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fail of being useful; and in harmony which has always been, more or less, connected with human affairs, will now and then ruffle and impede the current of progress. But “the world does move." Agriculture is progressing. There is work for individuals and for societies, and there are workmen in the field.
The Skaneateles Farmers' Club has, I believe, all things considered, been as prosperous during the past year as at any previous time; and all connected with it appear as well satisfied as it is healthy to be with a work which, like our education, should never be quite finished. But we have not as many members as we want and onght to have. We have bad interesting lectures and have learned something from precept; but we have not yet put our knowledge all to practice. We have interesting and useful debates; but we have not decided many questions which ought to have been settled before 1864. Our last fair was a success," but it left ample opportunity for improvement, and we will not be satisfied without trying again.
An Agricultural Society ought to secure the co-operation of every intelligent and successful farmer in its vicinity, and also should include among its members every thriftless farmer, that its benefits may be increased by the former, and conferred upon the latter ; but our Society does not include all of the first class, and I think I may truthfully assert, not one of the latter class, which is more their fault than ours. There are some intelligent and successful farmers among us, who give our club a kind of unintentional compliment by appearing to pride themselves on being able to do as well as the “Club men” without belonging to their organization; but some of our very best farmers are working members of the Farmers' Club.
Though it does not appear by any means established that the holding of annual exhibitions is a labor more productive of good than any other which comes under the direction of Agricultural Societies, our fairs are the most popular of anything connected with the club. Many contribute largely to these exhibitions, and assist in defraying their expenses who do not join with the club in any other labor. And too many patronize the fairs as a mere holiday, and measure their success too much by the aspect of the sky, and the general display, particularly of the multitude of visitors assembled.
Section 35, chapter 169 of the acts of the Legislature, passed 1841, being a provision for the granting of premiums at Agricultural Fairs, and requiring that before any premium shall be delivered, the person to whom the same shall have been awarded shall deliver in writing to the President of the Society, a description and account, as accurate as may be, showing, if it be of the raising of a crop, the process of preparing the soil, the manures applied, labor expended, etc.; or if it be of the raising or fattening of animals, showing the process, conditions and expenditures with a view to accurately exhibiting the net profits, aims at an object of utility in this matter too little regarded. These directions have never been followed out, so far as I am aware, by our society, perhaps for the reason that we have never given any money premiums. But the comparing of articles or stock upon the basis of such statistics is the only way of arriving at very valuable results which will be worthy of record. It is perhaps of the first importance to produce, by any means, the first quality of articles or stock, and cost may always be considered secondary where improvement, especially through breeding animals, is aimed at. We are always glad to see superior animals or articles on exhibition; and there is utility in the exhibition aside from any particulars of their production, but in agricultural products in general, where economy and profits are of primary importance, it is of utmost consequence that records of cost and particulars of management should be consulted in deciding upon premium merits, first for a just and proper decision, and second for subsequent utility. A large number of intelligent, and very successful farmers pecuniarily, have not yet become fully awakened to the importance of knowing what they are themselves doing. This fact is often illustrated at our discussions as well as at fairs, it having been remarked by outside farmers who have called in to see how much information might be obtained, that no definite decisions are arrived at by the discussions—that every one who comes without any decision of the question in his own mind, goes away without any, and every one who brings a decision is likely to depart with the same. This is somewhat true, and it is owing in great part to the fact that no one brings the data from which a rational decision can be drawn, and therefore little progress is made.
Our society held regular meetings last year only during the winter months, at which season a course of seven lectures was delivered before the Club, on the following subjects: Ist, Successful Farming; 2d, The Blue-Grass Region of Kentucky; 3d, Agriculture in the South; 4th, Early History of Onondaga County; 5th, Friends and Foes of the Farmer; 6th, Agricultural Force; 7th, Industry, its Demands and its Rewards. These lectures all had more or less reference to agriculture; all contained something instructive, and gave general satisfaction. Little discussion was had among the members of the Club during the year. One essay was presented, subject, Selection of Seeds. A fruit and floral exhibition was held in June with the usual good success.
Our annual fair for 1863, in its general success, and in its particulars was little different from several preceding exhibitions. The whole number of entries was less than at several others, but the more important departnents were very well sustained, the falling off being principally in fruit and vegetables. The entries sum up as follows: Neat cattle, 43 entries, including about 75 head; horse kind, 57 entries—75 head; sheep, 14 entries—50 head; swine and poultry, 11 entries; articles in hall, 260; total, 425.
As usual, some very fine specimens of Durhams were on exhibition, the most noticeable of which was an animal exhibited by H. M. Stone, of Marcellus, which took the premium as the best bull at our last year's fair, and did not this year compete. The premium this year on Durham bulls, was awarded to John Sprinks, for a promising yearling. A three-year-old Durham heifer, of first class quality was exhibited by Newton Jones; a two-year-old Devon, by Charles G. Bentley, of Skaneateles. Grades were more numerous and all of commendable quality. The show of fine wool sheep, was well sustained, and the credit was mostly due to Mr. L. A. Sweet, of our town, whose superior Spanish Merinoes secured the premiums
in nearly all of the classes. Few coarse wool sheep are kept in our vicinity. While we had a very fine exhibition of colts of superior quality, the exhibition of horses in harness was meager, but this is doubtless to be attributed to our want of any proper track, upon which to exhibit. Much has been justly spoken and written against the tendency to horse racing at agricultural fairs, and the inquiry has gone out in some of the agricultural papers for a single fair of the past season, in which this was not too conspicuous a part of the exhibition. We can say that our fairs have never been attended with anything of the kind; yet a majority of our society, I think, would not object to having a graded track, not to be open to jockeys and gamesters, but upon which to exhibit the strength, movement, and proper speed of horses, and thus to call out more successful exhibition in this department. There is, of course, considerable difference of opinion among the parties concerned as to how fairs should be managed, and as to what attractions may be admitted as indirect sources of benefit without detriment to the primary objects of agricultural exhibitions. It might relieve many minds from no little perplexity, if some one would make a lucid and complete statement of the legitimate purposes and uses of agricultural fairs. The one grand purpose is perhaps well enough understood generally, but many seem to get bewildered with the details, and fail to recognise the difference between a horse race and a plowing match, between a shake show and an exhibition of domestic animals.
Another matter which demands notice, while reviewing the operations of our society, is the practice of awarding diplomas, the results of which have become less and less effective for the purpose designed, until some variation from, or in this practice, has become greatly needed. Diplomas have a value, first, as ornamental tokens of merit, possessing any value which the receivers may attach to them, but which value, repeated awards to each individual, render less and less until they become one hundred per cent below par. Another value is that of a certificate, or recommendation, which will depend upon the use which the receiver may have for such a paper. Diplomas being considered inexhaustible, examining committees at our fairs have awarded them very freely, and not always with sufficient discrimination, until they have become, generally, by an over issue, almost as worthless as Confederate notes; and as to what shall be done with this matter, concerns other agricultural societies besides the Skaneateles Farmers' Club.
The new labor which devolved on our club the past year, that of collecting agricultural statistics, was perhaps best reported in the aggregate returns of statistical matter sent you long since, yet something additional may not be out of place in our annual report. It appears that different methods were adopted by different societies in commencing this work. Our method was to appoint committees of two persons (chosen from the board of managers of our society) for each of the four towns which comprised the field of our labors, the only duty of the committee being to distribute the blanks and give proper instructions to individuals through the school districts of their respective territory, a work ordinarily accomplished in one day. The canvassing in each school district was a labor of about the same magnitude devolving upon some individual in each who would
accept the duty, and enough were generally readily found who regarded the books promised for the labor, at least a fair equivalent. After the blanks were filled they were handed in to our club meetings, or directed to the secretary through the post office, it being the secretary's duty to make up the aggrogates and send them to their proper destination.
Thus in onr own town and one other the work was promptly and efficiently carried through with no very heavy tax upon any one individual, especially considering the difficulties in the way of a first experiment, with blanks in some respects imperfect, canvassers wholly unskilled, and farmers generally unprepared to satisfactorily answer the inquiries. The last named difficulty was in fact one of the greatest, so far as accurate returns were concerned, and it also much retarded the progress
of the canvasser. Some had to be done by estimate because the work of thrashing, etc., had not in all cases been completed, and still more by guessing, because this is a common way of arriving at facts in agriculture by many farmers, all of which will naturally be remedied by the suggestions of repeated experience—these statistics calling the attention of farmers to the importance of keeping some more accurate record of their business. In the other two towns in our charge, partial success was equally easy, and complete success might have been as easy had not a few blanks by mistake been put into the hands of individuals who did not prove responsible, by which much delay and some annoyance was occasioned, and the work in one town not completed in an entirely satisfactory manner. Ease, promptness, and the best success in this work must be secured by a proper division of the labor, which division only can render the adopted means of payment effective. It cannot be reasonably doubted, as our experience has already nearly proved of our vicinity, that there is at least one individual in every school district who can soon be found, and who with certainty, promptness and reasonable accuracy will perform the required work annually for the inducements offered. Yet there are people among us who think this work Herculean if not needless. If one individual were to go from district to district throughout one town or county, performing the whole work, the present payment offered, in its peculiar shape, would be no equivalent; but divided among the many in all the districts, the present payment is a bounty more valuable to farmers than its cost to the State, and the State in ordinary times, and in any times, cannot procure the labor more cheaply.
Then the superintendence of this work is proper for agricultural societies. Its performance, and the reward given by the State, together with the interest excited, and the local value of the facts collected, showing the exact standing and progress of agriculture on our own farms, and by districts and towns, which matter is brought immediately before our societies, and remaining their property, cannot fail to become a great help to them, and to the mass of agriculturists who have hitherto been too careless of the facts which the statistics bring to light, and of the lessons which they teach. It is true there are difficulties, one of the chief of which is perhaps that not every county in our State is represented by an agricultural society, which, with other causes, may for some time prevent complete success in collecting the statistics throughout the State. In view of such difficul
ties, it has been suggested from various quarters, that the proper channel through which to collect statistics is through the officers of common schools—through the school commissioners and directors or trustees of districts, making it obligatory on the trustees to collect the statistics, which could be done, as suggested, while collecting the data for the apportionment of public moneys, and the granting of these moneys to each should be made conditional with the proper collecting of the agricultural statistics in the same. This penalty striking at the prosperity of common schools, is believed would insure the performance of the work, and it probably would. This method has some advantages. But if there is any need of the penalty referred to, it must be because the trustees would avoid the work if they well could, so when forced upon them in this way, would it not be likely to be slighted—imperfectly performed in the shortest manner, as it has been sometimes heretofore in the hands of census marshals? Since by either method, that now adopted, or that through school officers as suggested, the statistics are to be finally collected by some individual in each district, is it probable that the collecting would be better done by an individual whose relations in a district make him a proper person for a trustee of a common school, than by a person chosen with direct and sole reference to his fitness for collecting, and his willingness to collect the agricultural statistics. If we are to have State statistics collected annually, and it is to be hoped that we are, it is important to carefully consider the work. ing of the present plan, in the light of all the facts that may be obtained, as well as to consider the probable success of all the supposed or known improvements suggested; so the above statements are here given to help make up the desired record of our first trial in this maatter, with such ideas as some participation in the immediate field of labor has suggested.
The Treasurer's report given at our last annual meeting, shows the financial standing of our society to be as follows:
Total receipts with cash on hand at the commencement of last year, $4 90.. $141 50
136 58 Balance in Treasury.....
With small claims for ourselves and our labors, the foregoing is respectfully submitted as our annual report.
CHAUNCEY B. THORNE, Secretary.
THORN HILL FARMERS CLUB. The account of the sheep show of the club in 1863 having been given in the Transactions of 1862, p. 450, is omitted.
We congratulate the club on this sheep shearing; and we do not doubt that much good will grow out of the friendly competition shown.
TRENTON UNION AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY. The elements favored us in three beautiful days. An address was delivered by Ion. Roscoe Conklin, prefaced by a few brief remarks from Judge Graves, of Herkimer. Governor Seymour addressed the people the second day, in a short speech upon the topics of agriculture.
The exhibition of stock, products, fruits, vegetables, agricultural imple