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By William Allen White



THEN one is cataloguing the callings departments of art, and in the conduct of

of men one says “the business man,' material affairs—seems curious when one

and the farmer," neve: “the busi- pauses to observe how deeply the farmer of ness man and farmer” or the “ business to-day is involved in the meshes of comman engaged in farming.” In daily speech merce. The successful farmer of this genmodern men and women pay unconscious eration must be a business man first, and a

a tribute to the ghost of the old order—the tiller of the soil afterward. In him must be order which seemed to decree that the combined many talents. He must be a farmer's existence depended upon brawn capitalist, cautious and crafty ; he must be and not upon brain. This thoughtless an operator of industrial affairs, daring and slighting of the farmer's vocation—which resourceful, and he must play labor's part, is made manifest in a score of forms in all with patience and humility. He is in busi

Copyright, 1897, by Charles Scribner's Sons. All rights reserved.

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ness as certainly as the banker. And hence- foot of land must be productive with the forth until the order changes, the farmer's expenditure of the least possible amount of success in business will quadrate with the human labor upon it. In the lexicon of kind and quantity of brains heuses, and with the Dakota farmer there is no such word the number of fertile acres under his plough. as "hoe."

Out in the West—where until lately land The smallest implement upon a big wheat might be secured for the asking-farms of farm is a plough. And from the plough to many acres are found. In the Dakotas the elevator—from the first operation in and in California and in the far north- wheat-farming to the last—one is forced western States of the Union, these large to realize how the spirit of the age has made farms are devoted almost exclusively to itself felt here, and has reduced the amount wheat-growing. In the vernacular of the of human labor to the minimum. The man wheat belt, these farms are called “bo- who ploughs uses his muscle only incidentalnanza" farms. The best examples of such ly in guiding the machine. The man who farms may be found in the valley of the operates the harrow has half a dozen levers Red River of the North, where the stream to lighten his labor. The “sower who goeth flows through North Dakota. Oddly forth to sow,” walks leisurely behind a drill enough when the river crosses the Cana- and works brakes. The reaper needs a dian border, the bonanza farms are not quick brain and a quick hand—but not necfound in its valleys, and even smaller farms essarily a strong arm, nor a powerful back. have not been established universally upon He works sitting down. The threshers the rich soil, as they have been a few score are merely assistants to a machine, and the of miles south in Yankeedom. In the val- men who heave the wheat into the bins onley upon the American side there is not a ly press buttons. The most desirable farmbarren acre. Wheat stretches away from hand is not the fellow who can pound the the car-window to the horizon, over a land “mauling machine" most lustily at the flat as a floor. The monotonous exactness county fair. He is the man with the cunof the level makes one long for the undu- ning brain who can get the most work out lating prairies of the middle west. Yet the of a machine without breaking it. The very evenness of the plain has a commercial farm laborer in the West to-day, where mavalue, and makes the location here of the chinery is employed, finds himself adgreat wheat-farms possible. For in a rolling vanced to the ranks of skilled labor, and country there is waste land — here an enjoys a position not widely different from “ eighty on a hill-top, there a “forty” in th the mill-hand in the East. Each is a swamp. But in bonanza farming every a tender of a machine.


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This much concerning the industrial side ably, more than for any other, capital has of Western farm life seems to be a neces- been bold enough to venture out of its beaten sary introduction to the elaboration of the path to those favored regions. It

may scheme under which the financial business terest the reader to know that the season of the great wheat-growing plantation is last past has been an exceptional one in conducted. From this brief explanation it the Dakotas, and that hundreds of thoumay be seen that the problem which con- sands of acres of wheat in the bonanza fronts the business man entering upon the country were damaged by rains just before extensive production of wheat is not en- harvest-time. But usually the rains are tirely different from that which confronts sent to these fields with beneficent timelihim in any considerable producing enterprise. In the wheat-farm the investor has The big farms have been operating in the use of labor-saving machinery to in- the Red River Valley for twenty years. crease the output of his establishment; his The history of their early development has profits are large or small according to the little economic or sociological interest. caprices of his market. Here the parallel They did not grow as a snowball grows, between the manufacturer and the bonanza by accumulation, the big farms swallowing farmer ends, for the farmer must produce up the little ones. The land came to its to the full capacity every year. And he present owners generally by direct purcannot estimate with much accuracy what chase from the railroad corporations. It his cost of production is going to be at any became the property of the railroads through season. The rain, the hail, or the drought government grants—a bonus for the conmay cut his crop short fifty per cent. with-struction and operation of the line. The in a fortnight of the harvest. The weather, railroad people interested capitalists, and as an element of expense, finds a more im- the establishment of the farms came natportant place in the ledger of the big wheat urally. The “wheat-kings" purchased their farm than is accorded to it in the books land at low prices. The improvements that of any industrial enterprise. It happens have been made upon it-after the first that in the valley of the Red River of the breaking, have consisted largely of maNorth the weather during any given month chinery. Only a small per cent of the land is about the same year after year. This also is under fence, and the houses upon a farm is true of California. For that reason prob- are not at all expensive. Yet as the land of * Two furrows are made by each plough. There are

the nation has become occupied in the last twenty of thirty ploughs in a gang, each drawn by five quarter of a century, the price of land has horses. They travel an average of twenty miles a day.

increased. This rise of land values has put

An overseer follows every gang.

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a price upon the practicable. Crews of workmen living at acres of the big one end of the farm and operating it may farms which has not see the crews in other corners from seatempted manya son's end to season's end. And in busy seabonanza farmer sons it is found profitable to feed the hands to reduce his in the fields rather than to allow them to acreage. Hence trudge through the hot sun to the dining

one finds the halls for dinner. The dining-halls—it will large farms gradually crumbling. Inanother be explained later—are scattered over the generation, if land continues to rise in the farm at convenient points. They are fremarket, the big farmers may follow the quently five or six miles apart, and many a “troubadours and the mound-builders.” At noon finds the harvesting crew two miles present land in the Red River Valley is worth from its hall. This illustration may give twenty-five dollars an acre. The improve- one some sort of a rough conception of ments upon a first-class bonanza farm are the bigness of these farms. Here is anworth about five dollars an acre. The av- other point of view : Averaging twenty erage bonanza farmer operates from three bushels to the acre—as many farms will to ten thousand acres. There are, of course, this year—the total number of bushels in scores of small farmers who have one, two, a crop on a bonanza farm would be and three sections under plough. They are 140,000; putting five hundred bushels of not counted in the same breath with the that crop in a freight-car, and allowing more extensive wheat-growers. And it is forty feet to the car, the train which would with these latter

haul the crop from only that there will

the farm would be be any concern in

two miles long, this paper, for they

and if it were to work upon a sys

come charging tem of their own.

down Fifth AveIt is difficult to

nue and Broadpresent the idea

way in New York, of the bigness of


rear end” these farms to the

brakeman would person whose pre

be craning his conceived notion

neck from the caof a farm is a little

boose to catch checker-board ly

sight of the Vaning upon a hillside

derbilt mansion or in a valley:

while the engineer Seven thousand

and fireman were acres present the

enjoying themaverage bonanza

selves bumping farm. Generally

the cable-car these tracts are not

down by Union divided. Yet dis

Square. tances across fields

And this trainare so great that



load would be the horseback com

product of but one munication is im

farm. The money


There are from three to four of these on large farms, fed by artesian


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