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SCHOOLS OF AGRICULTURE.
Of such vast importance is the agricultural interest in all countries, inasmuch as, it is the great source, whence their inhabitants are fed, that in America, Great Britain and the continent of Europe, large agricultural colleges are established, for the purpose of training students in a system of high class farming. Most of these are largely endowed by the State, supplemented by members' subscriptions and students' fees. Such institutions, however well adapted to large and populous countries, are, in my opinion, not applicable to colonies, as the great bulk of our agriculturists are men, whose means are too limited to send their sons to them, and whose amount of education does not permit them to realise the prospective advantages, to be derived from such a course of study.
In spite of these disadvantages, much good may be achieved by the several farmers' unions, into which the colony is divided, establishing practical schools of agriculture in their districts. These could be commenced on a small scale, which would gradually expand, as the agricultural mind became familiarised with their importance; but it is necessary, as a preliminary to the successful development of these schools, that the unions should divest themselves of much of their political character and put their shoulders to the wheel, for the general advancement of their interest. I read nearly all the reports of farmers' unions, and at almost every one the duty on machinery and bags is severely condemned, while at the same time an increased duty on grain and stock is advocated; it just amounts to this, the farmer is a free-trader in everything he requires for his business, and a protectionist in everything he produces and has to sell. The unions should merge more into the character of farmers' clubs, and see, that their Parliamentary representative, whom they pay handsomely for attending to their political wants, does his duty, and at the same time they should keep him well up in his collar. By their present action, in continually discussing politics at every meeting,
they are doing a large portion of his work and neglecting a more considerable amount of their own.
In 1872, a Department of Agriculture was established in Melbourne, and has been presided over, ever since its commencement, by a gentleman in every way qualified for the position of secretary. The department, like many others of its class, absorbs a large annual vote, for which no return, of any practical use or benefit to the agricultural community, has ever been received. It issues yearly a bulky and voluminous report, replete with fine engravings and statistical tables, and must cost a considerable amount of money in compiling and printing, and is a journal, that, perhaps, not one farmer in a thousand has ever seen, and double that number has ever heard of. One part of the work, performed by the department, clearly pertains to the Crown Lands Office, the other to the Office of the Government Statist, yet an expensive department is required for little or no public utility.
I will now refer to the Model Farm, at Dookie. This is another hobby, which costs the State a large annual subsidy, without the slightest return, and is situated in a district, where it never can be of much utility to the great bulk of Victorian farmers.
Were these two expensive establishments done away with, and the large sums, voted for their maintenance, divided among the several unions, for the express purpose of agricultural education among the sons of farmers growing up, and also for encouraging agricultural chemists to deliver periodical lectures, a spirit of enthusiasm and emulation would soon be manifested. In my opinion nothing would be easier to accomplish than what I have suggested.
The Minister of Education would, I am sure, grant the use of State schools in agricultural districts, for evening classes on agricultural education; and, as the evening is the only time the pupils and farmers could devote themselves to the classes, the use of the school could not in any way interfere with its daily occupation. Let the building be under the responsibility of the union during its time of occupation, so that they would be answerable for its good preservation, etc. Our agricultural population is too sparse, and is distributed over too great an area, for colleges or large establishments, and the course of study adopted, would be too elaborate for our farmers to understand or appreciate. The information, given by agricultural reporters to our weekly papers, is of more actual and reliable value, respecting the state of the crops and matters generally, than can be gleaned from all the official documents, which cost the State such an
amount of money.
The farmer has the advantage of obtaining the latest information weekly, through the columns of a journal, which he buys for sixpence, while, at the same time, he is heavily taxed, to contribute to the support, by the State, of a department, which issues a costly annual report, which he never sees. Of such urgent necessity is an improved system of agriculture and the constant maintenance of fertilising elements in the soil, that I will give the following quotation from Professor Liebig, the great German agricultural chemist. He says :
“It is highly probable, that one of the causes, that led to the destruction of the great cities of antiquity, was the difficulty of obtaining a supply of food for their inhabitants. As they went on increasing, the soil in their immediate vicinity became exhausted, and at last refused to grow food at all. As the means of transit were not so perfect as they are now, men found it easier to go to places where the virgin soil produced abundance of food, than to bring the food to their cities ; hence the migrations of peoples, and the desolation of once busy cities.”
In no country in the world, is economical agriculture carried out on so perfect a plan as in China; there certainly is none, that can boast of supporting so enormous a population, as 400,000,000, entirely upon its own resources. There, literally, everything, that is extracted from the soil, is returned to it, and I have been told by educated and intelligent Chinese, that land has been under crop, without intermission, for hundreds of years.
In my premises, as a wool-scourer, I am constantly making large quantities of most valuable manures, abounding largely in phosphates and alkalies, most of it in a liquid state, ready to put over the land; yet such men, as Mr. M'Ivor, will scarcely credit it, that I cannot get our farmers to come and cart it away, even as a free gift. In the busy season, I frequently make 1000 gallons daily. This scour liquor consists entirely of soap and the yolk of wool dissolved. Can anything be more fertilising? All the farmer wants, is a watercart, with a perforated pipe, to sprinkle it over his land. Were our farmers taught, through the Agricultural schools, the advantages of this and kindred manures, I, and others in my business, would be enabled to sell, what we are now obliged to run to waste, and the farmer would be amply repaid all his expense and trouble, in increased crops and pasture.
When the agricultural interest flourishes, every branch of trade participates; and in the event of over-production, for our own wants, we must seek outside markets. Therefore, to enable our farmers to export at a profit, two things are necessary; they must get the maximum of yield out of their land at a minimum of cost. To
effect the first, they must keep their land well in heart by an abundant supply of suitable manures; to effect the latter, they must keep pace with the Americans, in the use of improved implements and machinery. Our producing power is now greatly in excess of our consumption, and our farmers' unions are urging upon the Government, a further increase on the duty of imported grain. If other colonies can produce, ship to Victoria, pay duty, and undersell us at a profit to themselves—for they must evidently make one—the administrative capabilities of our farmers and their unions are nothing to boast of. Two very important elements in a large number of our agriculturists are wanting, viz., self-reliance and energy; and in times of depression, they rely too much upon the Government, to put them right, without the least effort to do so themselves. The selectors, it appears, are now indebted to the State, upwards of £450,000, or in round numbers, say, half-a-million-this is one of our Treasurer's assets. I would be very sorry to buy it of him, at sixpence in the pound. Were these men drilled into a system of economical farming, making the most of everything, and letting nothing go to waste, their case might be better. Yet the system of men, without means of any description, selecting land, and having to borrow money at high, and often usurious rates of interest, can have but the one result, which is now becoming painfully manifest. The system itself is rotten at the very core; and if ever reform be needed it is in our present land and agricultural system.
THE CHRISTIAN FAITH AND CULTURE.
Is a previous paper the inconsistency, yea, suicidal attitude, of that section of Culture which would let the Christian Faith severely alone, was dealt with, and an attempt made to show that this was condemned by that very element of “ breadth” in which it most prides itself. My purpose here is to look at the other side of the shield, and to consider the attitude which Faith should sustain to Culture. Loyalty to Truth-alas, too rare, for most desire rather to have truth on their side, than to be on the side of truth-demands, that with no less of fearlessness, and perhaps more of faithfulness, we should deal with that suspicion and fear into which the natural solicitude of the guardians of this Faith not infrequently causes them to drift. A contemptuous neglect on the part of Culture, is not likely to be neutralised by a refusal, on the part of Faith, to accept of any good work it may do. Action and reaction is to be looked for. The squeamish dread of mysteries, which the former oft evinces, is not likely to be met by a purblind disavowal on the part of the latter, of the light which may fall from Culture’s labours on any part of its wide domain. In no sphere is the consecrating power of time more potent than in the religious. Nowhere else do the incrustations of human tradition and human idiosyncrasy, which gather as the ages roll, take so godlike an air as here. The very sacredness and consequence of the hopes and fears involved, give a tenacity to them. Let this be recognised, and the soul of good in much that is evil will be seen, and the Church will be able to take as the refracted beams of the true light, many of those rays which, under the lens of Culture, are beating with a fierce heat on things divine. What if Faith should find increasing difficulty in defending as sacred that which is strictly human; and slowly, it may be, but surely, begin to see the folly of defending the badger-skins of the roof of the