20 NOVEMBER 1926, Page 7

How to Make British Farming Pay

III.—Wanted : A Bold Educational Policy

A_GRICULTURE is a humble little interloper in the British educational system. The last report of the Intelligence Department of the Ministry of Agriculture (for 1921-24 ; the reports are published at intervals of three years—a significant fact in itself) makes a brave show in reporting " the steady growth of the system of agricultural education " since the last report. But, alas the growth is from the microscopic to the very little.

It would be wicked to write anything which might be taken as a " crab " of the devoted work which a few enthusiasts are doing for agricultural education in England. A proof of that devotion came the other day when the Principal of an Agricultural College asked me (as the adviser of the Trustees of a semi-private fund) to help a splendid little plan of agricultural education. There was no public money available. It should have been, but the truth is that, compared with our population and the needs of our land, the amount devoted to agricultural education is negligible. Note two facts out of the report just mentioned : the total number of students attending agricultural courses 1921-22 was only 2,378: and " for the first part of the period under review, Economy Com- mittees in a number of counties examined critically schemes of agricultural education with a view to pruning expenditure, and all suggestions for extension, however desirable on their merits, were deferred on financial grounds."


In no other country that I know is the matter of agricultural education treated so parsimoniously. In 1912 I had a usual opportunity to look into what Turkey had done for agriculture in Bulgaria in the days when that territory was one of her provinces. The " Sick Man's " record then would compare favourably with our's in 1928. In neighbouring Serbia I found that an essential part of every youth's education, whether he was to be fanner, artisan, professional worker or civil servant, was to qualify in some form of agricultural education I Visiting Finland in 1925 I found that little country making agriculture part of the school programme at every stage, and using the " Folk Schools "—where, during the winter months, young folk get board, lodging, education and amusement for a nominal fee—almost wholly for the education of the men in land culture, the women in domes- tic science.


Our Dominions, without exception, do far more for agricultural education than the Home Country. In Australia agricultural education begins with the pupils in the primary schools, wheriteachers impart the elements of agriculture. All schools are encouraged to have gardens for practical education in horticultural and agricultural work, the Government providing seeds and, where necessary, irrigation plant. Elementary schools, for the teaching of agriculture alone, are established in the suburbs of the biggest cities. Teachers and scholars in all schools are encouraged to enrol for rural camp schools during holidays to acquire first-hand knowledge of farming. After taking care that the child should have an early opportunity to learn a filial duty to Mother Earth, a typical Australian State provides a linked system of agricultural colleges and experimental farms. The " college " is also an experimental farm, but it is organized on a more advanced basis than the farm, deals theoreti- cally with every branch of land industry, and practically with most.


Throughout, the education is strictly practical. Pupils carry on the whole work of the farms, and the system is designed to encourage personal pride. Pupil Smith, for example, has the curing of some bacon ; and Smith's bacon is branded as Smith's, and is announced as Smith's at the College breakfast-table, and can be compared with Jones' bacon which was eaten last week. Smith learns thus to associate with bacon-curing some of the joy in, and fear of, criticism that a poet knows. The same method is applied to the making of butter and jam and horseshoes, and everything else with which a personal pride can be. identified.

The cost of this agricultural education is very. small ; fees range at about LSO a year. At an average estimate the agricultural colleges call for a £ for State subsidy to make their budgets balance. The chief part of their revenue comes not from the scholars' fees but from the sale of the produce grown.


Great Britain needs a bold, generous policy of agricultural education based on the assumption that national policy must shortly provide for 5C0,000 more families on the land if we are to hold our position in the world : and that when the demand comes for agricultural workers of all grades it needs to be met by a supply of trained men. Even if national policy fails—I do not think it will fail— not a penny of an amount equal to that spent on the recent futile coal subsidy would be wasted if it were used wisely on agricultural education ; the young men and young women would be helped by it to useful careers in the Overseas Empire.

Let me give in barest outline a British agricultural educational policy :- 1. Practical teaching of the culture of the land to be made an integral part of all elementary education, even though there be some sacrifice of " the three R's " and even though an acre or so of garden plot for each school—as near to its threshold as possible—means expense. Every child leaving school should be edu- cationally equipped as a potential allotment holder.

2. Ample provision in every part of the Kingdom of elementary training farms (somewhat on the lines of those which the Ministry of Labour has set up for training migrants). These, for economy sake, should be so situated, where practicable, that the labour of the pupils can be used in part for some useful work of swamp or other land reclamation ; and they should aim at nothing more than the.beginning of training pupils as agricultural labourers. For the unemployed lad or young unmarried man with no trade, they would be made the alternative to the dole. Conditions : Good shelter, good food, an allowance for clothing. and pocket-money. Well- managed they would be as cheap as " relief " and would train up citizens, not " unemployablei."

3. Generous provision of agricultural schools where large numbers of pupils could obtain for very moderate fees—not exceeding £30 a year for board, lodging. and tuition—an education sufficient to make them reasonably skilled workers in some branch of agriculture. Such colleges should be managed so as to meet a large pro. portion a their cost by the sale of products ; should cover all branches of land work and should not forget that several types of that work are suitable for women., Good models for them can be found in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They should cover (not, of course, all in one school) grain, roots, meat, dairy-produce, poultry, fruit, flowers, bees, &e. ; and industries directly connected with the land such as jam-making and basket-making.

4. Unstinted encouragement of a system of agricultupl apprenticeship, under which farmers would take omti school lads as apprentices. .

5. Liberal extension of the existing very good agricul- tural colleges, such as Wye, with provision for reducing the fees. These should be designed for -the training of the farmer rather than the farm worker, for the man who will inherit his father's farm or be a tenant farmer ; and aim to attract the boys from the Public and secondary schools.

6. More research institutes, with staffs of travelling lecturers and demonstrators, taking no pupils except such as were seeking an " honours course."

7. An agricultural research and statistical institute, co-ordinating all research work in curative medicine for stock and plants, in analyses of soils, in observation of world-crop conditions, in the investigation of promising new crops and varieties of crops, and in meteorological observations.

That is, in every item, a prudent programme, and a necessary programme. One of the great lacks of British agriculture is of skilled labour and skilled directors of labour. The lack is less noticeable in the. North than in the South. (I have a case noted of a Scottish farmer coming to a southern farm and getting apparently as good results with his own labour and that of four hired men as were before obtained with twelve hired men.) But, compared with Canada or Australia, the British labour standard is poor. The British type of agricultural labourer is good and likeable ; his farmer employer's also. But rarely does one see skilful, efficient team' work in agriculture. It is not the fault of farmers and workers. They have been engaged for half a century in an industry which has been largely living on the alms of the landlords. But the land must be made to pay, and one of the first necessities is an army of workers keen and skilled in (Sir Frank Fox's next article will deal with Cheap Agricultural Credit.)