox to victory. It is perseverance that carries ten per cent of those who are successful in business life in triumph over the ninety per cent who go down. It is perseverance that has rewarded every farmer in this Commonwealth with such measure of success as he has attained. Many and many a man has failed on the very threshold of success for the lack of it. If there is any one word that I would leave ringing in the ears of the farmers of this old Bay State as a parting injunction, it is persevere. Whatever of darkness and discouragement may surround you, - and there has been plenty of such in recent years, - lose not your courage! Farmers are awakening to the necessities of the situation all over the land. They may make mistakes; some of their notions may be chimerical or impractical at first; but right shall triumph in the end. A bright star of hope is in the distance before you ; hold on and persevere. Sell not your farms to-day for a song, for to-morrow they will be wanted. Agriculture is too fundamental in its nature to ever go out of fashion, or long remain in depression. A close knowledge of public questions s ineeded by the farmers as a whole ; free discussion of these questions will bring this knowledge. In a free country like ours, people to a large extent are self-educators. Therefore persevere.
BUSINESS PRINCIPLES. Will farmers never learn the value of business principles? No accounts, no adequate value placed upon time, no system, unintentional dishonesty in little things. These are of altogether too frequent occurrence in farming communities. The exact opposites are considered as fundamental to success in other callings; and yet farming has to support some people, and their number is altogether too large, on these altogether inadequate foundations. As a result come abandoned farms, — farms that ought to be, farms that must be, and farms that will be, abandoned. There always was a pretty wide gulf between a poor farmer and a good one. That gulf to-day is becoming oceanic in its magnitude. The poor farmer must brace up, keep accounts, spend less