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REPORTS ON INSTITUTIONS AIDED.
FARM AND GARDEN.
The farm consists of 61 acres, of which rather more than half is under arable cultivation. The students all take an active part in the management and work of the farm. A set of simple feeding experiments with bullocks is also regularly carried on-not as an experiment, but as a training for the students. Two lads look after each pair of bullocks for a month, and their work is so arranged that one lad has been for a fortnight longer at the work than the other. Continuity of feeding and management is thus ensured, and there is always great emulation amongst the lads as to the weight put on by the bullocks they happen to be in charge of. Poultry are kept, and a feature made of instruction in their management, and in that of bees.
There is a specially-built dairy, and instruction is given in cheese-making as well as butter-making.
The garden is about 1 acres in extent, and the cultivation of fruit as well as vegetables is undertaken.
The total expenditure during the financial year, including the house-keeping expenses and also the cost of the farm, amounted to £2,920. The amount received from fees of other than county scholars was £148, and from the travelling dairy, &c., £190; the sale of farm produce amounted to £629.
The Board of Agriculture made a grant of £100, and the County Council a grant of £72 in scholarships and defrayed the balance remaining.
This Institute, which consists of a good farm house, to which additions have been made in order to render it suitable for the accommodation of pupils, together with suitable farm buildings, including a small dairy and a farm of rather over 270 acres, has been for some time past placed at the disposal of the Bedfordshire County Council by the Duke of Bedford, in order to enable provision to be made for agricultural instruction suitable to the needs of the county.
Not only, however, is provision made for the above county, but arrangements are made with adjacent counties whereby students are received, the County of Cambridge in particular making a grant in respect of the instruction provided.
The Institute is open to men in winter and women in summer, the courses lasting for five weeks each, and numbering three during the winter season and two during the summer. All the courses are made as practical as possible, the women students devoting each morning to dairy work, and both men and women spending considerable time on the poultry, each pupil having to take part in "duty" work, and feed the fowls, and look after the incubators, &c.
Instruction also is provided at the Institute in the manual processes, such as hedging, stacking, thatching, and ploughing, and demonstrations are held in these and in sheep-shearing for those who can only attend for the day.
The farm, as already mentioned, consists of 270 acres, about evenly divided between arable and pasture. The land shows two distinct types of soil, part being a heavy clay, and part being a free working sandy soil. Several experiments, mostly with different varieties, are conducted, but there is one manurial experiment on the clover crop to be left for seed.
The stock consists of a herd of good dairy shorthorns while a flock of about 80 ewes is kept. There is a large stock of poultry kept, four pure breeds being used, viz., Orpington, Silver Wyandot, White Leghorn, and Faverole. There is a ready sale here for chickens as soon as they have been hatched out, which seems quite a profitable business.
The expenditure during the year, including the cost of experiments in the county but not including the upkeep of the farm, amounted to £1,366. The Cambridgeshire County Council contributed a sum of £50, while receipts from fees amounted to £137. The Board of Agriculture made a grant of £100, the balance of cost being defrayed by the Bedfordshire County Council.
II.-MEMORANDUM AS TO THE METHODS ADOPTED BY COUNTY COUNCILS FOR GIVING INSTRUCTION IN THE MANUAL PROCESSES OF AGRICULTURE.
It has been a frequent complaint of late years that the old skilled race of agricultural labourers is fast disappearing from the country, and that there are no young men coming on to take the place of the elder ones when they are gone. This has not been due to any lack, on the part of farmers, of encouragement to the men in their employ to become specially skilled workmen. For generations agricultural societies and similar bodies have held competitions for farm hands in the various manual processes of agriculture, and there can be no question that such competitions have been of very great use. They have called forth a keen spirit of emulation amongst those who have taken part in them, and have assisted what is probably the truest form of education, that of enabling a person to educate himself by observing the practice and the skill or proficiency of others. Still, there was no doubt that if the old-fashioned pride and skill in manual work was to be revived, something more was needed. This was largely supplied at the passing of the Customs and Excise Act of 1890, which enabled the matter to be carried a step further, by placing it within the power of County Councils to make provision for definite instruction in these various subjects, and thus try to arouse fresh interest in them.
Several County Councils from the outset availed themselves of the opportunities thus offered, and organised instruction in ploughing, thatching, hedging and ditching, and other kindred. processes. Other counties have from time to time followed their example, and it is not easy to over-estimate the value of the work thus done. It tends not only to benefit the labourer directly by increasing his efficiency, but indirectly by giving him a real interest in his daily avocations, thus rendering him less inclined to exchange the benefits of the country for the supposed advantages of town life. The work, too, has not been confined to labourers, and it has been a most encouraging sign of the times to find young farmers constantly taking advantage of the instruction offered, thereby setting the best possible example to the men in their employ. There is good reason to hope therefore that, at any rate in those counties which have made provision for this class of instruction, there will not in the future be the same ground of complaint that has existed in the past as to the lack of young or middle-aged skilled agricultural labourers.
While, as has been stated, the value of the work thus carried out by some of the County Councils has been apparent, inspection has shown that more could be done than is the case at present to systematize the methods under which instruction is provided. With a view, therefore, of assisting those County Councils who are already making provision for this class of instruction, and still more those who now are considering the advisability of embarking upon it, the following returns have been obtained showing the plan pursued by the different counties at present
engaged in the work. It may be hoped that, by thus calling attention to its importance, work of this nature may be taken up still more generally throughout the rural districts of the country. The questions addressed on the subject to the various County Councils were as follows:
1. In what subjects is instruction provided?
2. What are the required qualifications of a teacher?
3. How are these ascertained?
4. For how many hours per day, and for how many days, is instruction in each subject provided in order to complete a course?
5. How many pupils does a teacher take at one time?
6. At the end of a course, are there any competitions organised or prizes awarded?
7. If there are competitions, how are these conducted, and what amount of work is done?
8. Who are the judges or examiners?
9. Does the obtaining of any particular class of prize tend to qualify a pupil to become a teacher?
10. During the period of instruction, is any allowance made to a pupil for loss of time?
11. In the case, particularly, of hedging, do the pupils work singly or in pairs?
12. General remarks, especially as to the good being done by
this class of instruction.
Returns received showed that fifteen counties were engaged in providing facilities for instruction in manual processes. In one of these the work was conducted through three separate agricul tural societies, and returns were furnished from each of them. One county (Bedfordshire) replied that a scheme was now in preparation, and it is known that this is the case in at least one other.
The following is a summary of the answers obtained under each heading, the full returns being set out in the schedules appended :
1. The subjects in which instruction is provided comprise ploughing, drilling, grass mowing, setting out roots, harvesting, setting up sheaves, stacking, thatching (including rope and spar making), hurdle making, basket making, sheep shearing, milking, hedging and ditching, land draining, pruning, grafting, budding, hop drying, fruit packing. The most general subject, however, is hedging and ditching, which is taken up in almost all the counties, while ploughing and thatching are taught in more than half of those counties which have made returns.