Duck Duck Book

44 – traditional american farming
04.8.2007, 12:01 am
Filed under: technology

Traditional American farming techniques : a ready reference on all phases of agriculture for farmers of the United States and Canada / Frank D. Gardner ; introduction by James R. Babb.
Guildord, Conn. : Lyons Press, 2001, c1916.
[MCL call number: 630 G226t 2001; one copy, no holds]

If you were a farmer, or planning to be one, in 1916, you would have been wise to consult Frank D. Gardner’s book, Successful Farming (reprinted here, unabridged, as Traditional American Farming Techniques).  It covered every aspect of agricultural planning and management in astonishing detail and plain language.  No matter the specifics of your interest — beekeeping, growing gooseberries, tree farming, whatever — Gardner wrote something helpful that you needed to know.  He covered the economics of farming (different types of tenancy, how to maintain your books, marketing and profit margins, capitalization), the practicalities of choosing your crop and then growing it successfully, agricultural education, soil management, the integration of the farm as a business and a home, and many other topics, enough to fill more than a thousand pages.

It seems that the information in Successful Farming might be old and not irrelevant today, since the book is ninety years old.  But so much of the information in it is basic and practical that it is hard to imagine a time when the book would cease to be helpful for gardeners and farmers — for example, the illustration showing a worker turning under a cover crop of clover with a horse-drawn plow in preparation for planting cotton (page 336) is quaint indeed, but the essence of Gardner’s advice about managing productive land with cover crops remains as current as ever.

So, if you need to plan a system of farm bookkeeping, if you are deciding on the placement of the house relative to the chicken coops and the shed where you keep the tractor, if you need to know how many pounds of beet seed should be planted in an acre plot, if you wonder about the best system for pruning a quince tree, or if you need practical information on draining a soggy field, you will find your answers here.  The very latest and up-to-date scientific information and labor-saving techniques of 1916 turn out to be very useful for solving many of today’s problems as well; and unsurprisingly, it is a pleasure to learn from the experience of those who have gone before us.

Traditional American Farming Techniques has no index, which is most unfortunate, but the level of detail in the table of contents should make up for most of this deficiency, especially since the chapters are grouped into logical sections.


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