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American Association for Agricultural Legislation / Papers on tenancy. I. The agricultural ladder. II. Tenancy in an ideal system of land ownership. III. Discussion
Bulletin No. 2 (March 1919)

Spillman, W. J.
The agricultural ladder,   pp. 1-10 PDF (2.2 MB)


Page 1


No. II-I
THE AGRICULTURAL LADDER
BY W. J. SPmut
Aanociate Editor of the Farm Jownl
The first rung of the agricultural ladder is represented by the
period during which the embryo farmer is learning the rudiments
of his trade. In the majority of cases this period is spent as an
unpaid laborer on the home farm.
The hired man stands on the second rung, the tenant on the
third, while the farm owner has attained the fourth or final rung
of the ladder. This paper deals with the rate at which men climb
this ladder, and the means used in making the ascent. We shall
find that many men are able to skip some of the stages above
enumerated. There are also various intermediate stages. Thus
the hired man may assume some of the responsibilities of manage-
ment and receive part or all of his pay as a portion of the pro-
ceeds. Under this arrangement he usually makes a larger income
than a mere hired man, but less than a full tenant. Some men
pass from the stage of hired man or from that of tenant to the
position of hired manager, but these are relatively few. The
stage of owner is usually divisible into two periods, the first being
the early period when there is still a mortgage on the farm. Mort-
gages may, of course, persist indefinitely, but in the later stages
of ownership mortgages frequently represent obligations incurred
in extending the holdings of the farmer.
Table I shows the stages passed by 2112 present farm owners
in the states of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota-'
Twenty per cent of the number climbed the entire ladder, omitting
none of the steps. Thirteen per cent skipped the tenant stage,
32 per cent the hired-man stage, and 34 per cent passed directly
to ownership from their fathers' farms, omitting both the stages
of hired man and tenant. Later it will be seen that a large pro-
portion of this last group inherited their farms, or bought them
from near relatives who presumably allowed very easy terms of
payment.
Table II shows the methods by which the men in these various
groups acquired ownership. Taking all the groups together, it is
to be noted that just two thirds of these men acquired their farms
IThe daft on whed this paper is basd were collected by Mr. H. H. Clark,
of the Ofe of Farm Mamaement, under the joint direction of Mr. 15 H.
Tuoa   &ad the riter.


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