The foundation upon which every industry and occupation rests is land or some other form of the gifts of nature. The founders of this nation came to the New World because here was a land in which they thought they could start life anew or be more comfortable than they were at home. Before we study the relations of men with one another in business and industry, we should understand how they depend on the earth and the things that grow upon it or are taken out of it.
In what ways does land or natural environment influence the life of men and nations?
To what extent has man gained the power to understand and control nature?
What has nature done for the United States in providing a supply of natural resources?
How have we used these natural gifts, and what are we doing now to take care of them?
What special problems arise out of the ownership and use of land?
What occupations deal particularly with land or other forms of natural resources? What special problems are connected with them, and what qualifications are necessary to one who would adopt any of them for his life work?
How Natural Conditions Influence the Life of Men and Nations
Land renders at least three services to man: (1) It supplies man with standing room and gives him a place where he may live and work. Of course we take this service for granted, but is it not fundamental to everything else? (2) It furnishes raw materials for our industries and occupations. The ore or the coal from the mines, the trees in the forest, the hides out of which we make our shoes, are all gifts of “mother earth.” (3) From nature we obtain the forces that enable us to use these raw materials. Even the animal force that horses and mules supply is in economics a form of land, since animals are a gift of nature. The power from the water that turns our mill wheels and the wind that makes the windmills go round are other forces of nature which men use in making a living.
Natural conditions often determine the character of industry itself. They settle the question as to whether the chief industrial activity of a neighborhood shall be mining or farming or something else. Yet men today are not so bound by natural conditions as they once were. Desert lands are made fertile by irrigation, and tunnels are cut through huge mountains; but lakes, rivers, seas, mountains, and beds of coal will always make a big difference in the life of a community.
England’s coal and iron made it a natural setting for the Industrial Revolution. England’s island situation made it almost inevitable that it should become a great commercial nation.
Look also at the story of our own nation. The crops that grew readily in the South could be worked by slave labor; and so with out any credit or blame to anybody in particular, our southern colonies and states found a place for slavery while the northern colonies and states did not. What districts first became noted for their factories? Those which had rivers with waterfalls that could turn mill wheels. What is the greatest source of our food supply? The vast Mississippi Valley and the plains to the west.
Man’s Understanding of Nature
Primitive man realized that the forces of nature were too powerful for him. Some of these he feared, like the wind and the thunder; others he felt were good to him, like the sun which brought him light and warmth. Out of this mixture of fear and appreciation there developed what we sometimes call nature worship. Man made a god out of the sun and thought of winds and streams as if they were human beings.
Ignorance now does not frighten man, but gives him a challenge. He is constantly trying to find out more about nature so that he can use her forces to his own benefit. We discover wonderful things that nature can do for us, though we cannot always tell why it works just the way it does. Such men as Charles P. Steinmetz gave much of their lives to the obtaining of such ii about electricity. Men like Luther Burbank, working in another field, gained power to make plants and trees grow in new ways and produce new and more beautiful or more useful flowers or fruit.
With all our boasts about man’s progress in dominating nature, there are still some forces over which nature has the upper hand — some “ acts of God “ which are too mighty for man. Volcanoes and earthquakes seem to be closely associated — and what can we do about either of them? Tornadoes and hurricanes have wreaked much havoc. We can sometimes prepare people a little in advance by foretelling the course one of these terrific winds will take after it once gets started, but midwestern “twisters “ come up so suddenly, and sweep down so freakishly, that not much predicting can be done with them.
While floods may have some good effects, such as leaving a rich deposit of soil, their bad results usually offset by far the good they may do. Levees or high embankments are built along some rivers to keep back the water. Sometimes, however, these are ineffective and much damage is wrought to homes, crops, and wharves, The “Father of Waters” occasionally decides even to cut out a new path for himself. Just how to handle ‘‘Old Man River’’ is often a problem. To hold back flood waters, reservoirs have been constructed near the sources of our rivers and many others have been proposed. In carrying out such plans, sometimes questions of creating electrical power have also been considered, and there have been disputes between state governments and the national government over the title to the land used for constructing these reservoirs.
Do you suppose the floods of the Nile River in Egypt are anticipated or dreaded? Why?
What Nature Has Done for the United States
The United States has been exceedingly favored by nature in almost every respect. We have over 3,000,000 square miles of territory, stretching from one great ocean to another. Within this area may be found almost every kind of soil and mineral resource necessary to man, and, even yet, extensive forests and animal life.
We have plenty of good harbors. We have 18,000 miles of navigable rivers, besides those smaller streams which can furnish an unmeasured amount of power.
Almost half of all the world’s coal Is mined In the United States, Most of the anthracite coal of the world comes from north eastern Pennsylvania. Far more iron than in any other country is now produced here; especially important are the deposits of northern Minnesota. We get from beneath the surface of our country sixty% of the world’s petroleum, and over half of the world’s copper. We are first in the production of silver, and furnish about one-fifth of the world’s gold.
How Have We Used Our Natural Resources?
When our forefathers first came to this country, they found this land gifted by nature with extraordinary resources. But while European countries thriftily conserved their limited resources, we heedlessly squandered our far greater ones. Two-thirds of the great forests of our country have been cleared away. In many cases the soil has not been protected from erosion, or wearing away, by wind and water, or from the destruction of its fertility.
Greed and ignorance are largely responsible for Ibis waste and destruction. The men who got possession of our natural resources cared only about getting rich quickly. People seemed to assume that our natural resources would last forever. Some people even did not care what happened.
Some things cannot be replaced — coal, oil, iron, gold, silver. Perhaps the chemist will discover some substitutes for them in the future, but we must not bank on it too heavily. So when we take coal or iron or anything else out of the ground, we should do a thorough job. One fault with our coal mining has been that we have taken out only the coal that was easiest to get and left the rest.
Our treatment of our resources in oil has sometimes been referred to as the world’s greatest waste. Many in their greed to get rich quickly have tapped the oil resources underground and brought to the surface far more than could be used at any one time. This surplus has either had to be stored at considerable expense or al lowed to run to waste. Even more folly has been committed by those who recklessly allowed natural gas to burn away unrestrained.
The same carelessness has been shown with animal life. Some finely plumed birds have become almost extinct because thought less or selfish women wanted to decorate their hats. The passenger pigeon, which once traveled north and south each year in flocks of many thousands, has gone forever. The buffalo and other animals of use to man narrowly escaped the same fate.
In our own country we have scenery that rivals that of Europe. Wonderful mountain views in the Rockies, waterfalls and glaciers in our national parks, and such perfect gems as Lake Louise in the Canadian Rookies are worth a visit even from Europeans who see the Alps every season. But man in many instances has marred this beauty with ugly houses, telephone poles, and bill boards. He has sometimes been so intent on getting power from waterfalls or picking apples to sell that he has failed to see the beauty in the cascade or the orchard.
What Are We Doing in the Field of Conservation?
Our immense natural resources were doubtless given us to use. But how? Conservation is the answer. That means using things economically an wisely. It seeks to make our natural resources helpful to us and also available for those who come after us. Conservation of our natural resources seemed for a time a notion of “cranks,” and it was not easy to wake up the people. Gifford Pinchot, who was Chief Forester under Theodore Roosevelt, stirred up Roosevelt’s interest in conservation. It was, in fact, the chief thing on Ins mind when he invited the governors of the states to confer with hum at the White House in 1908.
Yet a great deal has been done both by private corporations and by the national government toward land conservation. Our great western deserts have become fertile farms after the water from distant rivers has reached them. Huge irrigation dams and canals have been constructed. Water is stored up for use and then carried many miles. The Bureau of Reclamation in the national Department of the Interior has charge of the federal government’s work in this connection. California has more irrigated farms than any other state.
Much has also been done toward the conservation of swamp lands near the mouth of the Mississippi River and along the Gulf and elsewhere. Drainage canals have been constructed which make this marshy land profitable for agriculture. This work also benefits the people in other ways, as swamp lands always breed disease.
In order to save the forests of our country from disappearance, millions of acres of land, largely in the western states, have been set apart as government reserves under the care of foresters. They protect the trees from destruction, plant new ones, and watch for and put out the forest fires caused by careless campers or woodcutters. Many states also have state forest reserves and try to teach people the proper care of trees. The CCC. boys, while at camp, actually did some valuable work in the forests, removing fire hazards and destroying harmful insects.
Our government has also had to take a hand in conserving the minerals of our country. The states have departments of mines, and laws regarding the working of mines so that they may be operated safely and without waste. Wasteful methods of mining, and problems of marketing the coal and of the employment of workers, have caused much anxiety as to the future of the coal mining industry.
The same thing is trite in regard to our oil fields. The effort has been made to get oil companies to agree on the amount of oil they will take out of the ground in any particular year, so as to avoid having an oversupply. Sometimes there is difficulty in transporting the oil to the place where it is in most demand.
So that the nation may control what water power remains in its hands, it is proposed to rent to individuals or corporations the use of streams for power. In this way private speculators cannot get entire control, and the people as a whole get some of the profit from their natural resources. The Federal Power Commission, consisting of five men appointed by the President, has been created to oversee the use of the water power on our national public lands or in streams that form a part of navigable rivers.
All states have fish and game laws to prevent the extinction of birds and animals. Reserves have been set aside in the southern states to protect birds, and every effort is made to care for them in the right way. Treaties have been made with Great Britain to protect birds that travel in the United States and Canada. In the federal government, this work is supervised by the Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of the Interior.
To preserve our waterfalls and other features of scenery from being used for commercial purposes, our national government has set aside a great many national parks and national monuments. Perhaps the time will come when a person will not consider himself really educated until he has seen the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, the Big Trees of California, or the geysers and glaciers of the Yellow stone and the Glacier parks.
Several states have taken similar action. New York has made the grounds bordering on Niagara Falls a state park. Another notable park has been preserved by the states of New York and New Jersey on the banks of the Hudson where the famous Palisades are located. If some such reservation were not made, it would not be very long before some parts of the Palisades would be covered with advertisements for cigarettes or cough drops.
Private Ownership of Land
If sonic one should come along and start to spade up the ground in your back yard, you would probably tell him to get out. “That land is mine,” you would say. “ You have no business to start a garden or do any thing else here.” What right have you to say, “This land is mine” or “my father’s”? Since you are living in the United States, the question may take this form Where did the government of the United States or of your state get the right to permit your family or any other owners of hand to claim it as theirs? The answer to the question must go back to the time when the land was taken from the Indians. It might have been paid for, and it might simply have been seized.
We look upon the private ownership of land as necessary to our safety and prosperity. We do not feel like spending our time and money to improve property unless we can hold that property afterward and get the benefit of the improvement. All the governments of civilized countries, except Russia, maintain the right of private ownership of land.
If your family owns the house and lot where you live, there is somewhere, perhaps in the safe deposit box at the bank, a written document which describes the location of that land and states that it was sold by John Smith, let us say, to your father. Such a document we call a deed. John Smith had received a similar deed from the person who sold the land to him. Perhaps when the property was bought, your father did not pay down the whale price. He may have borrowed money from some one else, or perhaps the previous owner did not compel the payment of the entire price at once. If so, that person continued to have a claim against the property which is known as a mortgage. This also would be recognized by a written or printed paper stating the facts of the case.
Might it ever be difficult to trace the ownership of a particular piece of land bath a hundred years or more? If you are interested in carrying this matter further, inquire what is meant by warranty deed as compared with quit- claim deed.
Is there any risk in buying land to which the seller cannot give you a perfect title? May a person ever prefer to mortgage his property when he is perfectly able to pay for it in full?
Problems of Land Ownership
Private ownership of land has not always immediately benefited a community. It has helped to produce both wealth and poverty. If a person gets possession of a piece of land in a neighborhood where other lots are being developed and improved, he may be able; in time, to sell his land for a much higher price than he paid for it, even if he does nothing at all to make it worth any more. This increase in the value of land, for which the owner deserves no credit, is referred to as the unearned increment. Some believe the government should get the benefit of that unearned increment by imposing, if necessary high u on land which a person holds without improving or using it.
Sometimes it is a real problem to know just how to value property for purposes of taxation. Suppose you paint your house and the tax assessor conies along and adds two or three hundred dollars to the valuation of the property because of its improved appearance. Then you will have to pay more taxes than before. In a way you are being punished for making your house look better.
Again suppose that your next-door neighbor sells his property to a man who turns the place into a filling station in or builds an unattractive tenement h on it. lour own house, too, be comes a less desirable place to live in. Whole sections of towns have often gone down in value because cheap stores or other unattractive elements have made their way into them. That is one reason communities have zoning laws.
Sometimes in residential districts lots are sold with “restrictions.” In such eases the purchaser has to agree to put up a house worth a certain snot of money or to put it a certain distance from the street or to refrain front using the property for some undesirable purpose. If he or any one to whom he sells the property violates these conditions, he loses his title to the land itself.
Title to property sometimes causes trouble, especially if the property has changed hands several times. When one is buying real estate, it is well to have a lawyer or “title guarantee” company investigate this matter to make sure exactly what claims, if any. are still valid against the property-. So that private individuals may not have to bear all the expense and inconvenience that is sometimes connected with investigating titles, some of our states have adopted the plan known as the Torrens land title system. Under this plan a state or c determines the title to all land within its borders. Then when land changes hands, it is a simple matter to record the change; and the buyer is sure of the title to his property.
Farmers are often embarrassed to know whether they should rent or own their farms. If they have to buy their property en cumbered with a heavy mortgage, the prospect is sometimes discouraging. Few farmers get hold of large amounts of cash in the course of a year, but interest on a mortgage and payments on the mortgage itself have to be made in cash. In any neighbor hood where most of the farms are rented or mortgaged, you will usually find the farmers either disheartened or shiftless. Many farmers have felt that their government did not take the same interest in their welfare as in that of manufacturer and other industrial classes.
In 1916 the Federal Farm Loan System was established to help farmers get money at times when they need it most. The country is divided into twelve districts with a Federal Land Bath in some important city in each district. Farmers have had the right to borrow from rural “credit associations” and other special banking institutions if they could put up accept able security. Arrangements have also been made for “credit unions,” in which people may become stockholders and through which they may borrow money at better rates than from “loan sharks.” The Farm Credit Administration in the Department of Agriculture has the supervision of such activities.
Discuss the work of real estate agents. What services de they render? What qualifications should a real estate agent have?
Problems of Our Public Lands
Not only land owned by private citizens but also the public land which is controlled by our national or state governments offers problems of administration and management. Before our western states were settled it seemed desirable to offer special inducements to get people to go out and occupy those regions. It was often a gamble, and the trials and sufferings of pioneer life were not to be entered into recklessly. Under the laws of Congress public land was fiend to those who would go out and settle upon it, at figures as low as $1.25 per acre. These acts brought about the settlement of many thousands of square miles of so of the richest soil in the world, including a great part of the Mississippi Valley. Under the Home stead Ad of 1862, and later ads, a person might take as much as a quarter section (160 acres) for a very low figure, if he would live there three years (at first five) and make improvements.
The abundance of good land was a tremendously important factor in our history. We often refer to this as free land because it was available for anybody who would take it, though the government charged a little for it. It did not make so much difference how many people crowded into our cities so long as there was plenty of room for those to go elsewhere who felt the pressure. But when all the good land has been taken up, both city and country problems are harder to solve.
Some of our public land that is not particularly good for farming may have underneath its surface valuable resources in oil, coal, gold, or silver. What should be our policy in disposing of such lands? Of course it is not wise to keep oil or coal locked up in the earth doing nobody any good, but shall we just give it away to those who have enterprise enough to come and take it? A more sensible policy would seem to be to rent or lease the land with the understanding that in compensation for oil or other products taken out of it the government should receive a royalty.
Methods of Cultivating Land
In general there are two methods by which farming may be carried on. We refer to them as extensive farming and intensive farming.
Extensive farming uses large areas of land and generally limits itself to one crop, such as wheat, corn, or oats. The Middle West of our own country is perhaps better fitted for this kind of farming than any other part of the world. Some farms in our western states have been as large as 10,000 acres. . They use machinery extensively, and become real business undertakings. The owner himself may hire a manager to run the farm. In several of our western states the harvesting is done by gangs of men who begin in the southern sections and move north from farm to farm through a period of several weeks.
Intensive farming requires much expenditure of labor and capital on a limited area. It prevails in our eastern states, especially the Carolinas, New Jersey, Delaware, and the eastern shore of Maryland, which are well adapted to “truck farming” or “market gardening.” Other countries have done wonders with it. An American looks amazedly at the steep hillsides of southern France terraced for raising grapes or some other product, or the farms of Japan which may not include more than two or three acres and yet grow abundant crops. The intensive farm may not require a large number of laborers, but those who are employed have to be on duty steadily.
In connection with the cultivation of land we may consider the law of diminishing returns. Ordinarily if a farmer gives double the attention in labor and capital, such as seed, fertilizers, tools, and other equipment, to a piece of land, as compared with what it received a year ago, he will expect a product at least double that of the previous year. Experience has shown, however, that after a certain point is reached, added investments of labor and capital on a particular piece of land will not bring in as great returns in proportion as those which earlier investments brought about. The farmer will probably not be able to tell, until he actually tries it, just where this point of diminishing returns is located. That does not say that a farmer should never cultivate his land beyond the point of diminishing returns, but he should know what is going to happen if he does.
The same principle applies to land other than farm land and to other kinds of investments. You may add two or three floors or annexes to an office building, for instance; but you may lot be able to get high rents in some of your additional sections. You may add a porch and a garage to your dwelling house, but there is probably a limit to the changes you can make without their costing more than they are worth to you.
Which method of farming do you think you would prefer? Have you ever seen examples of the working of the law of diminishing returns?
Different Kinds of Farming
At some time in the history of every nation, more people were engaged in agriculture than in any other activity. As Daniel Webster once said, “When tillage begins, other arts follow. Therefore, the farmers are the founders of civilization!”
At one time, farming wits just farming. It included a little bit of almost everything. Now, however, specialization has occurred in farming just as in almost every industry and occupation. Its two great divisions are plant husbandry and a anal husbandry.
1. General farming
Three-fifths of our farmers still engage in diversified or mixed farming. They raise some sort of crop, per haps wheat, corn, or oats, keep cows or hers, or both, and do many other things.
2. Specialized farming
In sections particularly suited for extensive farming, farmers are likely to devote most of their attention to one or two specialties. The farmers of our Northwest and western Canada raise almost nothing but wheat, many planters of the South grow hardly anything but cotton, and ranchers of southern California specialize in the growing of oranges and other fruits and nuts.
3. Market gardening
Many farmers prefer to grow a variety of crops, such as asparagus, tomatoes, cabbages, and potatoes, for city markets. Once market gardening was possible only for farmers living near large cities, but now’ with improved transportation the gardeners of the South can supply the needs of many a northern metropolis.
The florist may be thought of as still another type of specialized farmer. Capital to begin with is necessary, for many florist concerns must have large hothouses or green houses. Other florists raise enormous fields of tulips, sweet peas, or something else.
5. Stock raising
The great western plains seem best adapted to stock raising. Grass, though not luxuriant, is plentiful, and there is room for the many head of cattle. Hogs thrive in the great corn belt of the Middle West where they can be fattened profitably. In the United States sheep raising is not carried on extensively, but a good deal of it is done in Wyoming. Australia is now the great wool-producing nation.
6. Dairy farming
The dairy farmer must have capital to invest in his stock as well as in up-to-date equipment. The work is not very strenuous but calls for a definitely planned schedule. Milk, buttermilk, butter, cheese — all find a ready market. Many big milk companies have their farms not far from a large city, with the factories where the bottling and pasteurizing is done located right in the city. On the other hand, there are many fine dairy farms several hundred miles from the big cities, shipping their milk by trains every day. Wisconsin is a great dairying state. So are Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York.
The raising of poultry is carried on extensively today, for there is a steady demand for eggs and dressed poultry. The business is likely to be healthful, since it is so largely out door work. Machinery has found its way even into this business; the progressive poultry raiser does not have to depend on “Biddy’s” whims about raising chickens, but can put her eggs into an incubator and hatch them by artificial heat.
Make a list of all the kinds of special activities under the heads of plant husbandry and animal husbandry by which people make a living.
The Unattractive Side of Farming
Most people interested in farming as a life work hope to own their own farm. Thus one of the first handicaps is a need for a moderate amount of capital if one? intends to buy a farm right at the beginning. Sometimes one may start as a tenant, renting another’s land and cultivating it with the understanding that he will divide his crops with the owner.
Such “share croppers,” especially in the South, have been pictured as in an almost hopeless condition. Yet an investigation made a few years ago by the United States Department of Agriculture indicated that many of these farmers do not want to own the land they work. It may be a choice of burdens for them between carrying a mortgage for some years and renting or working a farm on shares.
Try to get an estimate of the cost of a farm in your vicinity with live stock, machinery, and all its other equipment.
Farming is a seasonal occupation. In summer the hours may be long; in winter, especially in the North, they are very short.
This fact makes it harder for a farmer to get help when he wants it because he cannot afford to pay many workers the year round.
There is considerably more uncertainty in farming than in any other occupation. Frost, drought, hail, grasshoppers, the corn borer, or the boll weevil may ruin an entire season’s output, only to have an over-abundance of one or more crops a year or two later. Both the supply and the price of farm products may vary much from one year to another. Numerous plans have been pro posed to enable the farmer to get reasonable returns. In Hoover’s administration a Federal Farm Board was established to help farmers. Its efforts were not particularly successful, but it set in motion a program for promoting farmers’ cooperative associations whose officers can look after the sale of the products of all their members. Under President Franklin Roosevelt the Federal Farm Board was abolished and the Agricultural Adjustment Association (A.A.A.) was set up. It tried to keep prices up by paying farmers for destroying some crops already planted and for not planting land that would otherwise be cultivated. The cost of this procedure was met by a tax on the manufacture of food products obtained from the farm, called a “processing tax.” The Supreme Court declared the act establishing the A.A.A. unconstitutional, but no such attitude was taken after the passage of the Soil Conservation Act a little later.
Another plan involves the use of what are known as parity payments. The average prices of farm products for the years 1009 to 1914 are thought of as parity prices. The government loans to farmers up to 85% of the value of their crops reckoned on this parity basis. When the farmers sell their crops, they may pay back the loan, but if they do not sell them, the government keeps these products in storage until such times as they can be disposed of.
The Attractive Features of Farming
A farmer may like best about his work the feeling that he is his own master and can be comparatively independent about his hours or methods. To be sure, during certain times of the year he must be up early and do a harder day’s work than any factory hand In any season cows must be milked at certain hours, and other things must be done on a regular schedule; but there are many days and weeks in which only a few things are actually pressing at any one time.
The farmer has wonderfully healthful work and an opportunity to view nature first hand. Very few farmers become extremely wealthy, yet very few of them starve. A farmer may live comfortably and enjoy good food for the same reason that, logically, a shoemaker should wear good shoes! And between the two the farmer may be the more certain to enjoy the products of his toil. When the whole country is in a business slump, the farmer may at least be able to raise enough food to live on.
The government has various ways of helping farmers. A Bureau or Department of Agriculture under some name is found in every state government, as well as in the national government. All these agencies issue helpful material on conditions of crops, methods of cultivation, and market conditions. Farmers’ associations, like the National Grange and the American Farm Bureau Federation, also try to promote farmers’ interests in various ways. Fairs and institutes enable the farmer to see and hear about what others are doing.
If a farmer’s profits amount to $3000 a year in money, he will probably consider himself very successful and to his money income must be added the food crops that are produced on his farm. Besides, he does not have nearly so many temptations to spend money foolishly or unnecessarily as a city man. A farmer may live in less luxury than some city people, but he may also have less poverty than a great many in the city and be more contented, because, except under very unfavorable conditions, he can at least have something to eat.
Though the percentage of the whole population engaged in farming has been gradually declining, there are still nearly one- fifth of our people who make their living by that means. For a long time many more people moved into the cities from farms than went in the opposite direction. The depression times of the 1930’s checked that movement, and even turned it the other way.
Training for Successful Farming
Not so long ago if a boy had announced that he was going to school to learn farming, some people would have laughed at him. Indeed he would have had a hard time finding a school that would have helped him very much. Today neighbouring high schools offer valuable courses intended directly to help boys and girls manage farms success fully. One who expects to be a farmer should not make his course too narrow, but should get a knowledge of such subjects as chemistry, botany, and zoology, all of which will be a help to him. No one has to be so nearly a jack-of-all-trades as a farmer.
Every state in the Union has an agricultural college, or at least a branch of a university which is carried on for training in agriculture. Every state receives help from the federal government for maintaining such an institution. Years ago public land was given for this purpose, so that today we sometimes speak of “land grant colleges” when we have in mind those which were thus aided by the federal government. If possible, one will do well to take a full course in such a college. Some colleges provide courses for the winter, and many may find it possible to attend for a few months during that part of the year.
While farming today does not call for so much back-breaking toil as in former days, any one going into it should be fairly strong and not afraid to soil his hands; for there will be times when he will have to engage in hard and tiresome labor. If you are thinking seriously of making farming your life work, you will do well to get some practical experience at it. A summer vacation on a farm would be a fine test for you. Hire yourself out “just for the fun of it” and for the experience. If you have lived more than a few weeks on a farm, you need no further enlightenment.
The Forester and the Forest Ranger
It is only since we began to stress conservation that the work of the forester and the forest ranger has received much attention. In 1898 there were only sixty-one people employed by our national Forest Service. Now there are about 2800, besides 6000 employed part of the year. In state forestry departments there are about 1700 permanent employees and about 25,000 part-time. Some of the states have schools of forestry in connection with their state universities or agricultural colleges.
The forester is directly concerned with the growing and planting of trees. The ranger looks after the trees in our forest reserves. Both have to do much outdoor work, but the ranger in particular must frequently suffer considerable hardship. He must be able to look out for himself far away from any other human being. He may have to fight fires and be out in all kinds of storms. The work appeals to young men who like outdoor life with enough danger in it to add zest to the daily work.
The forester and the forest ranger must be educated. At least a high school training is essential and usually special courses in forestry. A knowledge of surveying and some understanding of the kind of work connected with lumbering are important. The field for such employment is not particularly wide; but since the number who are interested in such activities is likely to be limited, a young man need not be deterred by the fact that this occupation will never have openings for any great number of people.
The Extracting Industries
The extraction of minerals and metals — coal, iron, copper, gold, lead, oil, and others — is essentially an out-of-the-ground occupation, though it involves many other processes before we can use them. The United States census of 1940 show-s that there are over 900,000 people engaged in the extraction of minerals — most of them men. Here are found many grades of workers, from the ordinary digger to the overseer or manager.
The way the mineral or the ore has to be obtained determines the nature of the work the miner is engaged in. Three-fourths of the miners of this country are engaged in mining coal. With all the modem safety methods coal mining is still a dangerous occupation. Getting out other metals and minerals does not involve exactly the same difficulties. A considerable variety of activities may be needed in getting gold, copper, or lead ready for market. Drilling for oil and taking care of it after it has been reached call for special methods.
Diggers in mines are often men of little education but with the necessary muscle for the work. Many foreigners have found they can earn a living in this way. The location of a mine is often isolated and the work lonely. Often the mining company furnishes the houses to live in, which may all look just about alike, and there is a company store which sells most of the things the miners need.
Did you ever visit a mining town? If so, what were your impressions?
The average miner has not much to look forward to in the way of advancement in the kind of work he can do. A very few of them may become foremen or even overseers in mines. But often mines are not operated all the year round. Mine workers’ unions have sometimes made themselves un popular by demanding that thirty hours be considered a week’s work, but their answer has been that they do not aver age that much time anyway, and what they want is a guarantee of it. In 1941 the United Mine Workers succeeded in getting an average wage accepted of $7.00 a day, though southern mine operators claimed that they could not afford to pay as much as that.
Mining engineers need to have special college or university training for an understanding of the problems connected with the industry. They sometimes make a very satisfactory income, but many of them change to some other occupation after a few years. The extraction of minerals has called for a great deal of pioneer work; and, as might readily be expected, there has been considerable wastefulness connected with it. Perhaps no other fields of work are so much in need of sound organization and management as the extractive industries.
Other Occupations Depending on Natural Resources
There is still work to be done in other fields of outdoor life. There are even a few who still make their living by hunting and trapping.
In the United States and Alaska the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that there were nearly 125,000 people who earned their living as fishermen. Fishing as an occupation is very different from hooking a few speckled beauties from a mountain stream or sitting in a boat on a lake waiting for a bite. It is a hard, rough, and perhaps a dirty business. One must like the sea and be willing to put up with all the discomforts that go with life on a fishing vessel if be is going to make his living through this vocation.
Lumbering also is rough outdoor work, but more people are engaged in it than in any other outdoor industry except farming and mining. Over 140,000 are connected with the cutting down of trees in the forest. Yet the first work of a lumber camp is not cutting trees but setting up a sawmill. When this preparation is made, the actual work may begin.
The life of a lumberman is hard and lonely even during the season of employment, for the logging camp is as near as possible to the source of supply. The main requirements for a lumberjack are physical strength and endurance. Even here, however, some education is desirable, as well as practical experience. There is division of labor here. Loggers get the great tree trunks ready to be moved. Teamsters move them. All get the wood ready to be sent to sawmills where the workers transform the logs into boards, joists, shingles, posts, and many other things, or to paper mills where they lose all resemblance to a tree.
Would you recommend lumbering for a consumptive, a person under weight, a person used to a daily bath? Would a college education be of any value in lumbering? How does the increasing use of substitutes for wood affect the lumbering industry? Where in our country are the greatest lumber districts?
Man makes use of natural resources by employing them directly and adjusting himself to natural conditions, by constantly learning more about Nature’s laws and forces.
The natural resources in this country are very abundant, have been used recklessly and too largely wasted, should be used under a wise policy of conservation.
The control of land itself has been based on the practice of private ownership, has produced many problems, is still partly in the hands of the government.
The use of the soil as a means of support may call for extensive or intensive cultivation, has brought about several kinds of farming and gardening, has both attractive and unattractive features, requires real business ability if it is to be highly successful.
Numerous occupations make direct use of natural resources, such as forestry, mining, fishing, and lumbering.