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Problems That Confront The Michigan Fruit Growers

( Originally Published Early 1900's )


Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: It is a very easy matter to suggest problems, and it is not at all a difficult matter for the practical fruit grower to propound them, but what we want here is someone who can solve them. This is what we are up against—we want some one to put his head above the horizon who is able to give us a satisfactory solution of the many problems that present themselves to us as horticulturists. I will try to note a few of these problems that I have had to deal with and will tell you how I tried to solve them.

First, the matter of location. There are many horticulturists who know that they are wrongly located; they did not know it, however, when they bought their land from the land agent. Now, ought they to go on and continue on this place, or will it be better for them to get out of there and go where the location is more advantageous? My advice would be to sell out, or even give away your land, rather than remain there and waste your years and money in a location where you will never make a success of the business.

You have heard discussed quite fully this far, the proper requirements of an ideal fruit, and especially peach location. How will you find that place? Well, get the best information from those who actually know. Don't take the advice of real estate men who have no object excepting to exploit certain lands and dispose of them at exorbitant prices. Consult men like Mr. Sessions and others who have made a success of the business. Don't be in a hurry to decide the location. Get all the information from all the good reliable men that you can, then act on your own judgment, based upon their advice.

Up in our neighborhood there are a great many red raspberries grown. You see we get onto the late markets when this territory here is out of the way. Now, on every farm there are acres that are adapted to growing raspberries and there are acres that are not adopted to their growth at all for instance, there was a man in our country who had berries on one side of a slope for which he would receive as high as three dollars a case for his first grade. This was on a north slope on heavy soil that was naturally a little seepy—that is, rich raspberry land. Well, on the other side of that hill the land was dry, and other conditions seemed to be all right and he thought "What a beautiful location for berries !" Not at, all ! You see it is all a matter of location as to where you pick your ground for red raspberries. Now that latter place would have been good to plant peaches on, but it was not good for red raspberries, and it proved to be so. It is just so with cherries, and peaches, and pears—the location has all in the world to do with whether you make a success or a failure of the work.

Shall we go off here one hundred miles and plant an orchard—as I have done sometimes, and as others have done, to their sorrow—this is a question that confronts many of these young men who are planning to start out for themselves in the fruit business. This is a problem which no one can answer except the one who is solving it. I can answer it for myself, but I cannot do so for these young men—they must answer it for themselves. But before they answer it, let them study the question carefully, let them get all the good advice from experienced growers, and then, when they act it will be with their eyes open, and the probabilities are that they will make the right move.

A gentleman a little while spoke of an orchard being planted on high land. That won't do in this north country. Cherries may stand it, and perhaps apples, in these locations, but it would be better to get on the slopes out of the way of these winds. Just over the hill, no farther than the length of this church, may make a difference between success and failure. It is. on the slopes that we have the frosts most apt to stay off the land, more than on the tops of hills or in the valley. We know by experience. The cold weather in some way or other runs down and the warmer air goes around—just how it happens I am not prepared to say, but I know it does happen, and that is all there is to it, and that is what we want to recognize.

The soil has everything to do with the location of an orchard. These gentlemen have exhausted this part of the subject, the climatic conditions necessary for a successful orchard have been quite thoroughly discussed. Mr. Sessions, who has had crops of peaches for over twenty years on the same land, thinks his climatic condition is just what it should be, but you could not do what he does here at Grand Rapids. This question of atmospheric drainage and climatic condition, is a question that is not as thoroughly understood nor are we able to tell all about it as we would like.

A Voice: Could you pick these out?

Answer--I could in our own country, I think, but I could not go out around here in a livery rig and pick them out.

A Member—I am going through a new section, could you before you knew that these climatic conditions existed there—have you any in-formation that would enable you to tell just what they would be from looking over the location?

Mr. Rose You must take into consideration where you are. The

climatic conditions that obtain in the West are not the same as here. In Michigan they are just about the same a certain distance from Lake Michigan. You cannot go far inland from Lake Michigan, and find land that will not be very much different from here. So you could not depend with absolute certainty that certain conditions would be sure to obtain. But where we are, three miles from Lake Michigan, we have not had a failure for twenty years. We had an enormous crop of Crawfords this year, larger than any other year before.

Now another point that must be considered, and that a man must know about, is the shipping facilities. Don't go away back so that you have to haul your fruit too far. The price of land does not cut so much of a figure as does the location—getting out your fruit—getting help in to assist in picking it—these are vital questions.

A Member—But suppose that such a place was the only one you could go to, to get a location, such as you wanted?

Mr. Rose—But there are other good points and plenty of good land in Michigan, that will raise peaches and other fruit. And as to the marketing, I just believe that an up to date man will do better not to be too far away from his markets. Right around Grand Rapids you have one of the best markets in the United States.

You have the scale and some diseases here—there is no scale with us, neither Yellows or Little Peach, but we do have the curl leaf. We are right on the spot and welcome them with the spray pump as they appear.

A Voice—Do you mean the Yellows and the Little Peach? Mr. Rose—No, I mean the scale and some other diseases.

A Member—Do you have the aphis up there?

Mr. Rose—A very little, in the neighborhood, but not very much.

The question comes up to everybody, what shall I plant? Where shall I get my trees—from whom shall I buy them? These are vital points. My advice is that you go to the nurseries that you know some-thing about. Do not buy trees because they are cheap, and do not buy trees from an itinerant peddler.

As to varieties, that has been discussed quite freely here. Every-body is quite well posted on varieties. Pears are one of the best fruits that we have for profit, and the Bartlett is about the most profitable of them all. I also get good results from the Seckel.

There is a new peach that will be boomed this next year, which is called the J. H. Hale. It is claimed for it, that it is better than any-thing that has yet been put on the market. Mr. Hale is a prominent man and would not advocate anything that he did not think was all right. It seems that he found this peach in a block of -early peaches in 'Georgia. He claims that it is one-third larger than the Elberta, more productive, better color, better carrier, has no fuzz, and this year in Connecticut, where all other varieties had nothing on, the J. H. Hale had a fairly good crop. I believe we ought to test this peach out and if it is all right, we will be in the front line. I do not believe in buying everything that comes along, but on the strength of Mr. Hale's statement, I think we would be justified in giving it a trial.

Another question that comes up and over which there is considerable discussion and difference of opinion, is the distance apart that our trees should be. I am a crank on distance. I think there is more dam-age done to the fruit interests by growing the trees too close together than from any other cause. Our soils are not good soils. We have a rather light soil compared with other soils. We cannot grow peaches as they grow them, in Southern Ohio and Southern Indiana. We can-not put the size or color into them that they get there, but we can by putting our trees further apart thinning and pruning them, and giving them plant food, enable them to produce a better apple and a better peach and better other fruits than they would otherwise produce. I have planted cherries 40 by 20 feet, and we have been cutting off the limbs every year. They should be 30 by 40 feet. We would get more out of them than to have them planted so close together. With us, we receive more money at the canning factory than any other grower in that country, more than the western fellows got for their cherries in the West. I had a fellow from the Agricultural College of Wisconsin working for me and he went to the North Yakima country, and he reported that they only got a cent a pound for these cherries, so the growers who picked and packed these cherries lost money. We receive six cents a quart while the other fellows around me got only four and a half, so you see I was much better off. They will continue to come in year after year with their cherries, but I do not think that we will be obliged to cut our orchards down, and my advice is, to stay right in Michigan and grow our own fruits.

The tree disease is another problem. As I said before, we have a very few of these diseases with us up in the north part of the state. We have the leaf curl and that is about all. We have never solved the Little Peach or Yellows question, how to absolutely control it. The only way we have done is to pull out the trees and burn them, and thus keep our orchards in good shape. Of course, there are many men who will not do this unless the Commissioners make them do it. We do, however, have one thing in the north that is on the sour cherries, a new disease—the trees perfect their foliage and make a good growth, and there appeared on certain of the limbs a small nodule. The cherries grew and formed all right, and then they turned yellow, and did not grow any more. They had a brownish tinge to the meat. The cherries did not drop off. These cherry trees that were affected—only three in my orchard—are worth one hundred dollars each, but I will pull them out and burn them, and so will not take any chance.

Spraying. I want to say a few words about spraying.. I will tell you of one thing where I think we fail, and that is, in thorough work. Few horticulturists ever do as thorough work as they should. Not alone in spraying, but in other ways as well. You can go into an orchard late in the fall and you can tell where the good and bad work has been done. In our neighboorhood there is a man who has a cherry orchard, which he declared he sprayed just as Rose told him to do. But he did not. On the outside the leaves were all right, but on the inside of the tree where he failed to get on his copper sulphate solution, the foliage was not properly sprayed and the results were as might be expected. You cannot grow a successful fruit crop the year that you get possession of a farm. A successful fruit crop should be grown two or three years in advance. You must have a foliage that is so good and a tree so healthy that it will store vitality sufficient to grow good fruit. Apple trees should' have their foliage on now. They should be full of foliage like the white oak grub, and this can be if proper spraying is done at the right time.

Another of the problems that confronts many of us is the getting of men who will do good thorough work. It seems strange that when men are paid a good price for their services that they are not willing to give value received. They have never learned to be careful, to take an interest in things, and care for the work left to their hands as if it were their own. Indeed, I don't know as they would do any different if it was their own. They have evidently lacked an early training, but it is a fact that only a very small proportion of those whom we employ can be trusted to do the same when you are not with them as when you are on the job to inspect all their work.

Another problem that we are up against is the matter of the fertility of the orchard. There is not very much manure made on a fruit farm. We can ship in stable manure from Chicago and some other places.

Some use cover crops and commercial fertilizer. I am doing this. Just at present I am paying $16.70 a ton for sheep manure from Aurora, Ill. Will it pay to ship in stable manure to this territory. It is my judgment that it will. In this connection there is one thing that I want to raise my voice against, and that is cropping the little orchard. Don't do it at all. If you are going to grow fruit, then grow fruit or get out of the business and get a job in town.

A Voice—Were any of your trees affected by cold weather last year? Mr. Rose—We lost no trees by the freeze, but there was considerable frost. These trees are not Michigan trees, but are from

A Member—What about thinning peaches?

Mr. Rose—I was about to speak of that. Many do not thin near thorough enough. I took four trees this year, two on each side, Wealthy apple, and pulled off three-fourths of the fruit on two. of them, and the other two were not thinned at all, and when the apples were gathered in the fall, and it was found that the apples from the trees not thinned, amount to little or nothing, are not marketable, while those that were thinned have on them a good crop. This is due wholly to the thinning. I am convinced that if we would think more we would get better and more satisfactory fruit.

A Voice—Would you thin an old Baldwin tree?

Mr. Rose—I would thin any tree, if I wanted to get good fruit. The greatest problem we have in our territory in Michigan, is the slack grower. He is damaging us. He sells apples that are poor, and they go onto the market and peddlers buy them, and sell them out. You say that this does not interfere with the sale of good fruit, but it does. The question we are up against is, how are we going to get these fellows who do not grow good fruit, and who do not attend this meeting, to do as they should do? We have men in our neighborhood who have be-come bankrupt growing fruit. Then there are others who are growing rich following the same pursuit. One does thorough work, attends to little details of business—the others spend every Saturday in town—and I want to. say right here, that if this Saturday was put in on his work, his orchard would have looked better, and you would not find him down in the town looking for a job in an automobile factory, as he is now.

Then comes in the marketing of fruit. The large grower is not de-pendent on an association, for he is in a class all by himself. A great many people have built up a market, and they are doing fairly well. Still, it is a problem, I cannot answer. What experience I have had with associations in the west has been fairly satisfactory, but in general, I do not like the association idea. Some of them are holding back while others want to go ahead. If we could get in a location where there is a body of men together like those of Northport, where they will work together, I am sure it will be better for them than to work separately. I think the better way is to have a packer go to the fields and pack the fruit. -

Then there is the western and southern competition. We all know what this is. They put into the little towns all over these cars of fruit and they are so thoroughly distributed that the market is very well supplied with Georgia, Arkansas, and Texas peaches. They were quoted to them and delivered to them this year on track at $1.25 to $1.50 per bushel to the dealer. He turns them over to the grocery man at a very small profit, and the public is supplied with all the peaches it wants before we get in. This has been also true to quite an extent with apples. Now, how are we to meet these fellows? Send the cold winter down that way, freeze them out ! But the railroads in the south and in the west have sent their agents all over this country and are selling thousands of acres of land through the means of literature and other means, that are to be planted to fruit that will shortly come in competition, and now with that system built up, it looks on the face of it, as though Michigan fruits especially peaches, will not be in it at all. The cellars are filled with canned fruit from the early peaches of the South. But this is working against the southern grower as well as us, and in Georgia they are cutting down many orchards of peaches. One man whom I know, has a son acting as a distributor for him of one of these big Texas deals, said to his father, "Father, don't you put another dollar in that peach orchard enterprise, for if you do it will be lost !" The fact was, they lost money on every car of peaches that was shipped out from that great syndicate of peach growers. You also read many wonderful things in the literature from Arkansas as to what can be made out of peaches, but there they have not cleared but a very little over expenses the past year. I wrote for data for peaches, and this is the reply I received.

"Dear Sir: Your favor of the 5th inst. received. The past season has been very disastrous * * * "

I have another letter from Cincinnati that tells much the same story. I will not take time to read that here.

Well, we have these problems before us, but I believe that they will solve themselves and to a certain extent take care of themselves. What we want to do is to do better work, to take care of our orchards more thoroughly, build up a reputation for our own individual work, which we can do if we do as we should. Of course we have to study varieties. We must get away from this old dingy colored fruit, stick to the high colored varieties of fruit, and there will be no question but that in the long run we will come out all right.

A Member—Would you encourage young boys like me, with very little knowledge, to plant a new orchard, or would encourage them to take better care of what they already have?

Mr. Rose—It depends upon what you have. I could not answer that question definitely, but so long as you are one of the boys, I think you could plan on growing a new orchard.

Well, I think perhaps this is all I have to say and as Mr. Welch is to follow, I will now give way to him, after which we will be glad to answer questions which you may desire to ask, as best we can.

The Chairman—Mr. Welch is on the program to lead in the discussion of this question, and he will now speak.

Mr. Welch—I listened with considerable interest to all that Mr. Rose has said, and I think that there are problems before us that are of a very serious nature. I am glad that the secretary didn't ask us to solve these problems. The people must do this themselves.

But the biggest problem that confronts us now, as I look at it, is the one pertaining to the marketing of our fruit. I rather take exceptions to what has been said in regard to a feeling of discouragement in regard to organization, from the fact that what might have been last year or ten years ago, or even yesterday, are matters of history. We have new conditions confronting us, and new ideas to work out, and we are better prepared to take up these matters now than we have ever been before. I do not think any one in this room would hesitate to say that the greatest problem before us is the one of marketing our fruit. I think that we should follow the best business methods, the ones followed by other business organizations, in solving this question. The International Harvester Co., for instance, which is the consolidation of a number of like concerns, did not evolve all of its ideas from itself, but drew from all sources for its information, largely from its salesmen. They are on the ground, they know what they have to meet, and they know how to meet it, and these people have taken up with their suggestions and have found them to be the ones that are winners. So in making a market for ourselves, I am constrained to say that we have not followed these business methods as we should; we have lacked confidence in one another; we have been afraid that advantage was being taken of us, and have been unwilling to give our confidence to the work as we should. It is for this reason; I believe, that we have not had as good prices for the straight honestly put up fruit in proportion as we should have had. But it still re-mains a fact that there is altogether too much poor fruit packed. I asked Rose what effect of so much poor fruit being shipped had upon his business, whether under the system of marketing known as cooperation or through his own market, and he said it was considerable. He has had to meet and work out these questions himself. So has Mr. Friday, Mr. Hutchins, and others. These conditions do exist, and they are working against us.

The one thing for us to do is to talk up this matter, create a sentiment and put up a good pack. Convince the people of the fact that we have good fruit and they will be willing to pay for it, a thing they will not do under the present condition of things. I question whether it is possible for a man to establish a reputation of his own on what fruit he can handle alone with anything near the profit or benefit to be derived from such marketing, if the whole people were to help make a good market and cut out the unnecessary expense. that we are up against continually as small individuals.

Then there is another proposition that we are up against,—we may be able to raise good fruit, but we are not all good salesmen. We are not all of us able with the means we have at hand, and the amount of fruit we have to ship, in an economical way, to meet these prices like people who have a larger amount. So I think today the greatest problem we have before us, the one that we should make the most note of, the one that would come home to each one of us, is the question of marketing our fruit better than we have ever done before. There are enough of them that do not come here that are careless in their methods so that we have got the reputation that really makes us Michigan fruit growers blush. Here is a man who comes to us (Mr. Phillips) who says that we are packing junk. He is not the first one who has said that, for we have heard it for years and years. We have resolved to do different, and I think that many are honestly trying to do different, in fact, I think there is so much of this done as we might be glad to believe from the charges made against us. We have a reputation for committing a good many offenses of which I honestly believe we are not guilty. Perhaps you recall some time ago there was quite a howl went up in the newspapers because of some poorly packed peaches that went onto the market in a certain shipment, but of the thousands of baskets of good fruit that were shipped, nothing was heard of. What we want to do is to pack our fruit better and then use the best up-to-date methods of getting it onto the market and the least possible expense, and we will then be all right.


A Member—I would like to ask Mr. Rose what he is using for a spray.

Mr. Rose—For scale, lime-sulphur. You will russet some apples with this solution, but it is the best there is. I think pears can be kept in better condition with Bordeau.

A Member—One speaker spoke of growing peaches on clay loam with underlying clay sub-soil. Is it possible to raise a successful peach or-chard on sandy soil that does not have a clay sub-soil?

Mr. Rose—My clay sub-soil is 75 feet under surface, nevertheless my peach orchard has been a success. I would not care for clay sub soil if I had a good beech and maple soil. The clay soil is not adapted to some varieties of fruit.

A Member —Do you pull out trees affected with the Yellows and Little Peach and plant other peaches in their place?

Mr. Rose—I have never had any particular experience in this, but I expect to do it this next season.

A Member—What distance apart would you thin apples? Mr. Rose—Six inches.

A Member—What distance apart would you thin peaches?

Mr. Rose—That is, owing to your variety, all the way from six to eight inches.

A Member—How early do you commence to thin apples and how long do you keep it up?

Mr. Rose—I would advise you to consult your apple growers, but I think that as soon as you find that the crop is established to begin, that is, as soon as you have the men to do it.

A Member--How long would you keep it up?

Mr. Rose—Until the apple is as large as a walnut.

A Member—I have in mind a location that looks to me to be desirable in every particular, on a shipping point, but we are handicapped for want of help. We are not close to town, or anywhere where we can get sufficient help. I would like to ask if that would constitute a sufficient obstacle to keep a man out of the business, or can that be successfully solved?

Mr. Rose—I think it can be. We bring in our help and we run a boarding house. We furnish tents and we put growers in these tents and where they need it, we furnish gasoline stoves and a grocer comes with his wagon and furnishes them with whatever they want. The tenters are made responsible for their own bill, not us. Of course it would make a difference how large an area was covered by your orchard and how much help was required. Not very long ago a fellow wanted to put in 160 acres of Montmorency cherries. He had not thought of the help question. He was away from where he could easily secure it, and I said to him, "Do you know where you can get 1,000 men, women and children at one time to pick these cherries?" He had not thought of that and he said no. Then I suggested to him that the area be made smaller. Now right here I would like to ask if you think it is right to be telling to people what wonderful things we are doing so that people with a little money, widow women and others, furnish money to invest in lands by the land boomers, when many of these practical problems have never occurred to them and they find out only too late after their money is gone that they have made a mistake.

A member—Do you spray your orchard the first and second year?

Mr. Rose—We spray our trees before we put them in the ground and then spray them afterwards.

A member—I think that one phase of this market problem has been overlooked, and that is, the greed of the men who stand between the grower and the eater of the fruit. A friend of mine went to a grocery in Chicago on the 10th of September and saw a basket of pretty good Maiden Blush apples. He asked the price, and was told $.75 a peck. Then he went down to the South Water St. market, and there he saw practically the same apples, same grade, and was told that the price was $1.25 per bushel. You see that retailer was standing between the wholesaler and the eater of the fruit, to the tune of $1.75 a bushel.

The Chairman—I desire you to take particular notice of your new president, Mr. Munson. He will now take the chair for the remainder of the sessions.

Mr. Munson—I thank you, Mr. Farrand. (Applause.)

The Chairman—I am requested here to announce the award for the judging and identification of fruit. The first prize goes to Mr. Robert Loree ; second, to F. C. Crawford ; third, to S. C. Olney ; fourth, to Mr. Belaire.

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