Farming for Profit on a 750-Acre Farm in Wiltshire with Organic Manures as the Sole Medium of Refertilization
by Friend Sykes
THE task of compressing into an article of 4,000 words and yet doing justice to the story of the enterprise indicated above is no easy undertaking. The whole story needs the book now in course of preparation which is likely to be published by Messrs. Faber and Faber in due course.
For the last hundred years neither farming nor farmers have received at the hands of their fellow citizens a 'fair crack of the whip'. With ideas on trade and international commerce founded upon a thesis which has proved to be without equal in unsound thinking, with conceptions of economic theories which are as far apart from true economics as the North Pole from the South, our industrialists and their political counterparts have, since the year 1846 which saw the passing of Peel's Corn Laws, sold the farming of England for industrial gain. Slump has succeeded slump, unemployment has become an incurable cancer in our lives, upon one great war has followed a still greater war within the space of twenty years, all showing that something somewhere is wrong with our way of life.
Few industrialists, viewing their declining exports, would ever think that the cause of this vanishing trade was brought about by their own neglect of the agriculture of their native land. They would, indeed, be surprised should this even be suggested to them. But such, nevertheless, is the case. They have built up a false doctrine that without exports this small island of Britain simply cannot live. They are without any panacea for re-establishing that trade, because they, too, recognize that the countries which were their one-time customers are now not only making for themselves the goods they once bought from us, but because of even better methods than we were wont to employ can now beat us in open competition in those few remaining world markets which are, though in diminishing quantities, still buying goods from outside. So that the further we go, the more complex and insoluble becomes the economic problem which this country -- and the universe -- has got to face.
In what way can agriculture contribute towards bringing order out of all this chaos? Can cosmos emerge out of chaos? Yes, definitely. Agriculture is the fundamental industry of the world and must be allowed to occupy a number-one position in the economy of all countries. The story of Chantry Farm, Chute, Wiltshire, points the way.
We must begin by making one basic assumption: That a farm is analogous to a country and in matters of foodstuffs it must sooner or later become self-supporting. Like a country, again, it cannot entirely ignore trading with the outside world, for the farm requires tractors and implements, buildings and other things, which it cannot provide for itself. Food, however, must be produced at home, and any produce in excess of that required for the farm's own human population and its livestock can be sold in exchange for those implements and services which are the production of citizens not engaged in farming. The farm and the country, therefore, are in every respect analogous, and this simile must be borne in mind, firstly in order clearly to understand the message implicit in this farming story, and secondly in perceiving the practical application of this lesson to the rectification of the ills of the world which are entirely man made.
After having farmed in Buckinghamshire and elsewhere for over twenty years, I eventually migrated at the age of forty-eight years to an estate of 750 acres on some of the highest land in Wiltshire. This property lies on the eastern escarpment of Salisbury Plain. It is situated in the parish of Chute and at its highest point lies some 829 feet above sea level. It is windswept and bleak. These features are somewhat redeemed by a southern aspect, but, on the other hand, are counter-balanced by the force of uninterrupted gales from the south-west whenever the wind comes from that direction. The land was more or less derelict, and in the records of title which I examined I found that a very large number of so-called farmers had occupied this plot of earth in the course of some sixty years, each of whom had been forced to leave the bleak, unprofitable farm because they were financially worse for wear, or likely to reach insolvency if they continued in occupation. The whole estate was exposed for sale in 1929 and at 50s. per acre freehold it could find no purchaser. It was just 'space out of doors', as one of my farmer friends described it, 'and not fit for any decent farmer to occupy'.
There is evidence in the ancient barrows to be found on the property that this piece of agricultural land has its farming roots embedded in remote antiquity. We have had incidents of discoveries from time to time which show that history has been written here before, both in farming lore and in 'bloody battle', for here was fought the Battle of the Bloody Fields some four thousand years ago. This land was probably among the very first that the earliest inhabitants of these islands attempted to cultivate and dive upon, land such as Sir Albert Howard had in mind when he wondered 'whether there ever would arise a farmer in our own time who would attempt to wrest a living from the highlands of our chalk country and cultivate again the lands which were the first to be farmed in England and which, because of their poor quality, their remoteness from towns and railways, and their altitude and other disadvantages' had been lost to British agriculture. Visiting Chantry for the first time a few years ago, he uttered an exclamation of delight that at long last this dream of his had really come true, for here he saw this ancient piece of England under the plough and in course of re-fertilization according to the rules of good husbandry, as we understood the meaning of that term in the days of our great-grandfathers.
A quite reasonable query may here be asked: If the story of this farmer is worth even the reading, to say nothing of the writing, why should he, if he knows anything about his job, deliberately take a piece of waste land possessed of these obvious disadvantages? Surely, if he has indeed the knowledge of farming which the writing of this chapter suggests must be his, he could have found a more useful sphere in which to expend his time and talent, and withal make 'more out of much instead of making a little out of next to nothing'. And I entirely agree, but when I took on these obvious difficulties and obligations I did so with my eyes wide open. As a land valuer I have had no little experience; I have surveyed and valued land in nearly every county in Britain from Aberdeen to Cornwall. I have seen farming throughout Britain in many phases of its practice. Few people could have been more conscious of the magnitude of the task that I voluntarily imposed upon myself when, in 1936, I came to live upon and farm these now most beloved, but then forlorn and derelict, acres.
The whole question depends upon what object you are pursuing when you begin any task that really matters, and one of the lessons of my experience and observation of farming everywhere was that livestock are inseparable from good farming, that the best and most stalwart of all stock appeared to be produced on the highlands, that hardy climatic conditions were the invariable accompaniment of constitution and health in livestock, and, moreover, the saying of that old septuagenarian Wensleydale farmer in Muker market place still rings like a clarion call in my ears, 'Remember, young man, the higher the land, the sweeter the herbage, the better the cheese.' This is no mere tale told for the sake of humour, and those who have the inherited attribute of 'farming-in-their-bones' will feel that instinctive respect for those country sayings, which are usually founded upon the kind of wisdom which has close observation of Nature as its university. Furthermore, we are breeders of racehorses and I have found that the best thoroughbreds are all bred on land with high lime content -- either limestone or chalk. Here, in this otherwise wasted 'space out of doors', I saw the raw material out of which I could breed and develop bone of that density and texture which is only to be found in the cannon-bone of the deer, and where constitution and stamina would be outstanding characteristics. When the reader appreciates this, he will understand that there was some method in my madness in taking on the burdensome responsibilities which the reclamation of this large farm involved.
The farm from which I came in Buckinghamshire, Richings Park -- Rich-ings means rich meadows -- was in a belt of the richest land to be found in these islands. One hundred pounds per acre was paid readily by buyers -- a striking contrast to the land I was to take at Chantry. Richings, however, from my point of view had severe limitations. For the growing of market-garden crops it was almost unequalled, but the bone in both cattle and horses did not develop well or soundly. My observations throughout England had taught me that the vales and the rich lands were useful to fatten a bullock, but were not the place to breed him. When this fundamental truth is fully appreciated in Whitehall, we may one day have an agricultural policy of greater enlightenment than any ruling to-day, a policy which deliberately fosters and encourages stock breeding by every means, using our hill farms for this purpose and leaving the lower-lying farms for the finishing of those hardy 'stores' which the hills have bred. That this is an unassailable fact I have proved to my utmost satisfaction. The hills breed constitution, bone, stamina: the vales develop the fat. Our agricultural livestock policy, therefore, should visualize the hill farm as the true complement of the farm in the vale.
Before we came to Chantry I proved my theories in this regard at Aston Tirrold in Berkshire, where for years I kept thoroughbred mares. Here I had the good fortune to breed Statesman, by Blandford ex Dail, who ran third in Hyperion's Derby and was the winner of several important races; he is now the leading stallion in Japan and the sire of one of Japan's Derby winners. Another high-class animal we bred was His Reverence, by Duncan Gray ex Reverentia; this horse won ten prominent races with a total of over £8,000 in stake money. Solicitor General, a good racehorse and now among the elite of New Zealand sires, was another animal bred on the chalk hills above Aston Tirrold.
To-day at Chantry there stand seven distinguished thoroughbred mares, with foals at foot and with yearlings in the other paddocks, of a class and quality better than any we have ever bred. These achievements, regarded by many people as rather outstanding, are the result of the work we carried out at Chantry in bringing this derelict countryside into a system of agricultural usefulness, where this land now vies with the best in England for the weight of its crops, their health, and their general excellence. Horses are my life love, and I could indeed fill a book with interesting experiences in connection with their breeding and their subsequent performance; but space herein calls for abbreviation and I must now refer to our cattle.
At Richings Park we first of all bred Friesians. We had the finest foundation stock that could be obtained. Many of those cows were from the original herd which won the Silcock Five Hundred Guinea Cup. We ourselves won the One Hundred Guinea Makbar Gold Cup for the best herd of dairy cattle in the three counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Berkshire. One of our cows, the famous Kingswood Ceres Daisy, was for several years the European Champion in so far as she gave 6,600 gallons of milk with her first three calves. At the Royal Show our stock was often in the winning lists.
In Berkshire pigs, of which we have been breeders for many years, we won the supreme championship at the Royal Show at Leicester in 1924. Progeny from this sow was exported throughout the world and reference to her was often made in catalogues of pedigree pig sales. She was regarded as the finest example of a pig that had been seen at the Royal Show for forty years. The list of our winnings shows interesting achievements, but all this success was to receive a severe check one day.
'Vicissitudes of fortune, which spares neither man nor the proudest of his works, which buries empires and cities in a common grave.'
And, indeed, so it happened to my two brothers and to me, for our long run of achievement in livestock production was to end with dramatic suddenness. The Ministry of Agriculture had been made aware by medical and public opinion that all was not well with the nation's milk supply and by way of grading up the dairy cattle the first Accredited Milk Scheme was inaugurated. As one of the leading breeders, we were asked by the University of Reading to show the way to other livestock men by submitting our herd to the Tuberculin Test. We agreed. Judge of our surprise when 66 per cent reacted -- the premier herd of the three counties -- what must have been the condition of the other dairy herds in that area?
This startling result gave us much food for thought and it was some time before we could diagnose the cause. We pedigree breeders have a saying: '50 per cent of the pedigree goes in at the mouth'. Therefore we concluded there must be something amiss with our system of feeding, and we eventually suspected that the cow with her four stomachs was not a concentrated food converter, but, in her natural surroundings, a consumer of roughage. Were not the highly concentrated cakes with their well- known stimulating abilities for the production of rivers of milk the cause of the decline of the health and stamina of our cattle? We thought it over. We consulted authorities famous for their eminence. We had produced fantastic milk records, had been accorded the highest awards in the show-rings, but it was at the expense of the health and constitution of the cows.
We then took a decision requiring both courage and action. We would completely reverse our milk production policy; we would feed the cows more normally, abandon high milk yields, and make the health and constitution of the cattle our primary object and milk production secondary. We held a dispersal sale of our valuable Friesian cattle which had taken so many years to breed and which had, in the eyes of the showman and record-breaker, achieved so much. We then went in for Channel Island cattle, and here good fortune again attended us in the show- ring, for we bought as a calf the bull, Christmas of Maple Lodge, which won the supreme championship at the Royal Show at Chelmsford.
But troubles seldom come singly.
'In trouble to be troubl'd
Is to have your troubles doubl'd.
And at this same period our most valuable thoroughbred mare contracted the dreaded disease, contagious abortion. An eminent veterinarian advised her destruction. I declined the advice and determined on a treatment of my own, which was to turn the mare out into a large paddock where no horse stock had been grazed, where artificial manures had never been used, and where she was condemned to live for two years eating practically nothing but grass. At the end of this period she was examined by a competent veterinary surgeon and declared clean. She was mated by natural means, proved to be in foal, and subsequently bred over the next seven years four valuable colts, she herself living in good health to the ripe old age of twenty-one. Here was my first attempt to cure an allegedly incurable disease by giving the creature nothing but grass grown on land where no artificial manures had ever been applied -- in other words, Nature's food from humus-filled land.
In the early nineteen twenties I had the good fortune to meet the late Major Morris of Aston Tirrold, Berkshire. He became the trainer of my thoroughbreds and in succeeding years I was to see and learn much that was to shape my future agricultural policy and practice. Morris was a man of the highest character, education, and farming knowledge. He was years ahead of his time as a grass-grower, and knew how to establish the sward for a racehorse paddock such as none of his generation ever created. His experience was not available to all, but, being both a patron and a friend, I was privileged to learn much from him. From Morris I learned those elementary lessons which stood me in good stead in later years. Morris farmed some 2,000 acres of Berkshire light downland, yet on that thin soil he grew the heaviest crops of grass and clovers I had ever seen.
As the system of farming at Chantry is now regarded as somewhat original, I will detail the plan of management which I formulated when we left Richings with its accumulated experience and began on this very different, light, high-lying land in the mid-western region.
Travelling about England in pursuit of my professional activities in land survey, I had seen widely varying results everywhere and, after over twenty years of actual farming myself and experience obtained from the examination of other people's work, I had got down to a few principles of my own which might here for the first time be stated.
Fertility on all land can be brought about by following four items of farming husbandry:
- Good cultivation.
- Clean land.
- Organic manuring.
What a volume of literary work these four headings could provide!
Take good cultivation -- if there is one craft which the modern farmer has almost completely forgotten (or would it perhaps be truer to say, never learned) it is that of cultivation. Neither in theory nor in practice does one farmer in a hundred realize how important it is to cultivate, cultivate, and cultivate. The old Wiltshire saying, 'A season's fallow with good cultivation is worth more than a coat of dung', is of all good old adages the most forceful. If I can lay claim to be a good farmer, or better still if those who follow after me will but say, 'He was a good farmer', then indeed my bones will rest in peace; but if I have any justifiable claim to being called a good farmer, it is because I believe I really understand, perhaps better than most, the art of thorough cultivation. What exactly do I mean by thorough cultivation?
Let us assume that I am beginning work on a piece of derelict downland, of which I had hundreds of acres when we started at Chantry. My first act of husbandry is to plough that ground four inches deep in October with an eleven-inch furrow; this would lie all the winter and have the benefit of rain, snow, and frost; as soon as possible in the spring it would be cross- ploughed; if the weather was favourable and dry, it would be ploughed again in three or four weeks; it would be ploughed again in a further four weeks -- four ploughings in all. Then throughout the summer, as often as I could do it, I should cultivate with a Ransomes Equitine cultivator, certainly the finest implement yet invented for doing a really good job of cultivation. I have cultivated four and even six times in the course of a summer. By this means all weed seeds are encouraged to germinate and are ploughed or cultivated back into the ground. Couch, creeping thistle, buttercup, ragwort, and other noxious weeds are killed outright. The land is oxidized so thoroughly that wireworms and leather jackets and all anaerobic bacteria, which cannot thrive in the presence of air, are killed, and the earthworms, fungi, moulds, and microbes -- the unpaid labour force of the farmer, there awaiting in millions to serve him as nothing else can if only he knows how to harness this vast army of workers -- are ready to prepare the food materials the crops need. If I could persuade the farmers of England to learn these very elementary and fundamental truths, I would give everything I possess to achieve such an end. Scarcely a farmer anywhere really appreciates these all-important facts. I know, of course, that ploughing may cost £1 sterling per acre at each operation, that four ploughings may cost, therefore, £4, similarly that cultivations may cost from Ss. to 10s. per acre according to the nature of the land operated upon, and that £10 or even £12 per acre may be spent upon such a cleaning fallow, even so it pays.
My third item is subsoiling. If you do not know what this means, it would not surprise me for when I ordered such an implement at Chantry the agent who took my order said, 'What on earth do you want a tool like that for in this God-forsaken country? My firm has been in business over a hundred years and has never supplied such an implement before.' What, then, does the subsoiler do, and why do I use it?
From five to seven inches below the surface there is a hard colloidal pan sometimes quite impenetrable by the roots of plants. This has been accumulating for untold centuries. Break this up by means of the subsoiler to a depth of two feet: moisture will then readily sink to the lower strata; deep-rooting plants will go down through those cracks into regions below in search of minerals and trace elements, which are often there in quantity and sometimes not available in the surface soils. While moisture will sink down, so it will rise again by capillary attraction when the hot sun is playing upon the surface soil or stimulating the plants into summer growth, causing increased root activity. The difference between using a subsoiler on almost all lands and not using one is perhaps the most dramatic in all farming operations. I have seen land that would not grow anything come into life and produce a heavy crop purely through the use of the subsoiler. A minimum increase of two sacks of wheat to the acre can be expected, yet it would not surprise me at all if claims of an increase of six to ten sacks were made. An eminent farmer, who saw me use a subsoiler, told me he had improved the output of 5,000 acres of his land by 50 per cent since he used this implement. Until you have seen what the subsoiler can do, its beneficial effects cannot be appreciated. Ransomes C.I.C. subsoiler, however, requires a Caterpillar or Tracklayer tractor to pull it. Wheel tractors will not touch it. The cost of the operation varies with the type of land, but on this ground, where serious physical difficulties are encountered in large flints underground, it costs about 25s. per acre. A cut to this depth of two feet is made every four feet all over the field. In this way the entire subsoil is broken into fray meets underground. No subsoil comes to the surface. This would be most undesirable; you must keep your subsoil underneath and this implement will not bring it up. If a farmer does not possess a Caterpillar, then he can hire one from his County War Agricultural Executive Committee and perhaps they have a subsoiler as well. As a matter of fact, I do not believe that all the War Agricultural Executive Committees in Great Britain do possess one, but if agitation is sufficient, they will all become enlightened and buy one or two.
Lastly, but by no means least, we come to the all-important subject -- this controversial subject -- of re-fertilization. Of course I believe in organic manuring and do not use inorganic fertilizers. Is this opinion founded upon experience? Most certainly, and these are my findings. A portion of the land at Chantry would not grow cereal crops at all when I took over the land. None of it would grow any good grass; the herbage was not capable of keeping the cattle alive and we had to purchase outside foods, which cost some £80 a month. To-day, after less than seven years of farming, we are growing some of the biggest crops of wheat and grass that can be found anywhere in England. This has been achieved by following the technique already described and by the exclusive use of organic methods of re-fertilization. Let me say, however, with all the emphasis at my command, that unless a farmer is prepared to cultivate thoroughly, he is wasting time and money in applying manure of any kind to his land. The indispensable forerunner of manuring must be thorough cultivation and subsoiling. After that we can talk about applying new fertility to the soil, for it is then in healthy balance and in a condition to receive added humus to restore and maintain -- and increase amazingly -- the fertility of which almost all land is capable.
The systems of applying organic manure to the land employed at Chantry are many and various. Again, unless I could allocate a very long chapter to this one subject, I could not do full justice to it. I will confine myself, therefore, to outlining broadly two systems of fertility renewal.
The first system is to bail the dairy cattle over a mixed ley. The bail is a movable dairy which travels over the fields and secures an even distribution of dung and urine. As a system it stands alone in economic milk production. It also produces milk of T.T. Attested standard -- that is to say, the highest grade. The cattle are controlled by electric fencing, so that their dung and urine are evenly distributed over the field. Dairy cattle are fastidious feeders and are given the cream of the feeding, leaving the folds with much unconsumed food. They are followed by Galloway beef-breeding cattle, who eat everything as it comes and clean the leys right down to the ground. Sheep, too, usually join in this roughage clearing. There is thus left a field covered with the dung and urine of three types of animals. The bacterial life of dung and urine of these varying species is important, for it keeps each class of stock in a balance of health that is truly remarkable. Disease is nearly absent, I believe, from this farm now as a result of this method of field-controlled grazing.
At the end of the grazing period the field is harrowed thoroughly, spreading evenly the pats of manure, and then is rested for a short time, during which rain doubtless falls; sheet-composting of the area takes place; worms in thousands visit the surface and draw down below the dung and waste vegetation, which revivifies the soil by increased bacterial activity and breeds untold millions of protein-consuming fungi, moulds, and microbes, all of which -- the farmer's best friends and unpaid labour force -- are ready to develop an abundance of those plant foods which will produce another heavy growth of grass and clovers ready for further treatment of a similar kind, or a variation of it.
My leys are usually put down for four years. The first year is all grazing; the second, hay and grazing; the third, hay and grazing; the fourth, grazing until June, after which it is ploughed, fallowed until September and then in that month ploughed again. It is then sown with wheat, and crops up to eighteen sacks per acre may sometimes be expected from this complete system of farming technique. After wheat a crop of roots can be taken, followed by oats or barley, after that a fallow clean until the following July when rye may be sown, then the land may be grazed until Christmas, and in the spring undersown with a mixture of grass and legumes somewhat of the following composition and quantities:
lb. Cocksfoot 10 Timothy 3 Italian ryegrass 3 Rough-stalked meadow grass 1 Crested dogstail 2 Meadow fescues 2 Common milled sainfoin 10 American sweet clover 4 Hants late-flowering clover 2 S.100 white clover 2 Kidney vetch 2 Burnet 3 Chicory 3 Total 47 lb. to the statute acre
It will be observed by any student of botany that here is a mixture of grass and legumes of unusual character and quantities, but my experience has shown that it pays well to sow fairly heavily to ensure a good take. The deep-rooting legumes like sainfoin, sweet clover, kidney vetch, burnet, and chicory are important for the establishment of a good and continuous sward. The roots penetrate deeply for lime, minerals, and trace elements, making these essential materials available for the she 1 lower-rooting grasses, while the nitrogen fixation effected by the inclusion of sweet clover is, perhaps, the greatest magic of all. Furthermore, all these plants are Nature's own subsoilers, and once they are established in the land the necessity for frequent subsoilings with the subsoiler disappears to a large extent.
Now I come to the second system in the scheme of re-fertilization. This is composting. I am a great believer in composting. My men believe in it too, but mostly when someone else is doing the digging and turning. The digging of farmyard muck out of the heavily trodden stock-yard is the hardest, most soul-destroying, and most disagreeable work on the farm. In the old days cheap slave labour from Ireland used to be hired especially to do this sort of wretched job. The way those Irishmen used to handle muck was to me a marvel at which I shall never cease to wonder. But the enlightened English farm worker will not do it, and I cannot honestly blame him. In this connection I well recall an incident of a year or two ago. My men had been muck shifting for weeks. We had moved some 500 tons. It rained and rained; it looked as though it would never stop raining. Their rubber boots were leaking and were filled with squelching liquid manure. One morning they all came to me in open mutiny. 'Look here,' the leader said, 'if this is the only bloody job there is on this farm, we're going somewhere else to work.' I sympathized with them and told them to go to the barn and find work there until the weather improved. Meanwhile I went to my old drawing-board and worked upon the designs of a machine to mechanize the muck heap, a question about which I had been thinking for some time. When this was completed, I took the result to Messrs. Ransomes & Rapier Ltd., the famous crane makers of Ipswich, and asked them to make it for me. They examined my drawing and in due course asked me to call. 'You have invented something, Mr. Sykes, in this machine. We think we can help. May we do so, and then let us take out a patent together in connection with it?' This was agreed, and the Rapier muck shifter is now on the market and accomplishes by mechanical means the most hated of all farming jobs. Why it has never been invented before I do not understand!
What does this machine do? Plate XIV shows the machine itself, and its practical effects on farming technique are quite revolutionary. For instance, we moved an estimated 400 tons of muck, carted, and spread it for £32 -- a cost of 1s. 8d. per ton. We have never done this by hand for less than 12s. 6d. per ton: 1,000 tons per year is our output of muck. Here is a saving of over £500 per annum, which is more than the cost of the muck shifter.
Plate XIV: The Rapier Muck-shifting Crane
Plate XV: The Rapier muck-shifting crane
And here we come to that all-important subject of composting. Composting by hand on the large scale is indeed terrible in both cost and physical fatigue. We can now do the turning mechanically at a cost of a few pence per ton, and we estimate we can turn from 200 to 300 tons per day. Two things, then, are accomplished here: (1) an enormous saving of cost in the preparation of farmyard muck in composting, digging, and loading into carts, and (V a great saving of time, for we can now do in a few days what previously took months. A fellow farmer said to me one day, 'If you stop to tot up the cost of farmyard muck from first to last, you would never put a forkful on to the land; the cost is enormous.' With the Rapier muck shifter, however, we have now not only eliminated the high cost of handling and distributing this valuable material back on to the land, but we have so reduced the costs in comparison with artificials that economically the latter cannot enter into consideration any more.
The title of this Appendix, 'Farming for Profit...', suggests that my final words must relate to the profitable character of farming with organic manures as a whole.
Using all the implements we possess in as effective a way as possible, grazing our cattle by the system of mixed grazing already described, making compost with the Rapier muck shifter, as we now do, I can assure the readers of this book that organic farming is not only profitable, but even more profitable than farming and re-fertilization with inorganic manures. There are, of course, still further reasons why organic fertilization is better. A healthier livestock is produced. Disease in plants is eliminated. I no longer need to dress my seeds with mercurial dressings. Poison sprays have no place on the farm. The farm is entirely self-supporting. Over 250 head of cattle and sometimes many hundreds of sheep get their living here from food grown on this land. The horses, too, are home supported. We do not find it necessary to change our seeds so frequently, perhaps not at all. We are growing the same wheat here now that we have been growing for six consecutive years. When we bought it -- Vilmarin 27 -- it was subject to black smut. To-day the amount of disease which makes its appearance is negligible. The yields are enormous. And the same results apply to oats and barley.
Lastly, I must refer to wholemeal bread. I wonder how many farmers have tried wheat grown with muck or compost as compared with wheat grown entirely with artificials. Not many, I am sure. Then try it. If you have not got any wheat so grown, send for a sack of our wheat and carry out the following instructions. Grind it, just as it is, in the Bamford mill which you doubtless have in your barn. Bake bread from the wholemeal flour so ground according to the recipe to be found in Mrs. Gordon Grant's book, Your Daily Bread (Faber and Faber Ltd., London, 1944) and then try your own artificially grown wheat similarly treated, and you will need no further assurance that wheat grown with muck or compost is sweeter to eat, more enjoyable, and more sustaining than wheat grown with the aid of inorganic fertilizers. The incidents I could further relate, showing the increased food value of organically fertilized crops, are many -- too numerous to fall within the scope of this appendix.
In conclusion may I express the hope that when peace returns, agriculture may take its proper place in the world of to-morrow and that a public health system may be founded in the future which will be based upon a soil in good heart -- a soil that will produce life-sustaining food for both man and beast, which means a soil that is living in every sense of the word. 'A fertile soil is one rich in humus' (Sir Albert Howard). 'Humus is the product of living matter, and the source of it' (A. Thaer).
6th July 1944.
Back to Contents
The Nature of Health (Introduction and Table of Contents)
McCarrison bibliography (References)
Speeches by Sir Robert McCarrison and Sir Albert Howard
Correspondence in the British Medical Journal
Food and Health -- Lionel Picton
Soil Fertility and Health -- Sir Albert Howard
Soil Fertility: The Farm's Capital -- Sir Bernard Greenwell
Open-Air Dairying -- A.J. Hosier
Farming for Profit with Organic Manures -- Friend Sykes
Nutrition and Health -- Sir Robert McCarrison
Nutrition in Health and Disease -- Sir Robert McCarrison
Studies in Deficiency Disease (Introduction) -- Sir Robert McCarrison
Diseases of Faulty Nutrition -- Sir Robert McCarrison
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration -- Weston A. Price
The Saccharine Disease -- T. L. Cleave
An Agricultural Testament -- Sir Albert Howard
Ill Fares the Land -- Dr. Walter Yellowlees
Food & Health in the Scottish Highlands: Four Lectures from a Rural Practice -- Dr Walter Yellowlees
To Albert Howard review and index
Back to Small Farms Library index
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