Page images
PDF
EPUB

(B.) I entirely agree with everything said in Mr. Plunkett's admirable Paper as to the advantage of co-operation in agriculture. As regards obtaining feeding stuffs, manures, implements, seeds, &c., the reduction of cost is so obvious and the guarantee of quality so certain that the establishment of depôts in every agricultural centre, if superintended by competent business men, must, one would suppose, be successful.

As to creameries or butter factories, the difficulty is that there are comparatively few districts in England where farms are situated so far from a railway station that farmers cannot send their milk to large towns; when this can be done the price obtainable, as pointed out in the Paper, is above that which can be paid for milk for butter-making.

I have discussed the question of butter factories with many large tenant farmers, and I find no inclination among them to take the matter in hand themselves. They would be willing to supply their milk if they could get as good or a better price than they obtain by sending it to towns, but I doubt their possessing sufficient business aptitude to manage such a concern themselves, and so save the profits which would or should be made by a company outside themselves. In

In this, of course, lies the point of the whole scheme as a profit-earning undertaking. I agree that little can be done with the existing old or middle-aged farmers, and my impression is that the whole question will have to be instilled into the rising generation by a system of education directed to this end. Whether any effective result will be thus obtained in time to save English agriculture it is impossible to say.

HY. SANDY, Fellow.

(C.) Hitherto I have expressed myself both publicly and privately that co-operation in this part of my county (Sussex) would not prove successful, and the opinion has been formed from a very intimate knowledge of the farmers and their diverse opinions and occupations, but one feels almost inclined to believe, after reading Mr. Plunkett's able, clear, and very instructive Paper, that these difficulties and farmers' prejudices may be

overcome.

Not long ago the Hon. T. A. Brassey was advocating some kind of co-operation amongst farmers upon his estate and in his district, at a public meeting at Battle, but I was not in accord with his views, being of opinion the difficulties above referred to were insuperable. I was not personally prejudiced, but thought my intimate knowledge of the tenant farmers of the district entitled me to say, perhaps too strongly, that, good as the suggestions might be, the carrying of them out would be hardly possible. In this locality butter and cheese making for the general market is unknown, but in those parts of the country where the milk cannot be dispatched by rail and sold as milk, I quite agree

that the establishment of creameries would be of great. advantage, but at the very low prices mentioned by Mr. Plunkett, I cannot think the industry would result in much more profit to the farmer than he has for some years derived from wheat-growing, which he has practically had to give up.

Another valuable suggestion, and one that I have frequently referred to with approval, is that the paying price for the milk shall be in accordance with the quality. Cattle and sheep are the mainstay, with milk-growing, of this district, but a considerable acreage of hops is grown, and of course some corn, and I think if

any kind of co-operation could be brought about that seemed to point to profit, the scheme would be readily supported, although many of our farmers would, I am afraid, think they had not money enough to spare to put into a concern that, to say the least, might not succeed.

The purchase of feeding-stuffs and other farm necessaries could, no doubt, be judiciously made by going into the wholesale market and buying in sufficient quantity to get them from the manufacturer, importer, or producer, or the association might after a time import or manufacture ; but to make this plan of much advantage I think it would be necessary to form depôts for storage in convenient centres.

Generally I can believe that co-operation might be very beneficial to farming, because, when firmly established, as it would probably be when understood, its operation would be far-reaching, district societies, where formed, being brought into touch so as to constitute, say, a county society, and counties in their turn could elect a central Co-operative Agricultural Society of England.

J. WOODHAMS, Fellow.

(D.) The results of two schemes of co-operation which have been tried in the neighbourhood of Northampton may possibly be of interest to members of the Institution, who are certainly very much indebted to Mr. H. Plunkett for his most interesting and useful Paper.

In one case, a co-operative dairy was established about four miles from Northampton, which farmers were invited to join for the purpose of sending their inilk to be converted into butter, &c. An unused building in a

convenient situation was placed at the disposal of the association by Lord Spencer, who was himself a large shareholder, and this building was fitted with modern machinery for making butter, &c. Unfortunately no dividends have ever been paid, and the dairy is now closed. The failure is attributed by its well-wishers and promoters, firstly, to its proximity to a large town, where milk can be sold wholesale for about ninepence a gallon throughout the year, and, secondly, to the fact that although there was a rule that the farmers should supply in winter at least one-third of the quantity of milk supplied in summer, the rule was never strictly enforced, with the result that in the winter the output of butter fell off, and many of the association's customers for butter were lost, and fresh customers had to be found in the spring for the increasing quantity of butter due to the larger quantity of milk which the farmers were sending to the factory. The question of the separated milk was also a difficulty owing to its bulky character, and one of the promoters of the association is of opinion that if each of the contributing farmers could have a separator at home and bring only the cream to the factory, one of the drawbacks to the success of the scheme would be removed. The most insuperable obstacle to the prosperity of the scheme, notwithstanding the excellence of the butter, which always commanded a higher price than any other in the market, was the restricted area from which the milk could be obtained owing to all the milk within a certain radius of Northampton being taken there and sold, and also, as alluded to above, the uncertain character of the supply, which the management was not able to control.

Another case of co-operation was that of several farmers who combined together and took shops in the

1

town with the primary object of killing and selling their own meat. Here again the results have not been so successful as the well-wishers to the co-operative movement would have desired. Some allege that the failure arose from the human infirmity alluded to by Mr. Plunkett on page 230. Whether this was the reason or not, a good trade at first was carried on, but success did not crown the efforts of the shareholders, owing, I am told, to the difficulty in disposing of the inferior joints through the foreign competition, and also owing to the fact that the price paid by the association for the meat was too high, the quotation in the London market for second quality meat being taken as a basis. This, when compared with the prices at which the meat was sold, did not leave sufficient margin for working expenses, and although those who supplied a fair number of animals would derive some benefit from the good price obtained for their stock, the result, as a whole, was not successful, and the scheme has practically been given up.

T. A. DICKSON, Fellow.

(E.) Probably one reason why co-operative dairying has been slow to take root among English farmers is that, as a rule, they are favourably placed for developing the opposite quality of individual enterprise. The majority of English farmers live within easy distance of at least one populous centre, whilst London, the largest market in the world, is comparatively accessible to them all, so that a considerable number of them form a special connection among consumers and retail shopkeepers, whom they supply direct. The case is different in countries like Denmark and the south-west of Ireland, where distance

[ocr errors]
« EelmineJätka »