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Farm Accounts And Farm Management

( Originally Published 1915 )

Agriculture Follows Nature Study.—Agriculture is for the older pupils what nature study is for the younger ones. Among the " don'ts " for the teacher of agriculture is the one which says : Don't try to teach all of the pupils agriculture. Leave something that is new and fresh for the older pupils. Leading thinkers seem to agree that agriculture should not be given before the seventh and eighth grades. This is certainly true of the work outlined in this chapter. If we were sure that the children would go to high school, we would advocate leaving the farm bookkeeping until the high school is reached. The agricultural economics is given to suggest lines of reading for the boy who has left school or who is in the high school. Some of our present work in arithmetic can be abridged and the farm bookkeeping given to advantage.

Not Enough Bookkeeping on the Farm.—Children cannot, as a general thing, learn bookkeeping from imitation on the farm. Very few farmers keep a good set of books. But with the passing of our cheap land, better business management must come or the farmer go down in the struggle. The average farmer does not like to keep books, his hands are hard and stiff, he has not enough of the bookkeeping to do to make it interesting, and he often lacks a convenient place to keep his books. He has never done enough bookkeeping to give him that certainty or accuracy which makes work attractive. There are a number of reasons why we should adopt the French system and have the women keep the books. Women are naturally careful, economical and conservative. Women often have the time and the skill that enable them to keep a beautiful set of books. In case of the sudden death of the husband, a well-kept set of books is often the best of insurance policies, insuring against lawyers, administrators, and uncertainty as to what to do with the business. We do not argue for an extra burden to be put upon the overworked, tired mother. She has enough to do. Only where the woman enjoys the work, has the time, strength and experience which will enable her to get pleasure from doing it easily and well, do we advise that the woman be the bookkeeper.

The Inventory.—A few hours in the winter, spent in invoicing the place, its stock and equipment, should be among the happiest hours that a farmer and his wife have together. Much joy comes to those who discover with mathematical certainty that they have accumulated a few hundred dollars, and the very certainty gives one inspiration to take hold for another year with renewed enthusiasm. Besides enabling a farmer to know his business with mathematical accuracy a well-kept set of books may enable him to avoid many disputes and occasionally a law suit. Accounts with merchants, money paid out, affairs with hired help or neighbors, if put down at the time in black and white, are not apt to cause trouble later.

Characteristics of a Good Set of Books.—A good set of books for the farm must be as simple as is consistent with guarding against uncertainties and mistakes. They should show the gain or loss, where gain or loss occurred, and they should furnish a satisfactory history of the different transactions such that a court would place confidence in the records should they be needed in court. Simplicity makes a single-entry system seem best; ease of recording and being able at a glance to see the history of a transaction make some extended five- or seven-column journal system appear best. But if a man has skill as a book-keeper, and if he or his good wife has time to do the posting, a set of double-entry books is the more satisfactory.

Teach Children to Make Inventories.—The first thing for a farmer to do, and the first thing in farm accounts for a teacher to train children to do, is to make a neat, careful, and clear inventory of everything having a money value on the farm, especially if it will enter into production for another year. A valuable exercise consists in going with the pupils, some recess or noon, to some unhoused machinery and estimating the yearly depreciation. Then some correlation problems may follow in arithmetic, on the cost of a building, the annual depreciation and interest on the building, what it would save, what would be gained, etc. There may be applications of cases in arithmetic with which the child should be familiar, as the fraction, the percentage, and the ratio of gain. Children should have a separate tablet or a booklet started on Farm Accounts and Problems.

Some families may be sensitive about having the school look into the housing of their farm machinery, though the machinery is all out-of-doors. But there are farmers who are willing to cooperate with the school, and the teacher may use one of these farms as a basis for her work in farm accounts.

The aim of this work with inventories is to get the child interested in things at home and to get him to form the habit of getting enjoyment from keeping a good set of books. The habit will deepen as the years go by. It is well for the teacher to encourage the older boys and girls to try bookkeeping for a home project. Urge the pupils or the parents to buy a reasonably good book with which to begin. If too costly it encourages extravagance; if too cheap it fails to call out sufficiently the desire to be neat, accurate and tidy. It is well to hold out the hope, and to help the boys to form the ideal, that some day they are to keep their books and do their business at as good a roll-topped desk as has the business man in town.

It pays to have a page or two of inventories of the different things given in detail. Some prefer to have a page for each of the important farm products, that is, where dairying is the specialty, one page is given to the dairy cattle alone. If the farm is a hog and grain farm, then one page is given to hogs and another to grain. On the next page is an extended detail inventory of the cattle on a farm.

This inventory of everything on which he wishes to learn whether he has a gain or a loss, is of first importance to a farmer. Second in importance is the Cash Account. If the farmer will get a good cloth-bound book of some 500 or more pages, a good plan will be to start the inventories just past the middle of the book as they will not be needed often but will be referred to each year for some years to come. If Inventories, etc., are to have the last half of the book, then Cash Account may have the first page after the index pages. Cash Account will be the longest and, unless one wishes the trouble of frequently carrying the footings forward, there should be some 250 pages left for Cash Account. Cash

A more extended Cash Account which will enable a farmer to keep a complete account with each of the leading articles from which he gets cash, or for which he pays cash, is the following. I think this extended column journal form is much to be preferred, and the teacher should take all the time necessary to get young people thoroughly familiar with it so that they can use it with ease, accuracy, and pleasure.

A similar page should be kept for Cash Paid Out. One may keep the Cash Received on the left-hand page and the Cash Paid Out on the right-hand page. This enables one to compare items at a glance.

Another system of bookkeeping favored by many is to buy a loose leaf ledger, from which the pages as fast as filled may be removed and placed at the back for reference or on file elsewhere. Yet another form, which is very handy, consists of keeping loose sheets on file between index cards in a filing cabinet made especially for the cards. This is very handy for one who has a roll-top desk or regular filing boxes. Each person with whom the farmer has dealings, other than for Cash, should have a separate page or card. It is well to begin the Personal Account page just before the Inventory page and work toward the front of the book, that is, if Inventories begin on page 250, then use page 249 for the first Personal Account, page 248 for the next, etc. This leaves the pages between Cash and Personal Accounts blank until needed.

The Index is important. The name of each account should be written on that page of the Index containing the first letter of the account. To illustrate : The general Inventory should be placed under the letter I in the Index and the number of the page on which the Inventory occurs written after the word " Inventory." The Inventory on Cows should come under " C " and the name and page written. So the name of Cash, and each person with whom an account is kept, should be written under the appropriate letter and the page number given. In addition to that one may open the book at " Inventory " and with a sharp knife cut off a little of the upper left-hand corner pages. This will make a natural opening ledge for the fingers at the Inventory pages. As the Cash pages are used a small triangle may be clipped from one corner of each successive page so a continuous ledge will open at once to the page being used.

Farm Records.—The scientific farmer of to-morrow is going to keep a number of records. Probably some card system will be found most convenient and economical of space and time. There are to be special records for time, milk, eggs, breeding, fruit, etc.

The time record may be conveniently kept on a system of cards somewhat like the following taken from Card's " Farm Management."

Milk Records.—Milk records from each individual cow are very important. When there is a good one, the farmer needs to be a member of the cow-testing association. If the high school is really teaching agriculture and is being run for the people in the country, there should be a high school cow-testing association. Cow-testing associations are more important where the farmer sells butter fat than where he sells milk. Where common dairy herds have been tested, it is generally found that a number of cows are not paying for their feed. One man found that he was actually giving from five to nine dollars each for the fun of milking five cows a whole year. The record on page 143 is issued by Hoard's Dairyman and is one of the best for a weekly record of twenty cows.

Teach Girls Household Accounting.—The longing to go to town to live would be considerably abated in many instances if our girls were taught a system of scientific household accounting ; that is, if our women were made conscious of the advantages of the farm by crediting the farm with what it furnishes for the family support. The farm should be credited with fruit, milk, eggs and vegetables that are used in the house, as well as those that are sold. The farm should be credited with rent and fuel. The United States Government has found that the budget of the average family, living on an income of less than $2000, divides the income as follows : Food 25 per cent, rent 20 per cent, clothing 15 per cent, incidentals, medicine, etc., 15 per cent, education, church, travel, books, etc., 25 per cent. It is a valuable exercise to have girls in school, figure out what their living in town would cost if they were to live as they do on the farm. If a family is not living within its income, the house mother should place the family budget beside that of her 11,000 sisters, as found by the United States Government and given in the table (p. 143), and from the comparison find in what division the account overruns. In all probability where it overruns the average is the place to begin to cut down expesses.

Teach Boys Farm Management.—The new agriculture makes of the farm a modern business enterprise and of the farmer a modern business manager (Figs. 62, 63) or " entrepreneur," as the French would say. This demands a careful study of the number of acres which a man can handle to advantage. It now seems as though the farmers who are making most money, farm a little over two hundred acres each. This contradicts a very prevalent opinion that our farms are too large and are to be broken up and more intensive farming adopted. It would seem that most people fail to distinguish between the fruit grower, the truck gardener and the farmer. Then again just as there is a certain proportion into which each of the household activities fall, there is a certain proportion that a farmer must find of capital invested in land, stock, machinery, etc. For example, a silo is a very valuable addition to a farm, but it has been found that the average man with less than ten cows cannot make a silo pay for filling and interest on the investment. So there are certain machines which one farmer cannot afford to own but which should be owned in cooperation with others. The same is true of some breeding animals.

Teach Farm Management through Arithmetic.—Farm arithmetic, such as found in the second half of Miss Jessie Field's book, " The Corn Lady," may be taught either as supplementary problems to the regular cases in arithmetic or as exercises in agriculture. The following problems taken from that book may be given toward spring as interest in the land begins to revive.

1. Suppose a 40-acre field, planted to corn 5 years in succession, produces 60 bushels per acre the first year, 55 the second, 43 the third, 33 the fourth, and 30 the fifth, what will be the value of the corn grown in the 5 years at 40 cents per bushel ?

2. Suppose, instead of growing corn continuously, the farmer had practised the following rotation: First year, 40 acres corn, 60 bushels per acre at 40 cents per bushel; second year, 40 acres oats, 60 bushels per acre at 30 cents per bushel ; third year, 40 acres clover, 3 tons per acre at $8 per ton; fourth year, 40 acres timothy, 2 tons per acre at $9 per ton; fifth year, 40 acres corn, 70 bushels per acre at 40 cents per bushel. What would have been the value of the five-years' crops ? Which of the two five-years' crops would have been the more valuable ? Which would leave the field in better fertility for the future ? The teacher may multiply this problem many times by taking the average yields of her locality and using a three-, four-, and five-year rotation. There are hundreds of other problems in farm arithmetic, two, three or five of which may be given to supplement every case in the arithmetics and which, as Professor Bailey says, would revolutionize farm life.

Then there is another set of problems that make interesting and valuable winter work. Every farmer should have a plat or map of his garden and orchard. The names of the trees and the rotation of the garden crops soon slip from memory. A plat of the orchard with the name of each variety of tree or fruit should be a part of the permanent record of the farm. This plat may be drawn on the back pages of the ledger or on loose paper and pasted in the ledger. The plat of the garden for the coming year will make interesting work. How may we plant so as to keep the light-loving plants from being shaded, so as to allow us to use the ground to advantage for the early and then late crops on the same ground, etc. ?

To be a better farmer than his father, a boy must become a close student of natural advantage in production as determined by location, climate, market, his natural likings, preparation, etc. The day has gone when the farm will supply all of the needs of a family and when we may expect the farmer to sell only what is left after supplying his family. The twentieth-century farm is run for a profit on some one product or group of products. The farmer of to-day is conscious of the futility of attempting to compete with other places and other climates in the production of certain commodities. It is a part of his business management to find what can be produced in his locality to greatest economic advantage and when he has found it, and how much he can pro-duce with a maximum profit, to centre his efforts on that. While there are many things to do on a farm there is always some one thing that must be done on time and done well. Other things are incidentals.

A boy, before he becomes a farmer, should become familiar with the law of diminishing returns and the modern economic theory of value. These are part of his racial inheritance. A boy should be made conscious of the economic law which says " the normal value is determined by the cost of producing the last considerable portion, which portion is produced at the greatest disadvantage and which portion is necessary to supply the demand." This means that some people are always selling at cost of production. It is for a boy to determine whether he is to be one of that class.

Then, again, the modern farmer should be familiar with the laws determining the distribution of wealth. He should be sufficiently conversant with public affairs to know, with reasons, whether the middlemen are getting more than their share of what he produces and others consume. He should know whether he is getting his money's worth for what he pays in taxes. Rural governments are to-day dead, inert things. They must be quickened into life. The mental attitude of the farmer must be changed. We must pass from the belief in a jack-of-all-trades to the belief in specialists in government as well as in other things.

What a family gets from a farm is not all measured by money. The landscape is part of the income, the uses of schools, roads, churches, doctors, lecture courses, and other things go to make what the economists call the social income.

Enough has been said on farm accounts and agricultural economics to enable teachers to know that there is much to teach. In the grades only a few of the important things can be hinted at, but a teacher may suggest to the boys and the girls that the subject is one well worth their while taking for a whole year as one of four studies in an agricultural college or high school. In the leading high schools, where agriculture is given as one of four studies for each year, the course offered follows closely the work recommended in this book. The first year is given to the study of plants, the second year to the study of animals, the third to growing and feeding of plants, and the fourth to the study of farm business management and community organization.

Teachers should impress upon their pupils the fact that where statistics have been taken it has been found that boys who go to farming, after completing a high school course, make more than the interest on $6000 over boys who left school before they finished the high school. Those who go to college make the interest on $10,000 more than those who do not go to college. Put in another way, estimating that the boy will be producing for forty years, we find that he makes $16.28 for every day he spends in high school. This, too, is a fact which the boy has a right to know before he decides not to go to high school and college. And his father needs to know that it is better, from a money standpoint alone, to give his boy a high school education than $6,000 in money. But the money value is the smallest part. The real value comes from the pleasure there is in being more fully conscious of what you are doing and of the beauty in the world around you.

Farm Management.—Farm management is a comparatively new science. It aims to tell what is the best organization for land, labor and capital on the farm. Men differ wonderfully in their ability to handle land, labor and capital so as to make a profit. The man who raises the largest crops does not necessarily make the most profit. The man with the best looking farm is not alwavas the man who is paying off the mortgage. Recently the United States Department of Agriculture has had men making very careful studies in all parts of the United States, in order to learn why some men make money on the farm and others do not. The following is a summary of the study of some six hundred farms in a dairy section. The farms much larger than one hundred acres are not considered. Farms smaller than eighty acres were not considered in this study. Farms not run by their owners were also left out and then we have left some two hundred farms from which we take the twenty that average the lowest profit which in farm management is called labor income.

The average crop area was 63 acres; number of cows milking, 20 ; number of horses, 5 ; receipts per cow, $106.50 ; crop acres per horse, 12.6 ; crop index, 117 ; working capital, $4468.

How to Teach Farm Management.—I suspect teachers will think farm management harder to teach without a book than almost any other subject. Farm management appears abstract and intangible, but really it is an easy subject to teach without a book. Of course the teacher should have a book and know what she is aiming to teach. The inventory is a good subject with which to begin the subject of farm management.

Mapping the Farm.—One of the first things a farmer must know if he is, to get a good profit for his labor is whether his fields are so shaped and his rotations so scheduled that his fields are to be handled to advantage (Figs. 64 and 65). Even before that he must decide whether he is to be a grain or a dairy farmer, whether he is to follow the soiling system or pasture for part of the year. These questions the schools will find have been settled. Then the school is ready to have pupils bring in maps of the home farm. Maps of eastern farms will be found to contain fields that are entirely too small. A rectangular piece of ground can be plowed and cultivated to better advantage than can a square field. The larger the fields, the more economically can they be tilled. If the fields are not of about uniform size, they will not enable the farmer to follow a regular system of rotations. If there are small patches on hillsides, especially southern, they should be seeded to alfalfa and left as long as the stand is good, then plowed and cultivated for as short a time as necessary to get rid of the weeds and seeded to alfalfa again. If there are low, irregularly shaped pieces, they may be seeded to timothy and left for hay or pasture. Comparatively level, long, uniformsized fields are the ones to fall into the regular rotations of corn, wheat or oats, clover, timothy and back to corn again. But unless the fields or a combination of certain fields are equal in size, the farmer will have too much of one crop one year and not enough another.

Labor Schedules.--A good labor income from farming, like a profit from banking or manufacturing, requires that the plant run at a profit for every day throughout the year. A good exercise in farm management consists in planning something for a regular amount of labor to do at a profit every month in the year. The farmer who has more than he can do at one time of year and not enough to do at another is not a good manager. The above from Warren's " Farm Management " (Figs. 66, 67) tell how labor is distributed throughout the year if we consider the poultry business only. Manifestly a man would be foolish to go into a system of farming where he raised many little chickens and had extra work during the months of June and July unless he had a son or a daughter in school but who would be at home to help during the summer vacation.

Another blunder which some people make is to go into certain market garden crops and hope to carry them on with the chicken business. Asparagus and strawberries have to be harvested at a time when the amount of labor for the chickens is increasing each week. Chickens and strawberries require the most labor, for each, at the same time during the month of June. Discussions along these lines are valuable and may save many farms from becoming burdens to their owners.

Have Leading Farmers Help.—As was suggested in the chapter on plant breeding, a very good exercise consists of having some farmer who is known to have made money, tell the pupils what he believes to be the most profitable system of farming, what rotations he recommends, how he arranges his labor schedules, etc. It may be that the farmer can talk better on his own farm where he is able to point to his successes and failures. If so, let the teacher go with a group of the pupils to visit the farmer. Have it arranged that certain pupils are to ask certain questions and " keep the ball rolling," as we say.

Teach Farm Score Card.—Certainly each teacher can teach the pupils to score one or two farms. This may save those who buy, or who must rent, many dollars in years to come. Few farmers know how to judge a farm critically. There may be a difference of opinion as to the relative value placed on the different points in the score card, but the becoming conscious of the different factors that go to make a farm a profitable farm is helpful to any one who is to farm for a living. Be sure to caution pupils against scoring highest the farm that is over-equipped. It may be beautiful, but no man should be asked to make interest on it, with man labor.

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