To those in Charge or Who Are to Take Charge of Farms
In compliance with your request, I shall, though much pressed for time, address a few words to farmers' sons, especially to those who have charge or are about to take charge of farms. I regret to say that many farmers' sons are not making a good use of their time. Far too large a proportion are living very listless, useless lives, not well satisfied with their condition, and doing little or nothing to improve it, going through the dreary routine of daily life - eating, working, sleeping; sleeping, eating, working - without any well directed effort to rise above the condition of mere laborers.
Young men, allow me, after many years of observation and experience, to offer a few words of advice in the form of very mild imperatives:
1. Make up your mind to be something more than a mere laborer. Labor is honorable and no one is degraded thereby; but human muscle alone counts for very little in these days of steam and electricity - very little in the keen competition and amidst the unceasing progress which we see in almost every line of human activity. If you have been dreaming in Sleepy Hollow for some time, wake up, open your eyes, and look around. You will be surprised at the changes which have taken place since you fell asleep.
2. Observe, read, and think. In every community, the educated classes are the ruling classes.
"For just experience tells, in every soil,
That those who think must govern those who toil."
Your education is very defective and you are doing nothing to improve it. Begin to read. Nearly all great men are great readers. It is not necessary to go to a high school or college to get an education. Some of the best educated men in the country are self-educated - self-made men; and you can acquire a good education if you will only observe, read, and think. Read papers, magazines, and good books. Read closely, read thoughtfully, and think over what you have read. It is wonderful what a man with even one talent can do when he makes a good use of his time.
3. Take at least one agricultural paper. You need the information contained in such a paper. It will be of much practical value to you - value in dollars and cents; and without it you cannot keep in touch with the leading agriculturists of the country.
4. Attend meetings in which matters pertaining to your occupation are discussed or illustrated, such as meetings of farmers' institute, the horse breeders' association, the sheep and swine breeders' association, the dairymen's association, the creameries association, the fruit growers' association, the poultry association, and the bee-keepers' association, also the annual fat stock show, and one or two of the leading fairs - not all of these, but as many as you can, and especially those which bear most directly upon your special line of work. But do not spend too much time at fall shows, to the neglect of fall work.
5. Take some part in the affairs of your township, county, and province, and of the Dominion also. Be not a blind follower of any party. Do your own thinking in such matters; and if need be, sacrifice a little to put the best men in positions of trust and responsibility, and to keep professional demagogues from ruling the country.
6. Be punctual. Punctuality is an important factor in all kinds of business; and it is to be regretted that farmers generally are looked upon as less prompt and punctual than me in the commercial and professional life. Lying is among the disgraceful vices. Men everywhere resent the imputation of falsehood; and yet a great deal of practical lying is done in everyday life by persons, young and old, who thoughtlessly make promises which they neglect or forget to fulfil. Think before you make promises or enter into engagements; then keep your promises and fulfil your engagements to the letter.
7. Attend closely to your business. Hard work is the price of success in all honest vocations; and in those days of low prices and intensely keen competition, the man who frequents the hotels or spends much time away from his farm need not expect to succeed.
8. Make an intelligent, persistent effort to improve your farm. There is great room for improvement on many farms. The soil is poorly cultivated, weeds are plentiful, fences are out of repair, and things about the farm buildings present an appearance of the most discreditable neglect - stones here, sticks there, a pile of rails or boards yonder, and an old sleigh or a broken implement somewhere else - all seeming to say that the owner is lazy or utterly devoid of taste. Untidy men out to give up farming. They are a disgrace to the beautiful country in which we live; and like the old Quaker, I am disposed to say that the man who allows wild mustard, wild oats, quack grass, and other noxious weeds to take possession of his farm is working too much land, is lazy or does not understand his business. Straighten and repair your fences, then keep them in good order. Remove all piles of stones from your fields; you can haul them to the woods or somewhere else in winter. Rest not, night or day, till your farm is clean - till you have all noxious weeds thoroughly under your control, and most of them destroyed. Tidy things up and keep them tidy, around your house, in the yards, and about the farm buildings; and plant some trees (maple, elm, pine and spruce) to shelter and adorn your home.
9. Take care of your implements, and do not buy any more than you really need. The annual waste under this head throughout the province of Ontario is enormous. Implements of various kinds - plows, harrows, rollers, mowers, reapers, wagons, etc., are left out, exposed to rain, frost and snow! What a disgrace, and what a loss to the owners! Yet many incur this disgrace and suffer the loss involved therein; and such men often have a weakness for buying implements which they could do without, getting them on credit, and wearing them out or breaking them before they are paid for. Do not be guilty of such folly. Keep all your implements, wagons, sleighs and carriages under cover. Keep them in good repair; and let no one persuade you into buying what you can do without till you have the money in hand to pay for it.
10. Be a leader in some branch or department in the breeding of feeding of horses, cattle, sheep, swine, or poultry, in butter-making, bee-keeping, or something else. Do not be satisfied to live and move along on the dead level.
11. Keep out of debt. Sensible people respect the young man who wears rusty, threadbare clothes, and drives in the old buggy or democrat until he gets the means to buy something better. Such a young man has a chance of success, while the one who borrows money to purchase clothes, carriages, implements, or anything else (unless in rare and exceptional circumstances) is almost sure to become a hewer of wood and drawer of water for some money or loan society. Whatever you do, live within your means and pay as you go. Have nothing to do with mortgages or promissory notes. Get some interest if you can, but do not pay any.
I shall not venture to speak to you about religion and sound morality (strict truthfulness, scrupulous honesty, etc.) as the true foundation of success on the farm and elsewhere. I assume that this important fact is impressed upon your minds from week to week.
Yours faithfully, James Mills, Agricultural college, Guelph.