Discussion On Mr. Carpenter's Paper

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  • 28 Jour7zal of Agricultural Economics.

    only occasionally rather than once a week, but the County and other locd Shows occasioned an annual visit from thirteen. Apart from the N.F.U., t o which thirteen farmers belonged, membership of societies was limited to only three of those interviewed. The same three only, attended N.F.U. meetings and they were all comparatively successful managers.

    The evidence of this enquiry suggests that all these farmers were tolerably well exposed to mass media, but that many of them failed to absorb information into their own farming. They look over several fences, but do not put into practice what they see. They may well regard it as not applicable to their own case. If so, this probably explains why only four of these farmers claimed to get regular advice from the N.A.A.S. ; seven only occasionally, at intervals up to two years, and commonly for specific purposes such as silage making, soil tests, and the like ; while the rest denied ever having used the advisory service at all. This need not mean that advice had not, at one time, been offered. If the thesis of this discussion is correct, it would, in many cases, not have been taken unless the philosophy of the farmer had first been changed by a deliberate campaign to alter values rather than techniques.

    CONCLUSION. One may perhaps close with some suggestions how the situation of these

    farmers might be improved by advisory work. They all spring from the assumption, proved or not in these pages, that there is a large number of small farmers whose attitudes to the business side of farming are faulty, or who do not see developments as applicable to their own farms, and are suspicious of advisers who, they know, spend part of their time on larger holdings which they regard, rightly but often for the wrong reasons, as an entirely different management problem ; and that such farmers are likely to form a fairly close social group. If this is true, then special courses confined t o farmers with less than 75 acres, which concentrate first on the use of capital, might be the ideal, especially if these could be conducted by a " small farm advisory officer." Such courses might be conducted locally or residentially at farm institutes. Better perhaps, special encouragement might be given to small farmers' sons to attend short courses at farm institutes, which should, however, use a small, rather than the institute farm, for demonstration purposes, and have farm management as their central theme. In addition, the much maligned pilot farm might be put to good use, provided it could be selected so that the general run of local small farmers feel that they can do as well themselves. In other words, they should know the farmer and not have too high an opinion of his wealth or ability.

    Finally, mainly for illustration of the possibilities of such research, inferences have admittedly been drawn quite freely from limited data, based on a very small sample of farms ; and if some bias in favour of helping the small farmer is apparent, after many interesting and enjoyable conversations with those who are said to constitute the small farmer problem, I am inclined to be unrepentant. In any event there is clearly a need for more and wider based research of this kind.

    DISCUSSION ON MR. CARPESTER'S PAPER D. B. Wallace May I be the first to congratulate Mr. Carpenter on his paper and particularly his

    courage in launching forth on a subject which when it has been raised in discussion before, has met with a good deal of derision. I think myself i t is a subject of extreme interest and one that has been greatly neglected in our professional work in this country. When I was working on the economics of the small farm projects which all departments undertook last year, it struck me at the time that this phrase that (' there is no problem of the small

  • Journal of Agricultural Economics, 29

    farm, the problem is the small farmer which we have bandied about a good deal between us is very true. 1 was verv much struck for instance in one of the records that came through our hands to find a f a 4 which seemed to be a hybrid between an extremely extensive holding, considering its size. and a Small section of extreme intensity. I went to investigate penonally and found that i t was a father-and-son holding where the father, an old man with of the tithe wars, was farming the extensive section. His son, who had h e n a prisoner on the holding during the thirties, had managed to escape under the all-embracing umbrella of National Service and entered the -4.E.Cs training school, and from there he had seen wider horizons and it had occurred to him that fertilisers and so on could be used. He, in fact, was farming the small intensive section a t the other end of the farm and living in the nearest town. Had the son had possession of the whole farm, because of the influences which had been brought to bear upon him at the formative tirne of his life, that holding would have been vastly more profitable and more productive and madc much greater use of natural resources than could ever be the case as long as his father was alive. living in his memories of twenty and thirty years ago. Obviously we can all repeat this sort of thing from our own experiences. But all this information is in bits and pieces and the isthe first attempt that I have met, in this Society, to try and formalise

    I t seems to me that by far the most important part of the paper is the section dealing with the desire to remain in farming almost come what may. Certainly for any policy work in the future, for any idea that we may require a change in the distribution of farm size in this country, we need to know, I think, a great deal more about the motivation of the farmer, what keeps him where he is, what brings him into the industry and what, if possible, would push him out. So I come to a suggestion in support of Mr. Carpenters plea for further work in this field. I should like to suggest that the P.A.Es Conference might see how many Departments would be prepared to take part in a combined operation to collect data from across the country instead of limiting them to one or two piovinces. If they would work together, and I believe they could, we should takc advice from the professionals in this line, namely, people like the Social Survey of the Central Office of Information, in designing a questionnaire so as to make sure that we all ask the same questions, in training the interviewers to have more or less the same approach, and in assisting us t o interpret the answers. I think we could make a good contribution to the small farm problem and to an understanding of the farmers mentality, but I feel that an individual or a piecemeal approach in individual provinces would not get us anywhere near so f a r along the road as a combined survey OI this type.

    of i t and bring it together.

    D. W. Cooper : Mr. Carpenter has mentioned three basic reasons why some farmers fall short in their

    management, defining management in this context as a capacity for organisation leading t o high profits. The reasons he suggests are :-

    Personal incapacity ; Non-commercial aims ; Lack of knowledge of the techniques of farm management.

    I would like to expand the third reason a little more widely to include a lack of commercial farm management. with the accent on the word commercial. Today more than ever the farmer is in business as a buyer and seller as well as a producer. Without proper commercial management his business is akin to a manufacturer who has no proper sales organisation. Increased production is not much use to a farmer-production gives no benefits unless i t is profitably sold.

    This combination-the small unit, the outlook of the small farmer and lack of commeicial acumen-places a large proportion of our farmers in a weak position, i.e. that of buying retail and selling wholesale. I t is not enough for the farmer to be cost conscious. It is net enough to try and make 3 lbs. of meal do where 3) was used before, without looking at the price a t which the meal was purchased. The speaker has emphasised that the problem is not so much one of the small farm as one of the small farmer, and I have suggested that the lack of commercial acumen or the opportunity to use i t may be a particularly valid factor in hindering the maximisation of farm profits in the case of the small farmer. This highlights the need to maximise farm profits through better buying of the tools and raw materials of production and better selling of produce, better services, better grading. presentation and packing, better market intelligence and better bargaining power. These are the fields for co-operative action among farmers.

    The reason why farmers may fall short in this aspect of organisation leading to higher profits may also be explained by the psychological and social reasons already mentioned by Mr. Carpenter which have meant adherence to traditional methods of trade and old market channels. This is certainly the case with the older generation of small farmers.

  • 30 Jozcrnal of Agricultural Economics.

    What about the new generation of small farmers who have learned their business since t h e war ? Here I think a lot of the answer, and the answer to many of the problems propounded by Mr. Carpenter, lies in agricultural education.

    There has been in the past a lack of training in farm management. This is now rapidly being put right, but there is still a dearth of training in commercial farm manage- ment. The present outlook of formal agricultural education and advisory services has been strongly influenced by the war-time and post-war emphasis on increasing production. Advisory officials and lecturers, themselves largely trained in this period have tended to be predomina