Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Short Stories > Argentina and Uruguay > CHAPTER XI AGRICULTURE
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】
The figures representing the progress of Agriculture in the River Plate Republics, especially in Argentina, which has had the advantage of freedom from Civil War during by far the longer period, during the last few decades are truly astounding.

In 1875 the value of the principal Argentine Agricultural Exports was but 114,557 gold dollars; in 1913 the value of these exports was 307,520,854 gold dollars. In 1892 the total of the cultivated areas of the Republic was only 580,008 hectares; in 1912 there were 22,987,726 hectares under cultivation, this figure not including the pasturage improved with foreign grasses. The first ten kilometres of railway line in the River Plate Territories were laid in Argentina in 1857, now the extent of lines in that Republic is over 21,000 miles, and that in Uruguay over 1590 miles, making a total for both Republics of over 22,500 miles, or rather less than the total length (23,350 miles) of the lines in Great Britain. And new lines and extensions are projected in all directions and will prove profitable.

It must not, however, be taken for granted by the above juxtaposition that the railroad has been the whole and direct cause of agricultural extension. That many other causes have been at work is evident since River Plate agriculture and export flourished long before the railway was dreamed of anywhere. During the early years of its life in the River Plate Republics the railroad was busily enough occupied in the endeavour to serve districts already under cultivation;[216] and it is only in very recent times that one of the great English Companies adopted the, even then much criticized, policy of extensions to secure in advance a sphere of future cultivation. It may be added that no adverse criticism of this policy (but only approving admiration) came from anyone practically capable of forming an opinion of the agricultural prospects on which it was soundly based.

Still, Argentine railway enterprise in general is conservative in that it rather waits on than seeks to create a demand for its services; so that the rule in these matters on the River Plate continues to be that the railway very cautiously follows the lead of other progress and enterprise, and much rich land in the more distant Provinces and National Territories lies fallow waiting for the railway, while the railway is waiting till actual production guarantees the immediate profit of new lines at handsome rates.

Time will solve this sort of deadlock as it does other things; but to most people, other than railway directors, its existence seems to indicate a lack of commercial courage and energy. They manage some of these things, in some respects, better in the United States.

At the same time it must be owned that the existing railway policy protects the countries now under discussion from many of the greater evils of local land booms and speculation in Town lots; which in early North American days often left little but disillusionment as the share of inexperienced speculators and paved the way for equally disastrous railway competition.

In Argentina and Uruguay, particularly in the former Republic, the great Railway Companies form something really very like the Imperium in Imperio that the Argentines say they do. Their General Managers are quite as much diplomatic Ministers Plenipotentiary as they are actual Managers of railroads; and, consequently, require qualifications of which the chiefs of even our greatest British systems have no need. The work of a General Manager of[217] a great River Plate railway system lies a good deal at Government House and with the leading men and politicians of the country. He must know how best to protect the vested interests of his Company and to pave the way for new developments in competition with newly arrived applicants and existing competitors. For such purposes he must combine firmness, serenity in protest if need be, with urbanity and the power to be all pleasant things to all men whose good-will is or may possibly be of use to his Company. The slight diversion of a projected new line is a small price to pay for the easy passage through Congress of the scheme of a whole important extension. A scheme which may menace the aspirations of an existing competitor or an expectant rival concessionnaire; either of whom may also command some “influence.”

All this, however, however true, is a digression from the question under immediate discussion, namely, to what extent the railway has been a cause or an effect of the spread of agriculture in the River Plate. The real answer to this question appears to be that both the railway in these countries and the agriculture have inter-aided and are inter-dependent on one another in the inevitable development of a prosperity fore-ordained by a prodigality of natural endowment.

Comparing the figures representing the cultivable area of these Republics with those relating to the parts already under cultivation, one can see why extensive farming is only just now giving way to intensive systems in those districts the situation of which, in relatively close proximity to the great port of Buenos Aires, combined with the natural fertility of their soil, has rendered them the most valuable of all the lands in the Argentine and Uruguayan Republics. The capital valuation of these lands is now so high, especially in the Province of Buenos Aires, that all means must be adopted which will enhance their annual productivity. In other parts it is often cheaper to put more land under[218] cultivation than to lay out capital in improved working of that already in hand. As facilities for transport and the population grow, so will the need for intensive farming, in gradually increasing complexity, be more and more felt and complied with throughout both Republics.

Contemporaneous with such advance will be the gradual development of those products, other than wheat, linseed, maize and alfalfa (to which the whole available agricultural energies of these countries have till now been almost exclusively confined), for which the natural conditions of one part or another of the two Republics are eminently favourable—such as Cotton, Tobacco, Timber, Rice, Sugar and, perhaps, Coffee.

To quote a pamphlet recently issued by the Argentine Government:—

There are vast tracts of land available for the cultivation of sugar cane. … With the investment of large amounts of money and an increase in the area cultivated this industry will no doubt in a few years be able to supply fully the demand and have a surplus of 50 per cent over for exportation.

This statement, notwithstanding the rather quaint English of the official translator, has already nearly been proved true, and might have become so in actual practice several years ago. To quote again from the same pamphlet and with a similar endorsement of its statements:—

In the extensive regions existing in Salta, Jujuy, the Chaco, Formosa, Misiones, Corrientes and Tucumán (the last-named with 300,000 hectares admirably adapted for sowing sugar cane) the area cultivated will gradually increase.

It should and certainly will do so at some future time. When, depends chiefly, as do many, if not most, other agricultural developments on the River Plate, on increase of population.

In the meantime the Argentine National Ministry of Agriculture has done much good work towards stimulating interest in the undoubtedly great possibilities of cotton,[219] tobacco and rice cultivation. The cultivation of cotton is no new idea on the River Plate. It could hardly be so when there are large districts so evidently and admirably adapted for this crop. The reasons why several former well-meant attempts at cotton growing in Argentina were unsuccessful were the difficulties of obtaining and keeping adequate labour, and a too great reliance on the bounty of nature unaided by much human science. Selection and just appreciation of the time for gathering were matters which did not receive sufficient attention, and a great obstacle certainly was the difficulty of obtaining labour in sparsely populated districts, in which the necessities of life are procurable by all with a minimum of effort. The natives fancied they were being exploited if they did not get commercially impossible rates of wages for what appeared to them extremely arduous and unwontedly continuous and careful work. Work of the satisfactory execution of which, moreover, their primitive mentality was not really capable.

Even now River Plate cotton growing will need to be largely aided by imported or colonist labour. Given that and due scientific management and care, applied in the first place to the selection of the seed most suitable to the soil and climate, there is no sort of reason why River Plate cotton should not occupy a highly remunerative place in the world’s markets, where cotton is always in increasingly large demand.

Many districts in the Argentine Provinces of Corrientes, Santa Fé, Salta, Tucumán, Catamarca and La Rioja and in the National Territories of Misiones, Formosa and the Chaco are eminently suited for cotton cultivation.

It will be observed that Argentina alone is almost always here referred to in connection with these secondary (as they still are) products of the River Plate countries. The reason for this is that, while many parts of Uruguay are equally well suited for their growth, the latter Republic is, owing to her later continuance of civil disturbance, in a less advanced[220] condition than Argentina in regard to extensive development of the great primary industries of cereal cultivation and stock breeding.

Tentative and apparently successful cultivation of better classes of tobacco has already been commenced in the Province of Buenos Aires and official drying sheds have been erected in each of the Provinces of Tucumán, Salta and Corrientes and the National Territory of Misiones. These facilities should greatly stimulate the increase of production and improvement of quality of the leaf in those, the most climatically appropriate, districts. Even if they should not confer on the growers the “moral and intellectual” benefits explicitly expected from them by the aforementioned translator.

As for rice, even if the question of export be reserved for future consideration, there is an enormous local demand which could very well and profitably be supplied locally.

Experimental cultivation of this crop in large and suitably watered areas of the Provinces of Buenos Aires, Entre Rios and Córdoba has proved the ease with which it could be grown in them.

Another crop in universal demand in both Argentina and Uruguay is MATE, or “Paraguayan Tea,” the leaf of the Ilex Paraguayensis. This shrub grows wild in the Territory of Misiones and in the Republics of Paraguay and Brazil; and Argentina and Uruguay import it from the latter countries to annual values of several millions of gold dollars. The cultivation of mate yerba only presents difficulty and risk of loss during the very earliest periods of its growth; but study has now shown how to avoid most, at any rate, of such risks, so that it has become an absurdity that such an article of universal daily, indeed hourly, consumption in both of the countries under consideration should not be grown by them in districts so suited for the cultivation of this shrub that they have become its home in a perfectly wild condition.


Wherever one goes in Argentina and Uruguay the MATE (as the small gourd in which the infusion of the dust-like YERBA—“herb”—is made, and from which it is sucked up through a special tube called the “bombilla” from its perforated, bulb-shaped end) is omnipresent and usually in working evidence in the hands of one or other member of the household throughout the livelong day.

Mate is a stimulant of great sustaining and stomachic qualities; and its use is not followed by the depression which follows excessive tea and coffee drinking. A River Plate peon will go from daybreak to midday, riding or doing physically hard work the whole while, on nothing more than a hunch of bread or a “biscuit” (a hard, dry maize-flour roll) and a few small mates. With sugar, mate is very palatable and the taste soon develops into a habit, but in the camp it is usually drunk “bitter,” that is, without sugar, both from motives of economy and because it is popularly supposed to be healthier and more sustaining when taken in that way.

At any rate, there can be no doubt that mate growing must one day become a very large and profitable industry in the Northern parts, where the climate is suitably mild, of the two Republics.

The Jesuit Fathers, from whom the Territory of Misiones derives its name, were well aware of the wholesome qualities of mate yerba, and it is possible that the now wild growth of the shrub in that Territory owes its existence to their cultivation.

In connection with their primarily great agricultural industries, the wheat, maize and linseed crops which will always remain a chief pillar of their prosperity (even if stock-raising on the present huge scale should be reduced by the encroachment of agricultural or, as is most likely, mixed farming; or if the Andine regions prove as rich in minerals as some people would have us believe), the River Plate Republics must always occupy positions of ever-increasing[222] weight and importance on the cereal markets of the world.

The world wants meat, but it must have bread, the true staff of human life. Signs are not wanting of the coming of a day when the majority of the human race will be forced into vegetarianism by the growing scarcity of meat; but the time when wheat shall be no longer obtainable by the multitude is so much farther off on the speculative horizon as to be a negligible factor in any but abstract contemplation. As for live stock, most middle-aged people to-day can retrace in their own memories the decline of the meat exports of the United States; where a rapid growth of population and spread of agriculture have so increased the local consumption and diminished the supply that the States not only now eat all their own meat, but already import from Argentina and Uruguay.

When the latter countries arrive at a similar stage of their development, as they must do one day, from whence will they and the rest of the world get meat supplies? Even the greatest and most terrible war the world has ever known has not reduced the population of the globe to an extent which will do more than very temporarily, if practically at all, affect the question of its future food supplies.

Recently the reproductive capacities of the existing Argentine and Uruguayan flocks and herds were brought almost to a standstill in respect of the increase of their numerical value; chiefly on account of the ever-increasing demands and high prices paid by the Cold Storage Export Companies.[37] And purely economic reasons cause more and more land each year to be put under cereal cultivation while numerically large flocks and herds are pushed further into less accessible regions of the Republics, on the boundaries of which vast quantities of finely bred animals already graze.


More transport (and labour), more cereals; more cereals, less live stock: will be the rule of these Countries’ progress, following that of the great Northern Republic. A rule which mixed and intensive farming will only modify in a degree quite incommensurate with the experiences of an ever and rapidly increasing demand.

The future of both Argentina and (later on) Uruguay appears to be bound up in their cereal production (of which wheat, maize, linseed and oats are now the chief elements).

I say appears, because the Andes may yet yield marvellous mineral treasure; good coal may yet be discovered; it and the petroleum deposits of Comodoro Rivadavia and elsewhere may yet provide fuel for manufacturing industry; and the River Plate Republics may yet become the great pig-producing countries of the world, as a United States expert once prophesied to the present writer that one day they would be. But all these things, even if the future do hold them in store, are beyond the perceptibly practical horizon; while the already preponderating influence of cereal production on the destinies of Argentina is immediately evident. Argentina practically supplies the world with linseed.

Uruguay is still in the infancy of its agriculture. It has as yet but some two million acres of cultivated land as against some thirty million acres of pasturage. But the world’s demands will doubtless lead it on the same course as that imposed on the United States and Argentina; modified, perhaps, to some extent by the more undulating nature of its lands as compared with the flat Pampa. Again, Uruguay is much richer in running streams than is Argentina; which latter country is but sparsely provided with water courses, especially in dry weather.

During the course of the last decade the value of the cereals exported from the River Plate tripled.

The great areas of cereal cultivation are the Provinces of Buenos Aires, Santa Fé, Córdoba and Entre Rios and the[224] National Territory of the Pampa Central. Cereal growing in Uruguay is still chiefly confined to the Southern Departments of that country.

Nevertheless, Uruguayan wheat has received special quotations as the highest quality of any in the European markets; and “Montevideo wheat,” as it is called, is much purchased by Argentine exporters to mix with their own grain. The cultivation of alfalfa (lucerne) is also increasing with enormous rapidity, both for home consumption and export; and is likely to show still greater proportionate increase as mixed and intensive farming grow in favour.

Economic necessity may also soon increase the cultivation of this valuable plant as an alternate crop on, and restorative for, the exhausted soil of many districts where wheat has been grown on wheat since, one might almost say, time immemorial.

Wheat, as all the agricultural world knows, absorbs the nitrogen from the soil on which it is grown; while alfalfa, on the other hand, absorbs nitrogen from the air and deposits it in the soil. These two crops are therefore, as was found out long ago in North America, naturally complementary. And a course of alfalfa prepares ground for the replanting of wheat in a way unequalled by the most expensive artificial fertilizers. The time will therefore doubtless come when Argentine farmers will plough up such of their alfalfa as may be on suitable ground and plant wheat thereon; and, contrariwise, will plough up their wheat and give the ground two or three years of alfalfa before putting wheat on it again.

But this is still, to the vast majority of Argentine farmers, an absurdly impracticable counsel of perfection. Since, does one think, he asks, that he is going to spoil his alfalfa fields, soon after seeing them pass through the critical stage of their tap-roots reaching water, and break his ploughs into the bargain by cutting those thick, tough roots up again? Not he. Alfalfa it is now and alfalfa it is going to remain;[225] to yield him four or even more cuttings annually. Only time and ever-growing land values will force this kind of reasoning out of his mind. He, in the more distant parts of the country at all events, is still in the stage of mentality when what were good enough methods for his forefathers are good enough for him. Nature has been kind to him. He has always reaped much benefit from little labour or capital outlay; and this state of things suits his nature so well that he is altogether disinclined to vary it by following theories which do not appeal to him, be they preached never so wisely by the ambulant Agricultural Instructors employed by the Government to travel about the country and teach improved methods to its rural inhabitants. The deaf ear which even the very well-to-do among what may be called the peasant proprietors, the little-educated rural classes, that is to say, turn to the teachings of modern science is due to the fact that these people have long been too much spoilt by nature’s gifts of highly fertile soil and favourable climate to perceive any very pressing need to bestir themselves to unaccustomed expenditure of energy or money.

Thus, as is told elsewhere in these pages, thousands of head of cattle and sheep die each time a drought occurs simply because their owners will not go to the trouble and expense of boring for water (seldom far from the surface) and putting up windmills to draw it.

Education and economic pressure will in due course end this era of dolce far niente; which is doomed to disappear from even the most outlying of rural districts as surely as the traditional Ma?ana has from the business communities of the great cities. Nowadays, a denizen of Buenos Aires who scents a good stroke of business will pursue and capture it with a rapidity and real vigour which would not shame a citizen of the United States. Only, the Argentine will always conceal his haste under an affected outburst of boisterous humour or an equally assumed dilatoriness of manner. He will, in fact, be politer about it than the[226] Northerner. But he will get there all the same. So will the agriculturist, comparatively untutored as he still often is, once he realizes his own advantage in the matter; as circumstances eventually will force him to do.

Just now the River Plate countries are faced with an exceptionally acute phase of the problem of their increased agricultural expansion; the governing factor of that problem, indeed the whole cause of it, being their lack of adequate rural population.

To appreciate this inadequacy one must realize that the Argentine Republic alone is only a very little smaller than Germany, Austro-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Holland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and Switzerland put together; while her population is only some 7,500,000. Of this over a million is in the city of Buenos Aires; and the other cities such as Rosario, Bahia Blanca and the Provincial capitals account for another.

Even were the whole 7,500,000 equally spread over the Republic, we should only get an average of 6·5 per square mile, as against some 193 per square mile as the average of the other countries named above for comparison of area. Uruguay has a considerably larger population (and, it may be added, railway mileage), to the square mile than Argentina; but even then it has only some 1,200,000 inhabitants, or about half the number possessed by the Province of Buenos Aires.

Unless this state of things be remedied, it would appear as if the hitherto rapid advance of both agriculture and stock-breeding in these countries must soon reach a point beyond which they can no further go for want of hands to sow, reap and carry crops and rear and tend cattle and sheep! This situation is not a perfectly new one in modern economic history; but it may safely be called new in degree when it is found in countries where all other natural conditions are normally so entirely favourable to uninterrupted rural production. In countries not (as yet at all events) directly[227] involved in Armageddon; and while so much of the rest of the world urgently needs every grain of wheat and every ounce of meat they can possibly send out.

Great irrigation works now in progress will open up further vast and almost unprecedentedly fertile areas for cultivation; which areas railway lines are practically ready and waiting to serve with transport and for which new ports are in course of construction while existing ones are being enlarged and improved. New agricultural laws have been passed to meet difficulties which have arisen with already increased production and land values; everything in fact has been done and is being done to second and enhance nature’s gifts.

But the question, “Where are the human beings necessary to an advantageous result of and to benefit by all these preparations?” still remains unanswered; except by the apparently very stubborn fact that they have not yet appeared on the River Plate and show no signs of doing so.

At the present moment the outlook from this state of things reveals only a tangled problem, in view of the awful wastage of human life now going on in Europe. But for its occurrence and continuance before the war the Governments of Argentina and Uruguay are almost wholly to blame, and that of the former country in much the greater degree. This because, while Uruguay may be said to have only just emerged from a long period of internal political disturbance which necessarily absorbed all the time and energies of her statesmen, Argentine politics long ago reached their destined haven of sunlit, calm waters.

Argentina has spent much trouble and money in propaganda; in all sorts of publications giving true and therefore favourable statistics of her ever-increasing rural industries, trade and prosperity. But—and this cannot be insisted on too often for her own good and for Uruguay’s example—she has never even seemed to trouble herself about suitable people who might be attracted by the perusal of her statistics[228] and pamphlets to wish to know more of her and of their exact individual prospects did they decide to set sail for her shores.

Like so many of the good laws and schemes in which this country abounds, everything concerning prospective colonists is excellently arranged and set down on paper; but nothing is yet in really practical working order for the reception and assignment of land to the real colonist, the man most needed in new countries, bringing with him a small capital which he wishes to invest in a holding which will be the future home of himself and his family.

It seems a hard saying, but I hold it truth that the only provision yet made has been, and is, for the reception and despatch upcountry of the very poorest class of immigrants; glad to get a job at manual labour of any kind, and therefore at the mercy of the landowners who still really govern this pretendedly ultra-democratic Republic.

It is—whether accidentally or of set purpose is needless to discuss here—in point of fact through the influence of landed proprietors, and through their influence alone, that the elaboration and putting into practice of existing colonization schemes and laws lie fallow; while poor immigrants, by a seemingly cynical courtesy, called “Colonists,” are granted the privilege of a share in any immediate profits to be derived from breaking up virgin soil from which they will be turned off practically as soon as it begins to yield—to commence a similar operation elsewhere if they care to—under conditions which leave them little choice.

Congress and the National Provincial Governments are to blame for this, really suicidal, scandal; resulting from a condition of things so patent that the Italian labourers who come for the harvest return back home again to an existence of probably considerable hardship in Italy, in preference to remaining as “Colonists” under the blue and white banner of Liberty.

The root of all this is that the Argentine cannot bring himself[229] to part with the ownership in land, and the fact of his having done so in the past still rankles bitterly in his mind; forgetful of the fact that then that was the only way to interest foreign capital in the development of his country.

The conclusion is that, if he will not and does not give land to colonists, he will find that his prosperity has reached sticking point for want of labour to advance it any further.

That is to say, the agricultural production of Argentina has almost, if not quite, reached the limits of the power of the Republic’s seven million inhabitants.

“The case for the Colonist” has been put with such admirable accuracy by Mr. Herbert Gibson, in a recent pamphlet by him called The Land we Live on, that the present writer has been unable to resist the temptation to cite some passages from it at length. A temptation enhanced by Mr. Gibson’s faculty for hitting exactly the right nails on the head coupled with his command of a vividly virile style.

Mr. Gibson is a member of a family of very large landowners in Argentina; a man of exceptionally high moral and intellectual qualities, and an accepted and respected authority on all matters concerning Argentine rural industry; the best interests of which he has done much to advance, often at his own considerable pecuniary cost.

A born Argentine, he can lay bare to the public eye the weaknesses and faults of the agricultural systems of the Republic in a way and to an extent impossible to a foreigner without a strong likelihood of the latter doing much more harm than good to the cause of reform by what would probably be deemed by Argentines a gratuitously offensive advocacy.

It should rather befall the man who cries to the shoeblacks and hotel waiters of the city, than to us who are of the land, to plead the cause of the colonist. But let us state his case for him.

An examination of the meteorological conditions, the constitution of the soil, the economy of inland collection, and the[230] average proximity of the radial point of export to the site of production has usually convinced the intelligent traveller, very especially if his intelligence is engaged in ocean or land transport, that the Argentine is the garden of the world.

A closer examination of the abruptness of the thermographical curves and their relation to soil foods and the growth and harvest of its products; the difficulty of collecting from units of large area, and at the precise moment of their maximum yield and maturity, the seeds of annuals; the yet unbridged gulf between the field of production and the main channels of its collection;—might well lead the intelligent traveller to a contrary conclusion. When he ceased to generalize he would find the lot of the agriculturist was not as easy as it looked.

Burmeister no doubt overstated the case if he said that wheat would never prosper in the Pampa soil. If he said that wheat cultivation would not prosper in the Pampa except under skilled husbandry we could find it easy, after twenty years’ experience, to agree with him.

Meantime the best has been done to make it unsuccessful. The agriculturist, if we are to call him one, is let loose on a five hundred acre pitch of the prairie. In so many cases that one is entitled to generalize, he set out on borrowed land with borrowed implements to scratch the soil for three, four or five years and sow wheat on it.

If he is asked whether he sows winter or spring wheat he does not know. If he is asked how many tons of straw he harvests, he neither knows nor cares. If he is asked what calcium carbonate and nitrate are, he thinks they are sheep dips, but is not quite sure. If he is questioned on rotation, he waves his hand to the rolling Russian thistle that gathers like a snowdrift against every obstacle.

His house is, at best, an enlarged sardine tin. He has neither barn, byre nor pigsty. He has no enclosures for cattle, sheep or poultry. He has no garden. He has not a single tree to shelter him from the sun. With land suited for every form of live stock and field farming he is enslaved to the deadly monotony of wheat growing.

There may be countries with a soil and climate such that white straw crops can be grown for a large number of years in succession without exhausting the land or setting up soil sickness. We know it is done at experimental farms such as Rothamsted. But we know too that the efficiency of soil culture in pursuit of[231] these experiments is beyond the practical ability of the colonist; nor is the economy of the farm an item that is taken into consideration. We know, because we have witnessed it, that in this country after the colonist’s term of four or five years, during which he has collected an average crop of eight bushels per acre, is ended, what remains is a five hundred acre field of weeds.

We can grow weeds. Whatever other merits may be denied to us we have achieved the production of a garden of weeds without equal in the world. Some of them are good plants for animal food, but out of place, for the colonist has not the means to make use of them for that purpose. Others are weeds of the most useless and noxious description. If it be true that the scabby Argentine sheep has been a source of wealth to European chemical manufacturers, the day must surely come when still greater fortunes will be made out of weed-spraying nostrums.

Until this agricultural arab whom we call a colonist is replaced by an occupant with permanent or sufficiently long fixity of tenure; until he has adequate barns, byres, sties, water sweet and cheap, a garden and a homestead; and until he is possessed of cattle, sheep, swine and poultry he will remain as economically lean and weak as the muzzled ox. We have talked much of rural banks to enable him to borrow more money; but we have not begun to put into practice the rural economy that will be followed by the rural bank as sure as summer follows spring. When the agriculturist profits, instead of loses, on the year’s overturn, he will build up the bank on his own thrift.

Within the economy of soil cultivation there is room for two alternatives only. Either the landowner must himself farm his land, or he must lease it with sufficient fixity of tenure and farming equipment to secure to his tenant the prospect of being able to pay a fair rent.

Agriculture in this country has very largely failed through an attempt to drive a middle course between these two alternatives. The landowner, usually one possessing a large area and hitherto a pastoralist, has seen, or has thought he saw, a larger profit to be earned by turning his soil to agriculture. Instead of putting it to the test by turning agriculturist, he has paid his intelligence the sorry compliment of believing that an illiterate Italian, spewed up on our shores may be a year since, could earn this large profit if he were let loose upon the prairie without[232] further capital or assistance than the right to plough the soil, in exchange for a share of the harvest, to be delivered threshed and bagged to his landlord.

The benefits the landlord has derived from this, in a great majority of cases, have been to collect a smaller rent than he could have earned if he had depastured or farmed the land himself; and to receive back at the end of three or four years his pasture land converted into a garden of weeds. The process is termed “improving the land by the plough.” Not long since properties in the market were advertised as especially attractive if they were “all under agriculture.”

Having sowed the wind the landlord is reaping the whirlwind. He has not only failed to profit by agriculture, but he has pledged the land and squandered the proceeds. The matter is not that such silly methods of rack-renting, bonanza farming, land gutting and money lending have wrought their own confusion. It is the loss to the industrial community, to the rural population, and to the national thrift that lays bare the defects of the system. These are the fruits. We have to look into the ordering of our agricultural industry, not as determined by a “good year” or “bad year,” a “dry” or “wet” year, but by such a readjustment of our rural economy that the soil shall be no longer cultivated at a loss. It is necessary to unmuzzle the ox. Without the aid of domestic live stock the colonist can neither profit from the by-products and fallow of the land, nor can he restore to the soil the factors necessary to yield crops that are of themselves profitable.

Neither have we been careful to conserve and stimulate the settlement of a truly agricultural population on the land. We have exported the cult of sterility from the old world to the new. We have measured in this new world a field of production, not for the labourers, but for their European mandatories. It was said in the days of the Spanish dominion that America was the “factoria” of the mother country. She has seemingly not yet ceased to be regarded as a “factoria.”

We take pride that we export so much and need so little. We call it a favourable “balance of trade.” We spread abroad pamphlets and graphic charts and dreary columns of ciphers to show how successfully we have gutted the land we live on to fill alien mouths. We display pictures of train loads of labour-saving machinery, glorying in the fact that one man aided by Pittsburg steel and Cardiff coal can fend off twenty families[233] from a thousand acres, and garner the yield for the contentment of fat-handed brokers eating lobsters in a distant city.

Had the matter been understood rightly by the “estanciero” of a generation or two ago, nay, even by this present generation, he would have put a premium on fecundity. His business was to encourage population; but while he drowsed in siesta hour over the newspaper proclaiming the arrival of alien immigration and smiling unctuously at the intelligence, he condemned his own men to............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved