Care Of Small Fruits
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
ROBT. THOMPSON, ST. CATHERINES, ONTARIO.
Ladies and Gentlemen : It gives me a great deal of pleasure to be here. I have intended to come for a couple of years, but have always been so busy that I could not seem to be able to get away from home. And, as it is, our own annual meeting is being held at the same time as yours here, but my sense of duty is this : We have had the pleasure . of several of your best men—we have had the benefit of their experience at our meetings, both local and provincial, at Toronto and other places, and I felt that it would only be simple justice to reciprocate and give you any help within my power.
In a good many ways your conditions are something similar to our own, almost more so than some of the conditions in the State of New York, with which we are more conversant.
The question of lakes, the influence of large bodies of water, interests us because we have the same condition with us,—lake to the north of us, then Lake Erie to the south.
Another reason why I am pleased to be here is that we find when we come among you, we are brothers—we are one people. While, at certain seasons, we pair off, and as in politics and other questions we go our own way, yet as it is in the case of the fruit growers, there comes a time when we bunch together for our mutual benefit. When your worthy secretary was over to see us a year ago, he can recall that we had a land-slide over in Canada something like you have had in the recent past here. And possibly Mr. Bassett would appreciate it more because, as he knows, I happened to be on the losing side; and I think he came out also on the losing side.
But, although, we had a landslide, and you have had a radical change of public sentiment, yet the fruit growers will go on just the same as before, and will no doubt succeed just as well, if we attend to our business as we should. This will come, no matter what the administration. Fruit growers have found that if they do not attend to their business it will go down, no matter what the administration may be.
I do not feel that I want to make a set address, but rather follow the line of asking questions, and in this way, we can get real helpful advice more surely than otherwise, for some of our conditions are not the same as they are with you. We find that certain varieties of small fruits do better on certain soils than on others. Take strawberries, we have the Williams, and I presume that ninety-nine out of every hundred acres of the strawberries grown in our vicinity is the Williams. In some other sections, they do not do well at all. I do not know very much about your market conditions, what you are growing your small fruits for. The way we look at it, when we go into the fruit business, we want to know where we are going to market; what will give us the best results ; and plant for it. I plant enough so that we will have a sufficient quantity to supply the demand and get the price and have a volume sufficient to enable us to get the freight-rates we should. In so doing, we may be able to keep the market supplied, and possibly to the exclusion of other places.
Just to give you briefly an outline of the district there, will say we have a strip of land that corresponds with the level of Lake Erie, and this ridge runs along from the southeast to the northwest. It drops abruptly in most places, and there is a narrow stretch of country running along the foot of the ridge. That level below runs from 15 to 30 feet above the lake level.
Lake Ontario is nearly 3,000 feet above the sea level. Along that stretch of country we grow all kinds of fruits to perfection-peaches, grapes and all those tender fruits, and we are not troubled to any great extent with the frost. Where you get a little higher there is another. trouble, the vegetation starts earlier and the frost is. more severe than near the water where it is held back. Another trouble is, the bulk of that land further back is heavy. I am inclined to think under certain conditions cultivation would help, if moisture could be kept in the land. Where the ground is moist, that draws the frost away from the vegetation, and we have a crop.
I have different kinds of land. The freeze of sixteen years ago, the 28th of May, that killed our peach orchards, hit me. I had one field with only a ditch between them—one field was clay that we were not working so as to keep the vegetation back ; the other was a sandy field and had not been worked. After that freeze I said "I will sell my crop on this field for half price" and after I examined it, I said, "I will sell my whole peach crop on that field for $5.00." On the other field I had three-fourths of a crop—the freeze went into the vegetation.
We are growing our fruit largely for canning factories and distribution throughout the country. Our small fruits in the first state are shipped through the province of Ontario and the east. Very little of it goes west. Our other fruits, plums, grapes, and to some extent, peaches are sent to the western provinces, where they are competing with your western fruits, and British Columbia.
We are growing more currants and goose-berries than eight or ten years past. Prices then went very low and we went out of the business; but now owing to the markets in the west, we are planting quite a good deal more extensively of currants, both red and black, and of goose-berries.
As to the methods of cultivation I suppose you want that more than anything else. I am a worker and not a public speaker and so I can answer questions better than I can make a speech, and now would like to have you ply me with any questions you see fit.
Mr. Bassett—When I was there in your country, they pointed out to me land that they said was worth $1,000 an acre—tell us about it.
Mr. Thompson—We have land that is selling as low as $200 an acre and from that up to $2,000 an acre. Of course, $2,000 land has some improvements in the way of buildings. We have land selling at $1,000 and $2,000 without any buildings on or buildings that are of little or no value. A good deal of that land derives its value from the fact that a number of people are going out there, retired men on salaried positions, that have had to give up their work, owing to loss of health. And then there are others who, through the influence of stories they read in the papers, and from land agents, and through other influences, have been induced to purchase this land through land agents and have paid these prices for it with the idea that they were going to make a fortune out of it by raising fruit. Land for fruit growing up in our section is certainly on the boom. I thought a few years ago that we had reached out limit, but it is not so.
In the years that are past I have had the oversight of the largest shipping point in • the Dominion of Canada, and I have had a good chance to consider the question from all standpoints and I am free to say that while land in our towns and cities is sometimes inflated, yet in the matter of farm lands, I think that even at these prices, the money would be well invested. I have my eye on a piece of land next to where a canal may go through, and I am prepared to give $600 per acre for seventy acres of raw land for fruit growing. I look for a decided increase even in these prices.
The reason for that is a number of our men are going there to set out peaches, thinking that peaches are the only thing that they can make money on. Many of the people fought against the reciprocity be-cause they were afraid of your peaches. While many feel this way, that there is more money in peaches than anything else, at the same time I have sworn off on peaches, for there has been a great deal more money sunk in peaches there than ever was brought out. And a good many people realize the truth of this, this year. In looking over my land 1 have twenty acres of valuable land—I consider it altogether too valuable for raising peaches on it. I can grow other things more safely such as small fruit. The reason for these values is we have a large body of people all interested in the one line. We can ship all our fruit at express rates by freight. Where the express is 80c per hundred, we can ship it for 30e by fast freight. To Winnipeg the express rate is $2.60 whereas we get a rate of 70c. We count on from 150 to 250 bushels per acre for tomatoes, the average is running nearer 500 and some men are getting as high as 700 to 1,000 bushels per acre. Then there is asparagus. I planted three-fourths of a crop for the factory alone. Lately we found the factory was going to pinch us down a little but even then that asparagus has brought in more money than any peach orchard.
(A Voice—Give us the figures.)
Giving figures is hardly fair when none of the conditions and other matters connected with it are given. If we should do this then the reporters of the papers would give it out that these fruit growers are making their thousands. A man that cannot clear up $10,000 is no good, they say, and it is such stories that induce a lot of people to go into the fruit business only to be greatly disappointed and to suffer severe loss. There is an expense connected with all these that few people think of. But it is possible to make these large amounts from the land and that is why we look for land to go up to $2,000 an acre. These people who have bought there of late at these high prices seem to be well satisfied with their bargains and nearly everyone of them could sell at an advance should he put his land on the market. And as I said, the reason for this is that there are those who are making these large amounts out of the land.
Some have said, "I will go to some other point where I can buy land at from $100 to $200 per acre instead of paying these large amounts." My advice is to buy close in, even though the land is much higher in price. You are then close to shipping facilities and you are where you can be in competition with the factories, and there are many other advantages that might be named which will compensate for the higher price of land, one of them being that you can buy your supplies at the lowest possible price through companies which you could not do otherwise.
A Member—Explain the inter-planting—do you grow small fruits between tree plants when they are growing up?
Mr. Thompson—When we are planting out orchards, even our cur-rant, we plant them eight feet apart. The first year we plant vegetables in between these. When planting out fruit trees we plant more largely of vegetables. A good many plant strawberries. Where the land is high in value we plant in between those trees raspberries or currants or gooseberries—that is, where the land would be cut up in five or ten acre lots, or where a man is pretty greedy, but if a man has twenty acres the question of labor comes in and this not so often done. We do not plant small fruits in between our plums or peaches or pears but between our apples. We follow that method until the trees get up to 5 or 6 years old or older say 8 or 10 years, and then they require all the land and what we get off the land as a catch crop cost more to grow than what we realize from it. The trees are all the way from 15 to 16 feet each way and up to 18 feet. The favorite distance in putting trees is 18 by 22, or 20 by 20 feet.
A Member—How about your fertilizer?
Mr. Thompson—As to fertilizer used, would say, that we use principally barnyard manure and the straight artificial chemical fertilizer.
.24_ Voice—By that you mean commercial fertilizers.
Mr. Thompson—We are using steamed bone, acid rock for the phosphoric acid. We are using acid phosphate especially where we have vegetables. In that case we use three parts of bone to one part of potash for the trees. That is on fairly light land. On our heavier land we do not use so much potash. If we want to get results quickly that year we use the acid rock. It is a little cheaper per cent on the analysis, and it gives us quicker results on the vegetables. We use this in the proportion of 750 pounds of acid rock, 750 pounds of bone and 500 pounds of potash. We use about 400 pounds of this to the acre. Where we use from 1,200 pounds to a ton to the acre we get better results.
A Member—What is that on?
Mr. Thompson—On the currants we use every spring from 1,000 to 1,200 pounds each year. We try to get barnyard manure on currants every second year. Then plow down cover crops. Clover is doing pretty well. However, we find that we are getting better results from the straight goods then from the mixed fertilizer dollar for dollar.
A Voice—By straight goods what do you mean?
Mr. Thompson—I mean potash, nitrate, etc. I usually get a carload of nitrate of soda and from two to three cars of potash each year. Some years we do not use it all but it keeps over all right. Among the fruit growers it is getting more and more a custom 'to use the straight goods rather than the ordinary ready mixed commercial fertilizers.
A Member—What experience have you had in limeing small fruits?
Mr. Thompson—We have had some little experience, but I can not see very much results on the clay land where part of it went on orchard without excess of humus. On other land I think it would do well.
A Member—What implements do you use to distribute the fertilizer?
Mr. Thompson—There are several machines made for this purpose. The one that has given us the best satisfaction we purchased from a firm in Rochester.
A Member—How many miles is it from your place to Winnipeg? You stated you had 66 cents a hundred by the carload.
Mr. Thompson—Something like 700 miles.