(I) Set Up Small Mixed Farms (2) Commandeer Wasted Soil (3) Dynamite Industrial Prejudices
The CATHoLic HERALD Work-For-All Scheme, which was described on this page last week, can be applied in this country—now.
A FARMER DESCRIBES BELOW SOME OF THE MEANS BY WHICH A GOOD PERCENTAGE OF THE UNEMPLOYED COULD BE ABSORBED BY AN INTENSIFICATION OF LAND CULTIVATION.
It is hoped to print further articles, by prominent industrialists, trading and technical experts, dealing with the practical means by which employment in their respective trades, industries, professions, etc., can be increased at the present time.
By Our Agricultural Correspondent
The oldest and most essential of all our industries is jealous of its dignity. Agriculture resents being made a refuse-heap for the scrapped humanity of the cities. I propose therefore to look at this question of absorbing the unemployed in agriculture not only from the standpoint of the unemployed themselves but also from that of the agriculturist. In the long run they will he found to be complementary. To cede the just claims of the farmer would go a considerable way to mitigate the curse of urban unemployment.
There is no question of what Mr. Chamberlain in his Kettering speech of unhappy memory deprecated as the artificial inflation of agriculture. All that is demanded is the opportunity to exercise its normal functions, and if this were granted, besides putting the country on a more stable basis, we should save many thousands on our
dole bill. Even on its present scale of operations, rural industry, owing to the superior attraction of armament factories, is greatly understaffed.
But Nothing Has Been Done
The possibility of agriculture providing a legitimate field of employment was stressed in the memorandum, entitled, " British Agriculture, 1938," recently issued by the National Farmers' Union. The Union pointed out that, although arable farming takes more labour than the cultivation of grass-land, the Government,
when the Wheat Bill was before Parliament in 1932, refused to listen to the plea for a greater standard acreage. The justice of the plea has been since admitted, but so far nothing has been done.
It should be noted also that room for men would be found on the land if, instead of the large, specialised farms, such as are now devoted to the pig, poultry and other industries, encouragement was given to the small mixed farm. This type of farm is recommended in the Report made at the beginning of 1936 by Mr. A. W. MenziesKitchin, of the Cambridge School of Agriculture to the Carnegie United Kingdom Trustees. " The mixed family farm of 30 to 50 acres," says the Report, "on account of a flexibility of organisation which enables it to adapt itself to sudden price changes, and of the capacity of the family to live off the holding during a period of low prices, is the most suitable form of settlement."
Pigs, Poultry and Bees A further method of increasing the labour-capacity of farming would be the utilisation of land which, on account of agricultural conditions, is being allowed to go out of cultivation. Since 1931, 588,320 acres have been lost in this way. You can add to these the acres at present devoted to sport or serving the ostentation of those who own parks. Should a war which brought us to the verge of starvation occur, these acres would be commandeered and it is difficult to see why the condition of our unemployed population in peace time should not be regarded as an equally strong argument for drastic action.
Land capable of being utilised is also to be found in wide stretches of country regarded as possessing too poor a soil to permit of cultivation. It is forgotten that there are several branches of farming which are independent of soil. Pigs and poultry, for instance, can be raised on almost any kind of land, while for apiaries the wide, heathery moorlands found in all parts of the country are specially suited.
Cultivate Suburban Fields Finally, there is the land lying near urban centres which, on account of its situation, is expensive but which can be used for those forms of intensive cultivation which, though occupying a small acreage, are profitable enough to employ a considerable body of skilled labour. We have only just commenced to develop the intensive system which flourishes so exceedingly on the Continent.
The importance of land in proximity to urban populations is to he seen in another way particuhrly relevant to our present enquiry. This sort of land offers the