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Hibbard, Benjamin Horace, 1870-1955 / The history of agriculture in Dane County, Wisconsin

Chapter VI: The one-crop period,   pp. 121-142 PDF (5.1 MB)

Page 126

the debtor's solvency came in question and the principal was de-
manded as soon as maturity was reached.
  Another force which injured the farmer had been working
away quietly-impoverishment of the soil. It was believed that
the soil was good for an age without any attention to replenish-
ment. How any intelligent set of men could be so blind to the
fundamental truth of farming as to think it possible to subtract
from a given sum without decreasing it, is beyond comprehen-
sion; but it must be remembered that Wisconsin soil did appear
almost infinitely richer than the granite farms of New England,
and even those who came from New York or Ohio had not, for
the most part, lived in those states long enough to see the first
virgin richness of the soil destroyed. At all events, the vision of
a soil which could hold its own under the system of constant rob-
bery was pretty thoroughly dispelled by i8pI. No longer could
the failure of wheat be charged to caprices of the weather, to
poor seed, or to sowing in the wrong time of the moon; the fact
of weedy, hard, unresponsive fields was in evidence. All at once
there was great interest in scientific farming; the I-told-you-so
prophets were ready to account for all the trouble; agricultural
societies sprang into existence in nearly every county, and the
poor farmer was berated and advised by editor, money-lender
and his own fellow sufferers. Accounts of the conditions, and
some of the causes for them are given by contemporaries:
  "As to the manner of cultivation it is rather slovenly. First they
have attempted to cultivate too much land with very limited means;
next, they have been deluded with the notion that wheat could
be grown successfully for an indefinite period of time  .
that manuring, rotating crops, seeding down with timothy, clover,
and other grasses  . . . was altogether unnecessary. To
surround a quarter section of land with a sod fence, break and
sow it to wheat, harvest the same and stack it, plow the stubble
once and sow it again with wheat, thresh the previous crop and
haul it to the Lake, was considered good farming in Rock county
and it continued from year to year; hundreds confidently expected
to win by going it blind in this very unscientific manner. Three
years out of eleven have produced good crops of winter wheat.""
  STrane. State Agr' Soc., I, 211; see also 152f, and Wiaconeft Farmer, I,
and III, 44.

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