Page images

had before, while the scientific investigations and reports of the State Inspector of Fertilizers, appointed by the Board, have been among the most valuable contributions to scientific agriculture and to agricultural literature ever published in this country. The importance of this change will be more and more appreciated when it is considered that the judicious use of artificial fertilizers increases the possibilities of production many fold. The amount of plant-food to be accumulated upon the farm, under the old system of farming, had its limits. It could be increased to a certain extent by extraordinary care and labor; but there was always a point beyond which it was not economical to go. When that point was reached it became very desirable to seek foreign aids. They were offered in the form of guano, and more recently in superphosphates and in a great variety of other forms; but so great and so general had been the disappointment in their use, owing to the fraud and imposition in the manufacture, that farmers had come to entertain a universal distrust of them. That some action was absolutely needed is sufficiently clear also, from the fact that several of the States have enacted laws modelled after our own. In 1864 the Board instituted a series of public meetings for lectures and discussions, to be held in various parts of the Commonwealth, to which the whole community were invited, and in which all could take part. These meetings, begun at Springfield, have been held in all sections of the State, and though not very largely attended at first, have become very popular, attracting large audiences and creating great and well sustained enthusiasm. The last of these meetings was held in the town of Waltham by the special invitation of the thriving Farmer's Club of that town.



The country meeting of the Board was held at Waltham, on the fourth, fifth, and sixth of December.

The sessions began on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at noon, in Rumford Hall. The hall was very handsomely decorated with flowers and potted plants, conspicuous among which was an orangetree, with an abundance of the golden fruit upon it. The attendance was unusually large, and embraced members of the Board and prominent agriculturists from all parts of the State.

The meeting was called to order by Capt. JoHN B. MooRE of Concord, Chairman of the Committee on Meetings, who spoke as follows: —

Gentlemen of the State Board of Agriculture, — It becomes my duty, as chairman of the committee of arrangements, and as the delegate to the State Board of Agriculture from the Middlesex Agricultural Society, within whose limits we are now assembled, to call this, the fourteenth annual public meeting of the Board, to order. It has been the custom, and a very proper one, for the person calling these meetings to order, to give a short account of the farming of the vicinity or county. This I do more readily, as I am willing to confess that I have a strong State, county, and town pride. It is laudable to be proud of a State like Massachusetts, which, though small comparatively in territory, still maintains by its perseverance and intelligence a leading position in these United States. Middlesex is the most populous county in the State except Suffolk; although it has suffered a loss in its population, of fifty thousand, by annexation of a portion of its territory to the city of Boston. It extends in a north-westerly direction from tide-water on the Charles and Mystic Rivers to New Hampshire. Within its limits there are fifty-four cities and towns. It has quite a variety of soils, such as sandy loam, gravelly loam, loam, clay loam, clay, peat, and considerable tracts of a very light sandy soil hardly fit for cultivation. The first two largely predominate; the first three are well adapted to market gardening. Through it flow the Merrimack, Nashua, Concord, Charles, Mystic, Shawshene, and other rivers. In the valleys of these rivers, there are a great many acres of interval lands, some of which are quite productive, although by no means equal in that respect to such lands on the Connecticut River. As you leave the valleys of the Nashua and Merrimack, the country becomes hilly and broken, and not so readily cultivated, much of it being interspersed with ledges and bowlders; some of this land, more particularly the hillsides, being well adapted to the growth of the apple. The sandy loams, gravelly loams, and loams, are well adapted to growing all cultivated crops and for market gardening, and the clay loams are very productive when well drained. The farming of the northern part of the county is principally dairy farming: a small portion of the milk is used for butter making; but the larger part of it is sent to market by milkmen. This, with fruits, grains, beef, pork, and vegetables, in a smaller way, make the principal products of the farms. The central part produces milk for the market very largely, but does not use much for butter. The milk from this section finds a market principally at Boston. There are also grown fruits and vegetables to considerable extent, and what are termed the small fruits quite largely: these also find a market at Boston. The southern part of the county also produces large quantities of milk, which is used almost entirely for the market; but here the vegetables and fruits, both large and small, are the leading crops. Stock-raising in Middlesex, so far as relates to neat cattle, except the raising of heifers to replenish the stock of cows on the dairy-farms, is nearly abandoned, for the reason that it can be done more economically where land, hay, and pasturage are cheaper. In the breeding of these heifers, there has been a large admixture of the Ayrshire, Jersey, and more recently of the Dutch or Holstein blood, by crossing with the best cows on the farms, and with marked benefit in the increased production of milk. Within the county there is quite a number of herds of Ayrshires, Jerseys, and Dutch cattle.

According to the recent census, Middlesex County produces 7,755,151 gallons of milk, being more than one-fifth of the entire product of the State; and the adjoining town of Lexington 510,551 gallons of milk, worth $99,907, being more than any city or town in the State except the city of Worcester. Of the 3,252,957 bushels of apples, Middlesex County produces about one-fourth part. As I have said before, the southern and central parts of this county are very largely engaged in the production of all kinds of vegetables for market; and, as an illustration, we find by the census report that the neighboring town of Arlington is credited with 40,457 bushels of tomatoes, being about one-fifth of the product of the State. Also the same town returns 12,683 bushels of table beets, and 5,184 bushels of table parsnips, in both instances being a greater product than any other town in Massachusetts. We also find Concord credited with 73,877 bunches of asparagus, being one-fifth of the product of the State, and more than any other town. The same town also returns 79,890 quarts of strawberries, being more than any other town in the State, except the town of Dighton. These are only a few examples. Many of the towns in the southern and eastern parts of the county would show substantially the same results. And the fact that within this county there are very extensive manufacturing establishments of cotton, woollen, leather, iron, wood, and other articles, which have 'reated cities and towns, would account for this interest in this branch of farming. And here, in this town of Waltham, there is not only the first cotton-mill established in the State, but what is claimed to be the largest and most perfect watch-factory in the world, a village in itself. All these various industries create a market near to the farms, for the products of the garden, orchard, and field. This county has three agricultural societies. The Middlesex has held its eighty-fourth exhibition, and is the oldest county society in Massachusetts, and holds its exhibitions at Concord; the Middlesex North at Lowell, and the Middlesex South at Framingham. Both of them have been formed from portions of the old society. And, in addition to these, there are a number of town societies and farmers' clubs. These societies hold annual exhibitions of stock and products of the soil, where the farmers and others interested can attend and examine the different breeds of cattle and other animals, the different varieties of grain, fruits, and vegetables, and can determine for themselves which are the best and most desirable to have ; and at no other place can there be found the same convenience for comparison as at a good agricultural show. These societies were formed and encouraged by the prominent farmers of the county. In the development of a better system of agriculture, in the latter part of the last and the first part of the present century, the leading agriculturists of the time felt that there was a necessity for radical changes and improvements in the management of the farm. Under the old methods, the land was fast becoming poorer; crops were grown at the expense of the soil, almost, I might say, without any compensating return to the land, which was by this treatment being exhausted, and, in fact, much of it had become worthless for cropping; meadows were left undrained; upland was allowed to run to weeds, the crop not being worth harvesting. Cattle were bred without any attempt, perhaps I should say without any intelligent attempt, to improve them, either in size or in milking qualities for the dairy; and I fear that that is continued to-day to some extent. And then, as a general rule, they were but poorly fed and sheltered in the winter; and, when leaving the barns in the spring for the pastures, were but sorry specimens of what they should have been, either for beef or the dairy. Now, I well remember that when I began farming on my own account, in the year 1840, that I carried to Boston potatoes in a one-horse market-wagon, and sold them for seventyfive cents a barrel, that I sold butter for twelve or thirteen cents a pound, eggs for eight cents a dozen. At that time the farmers sold their produce mostly at the country stores, or, I should say, exchanged it, taking their pay mostly in store goods. Now the farmer's produce sells for cash, except milk, on which there is a short time allowed; and this is a decided improvement over the old method of sale. It is true that the farmers of eighty years ago did not have the fine light tools of the present day to work with, and therefore could not accomplish as much good work as at the present

« PreviousContinue »