Bonanza Farming and Its Impact


Moody, William Godwin

1883

 

Within the past year or two a new development in agriculture, in the great Northwest, has forced itself upon the public attention, that would seem destined to exercise a most potent influence on the production of all food products, and work a revolution in the great economies of the farm. But not enough is known of this new development to enable one to form any just estimate of either its force or extent. For the purpose of obtaining the data necessary to assist to a more correct understanding of the operations of what are known as the "Bonanza Farms," and their present and probable future effects, the writer went upon the ground to make them a study. . . .

Every facility was afforded for the fullest observation, and to give me all the information desired. It would be difficult to find a finer sight than was presented by those magnificent fields of grain, standing breast high, taking on the golden yellow that precedes the harvest, their heads, as far as the eye could reach, standing as level and smooth as the top of a great table; and when fanned by the wind moving in ripples and waves like the waters of a sea.

It was believed that the yield of wheat would be at least twenty bushels to the acre. Some portions, it was said, would give more than thirty bushels. It certainly was very fine. . . .

Now mark the change that has already taken place and is fast obtaining in all our new and great agricultural regions. Under the power of machinery and capital the farms have grown from the size of 100 acres, as formerly, to 1,000 acres, to 10,000 acres, to 100,000 acres, even to 500,000 acres, or nearly 800 square miles, and more, with not one home upon their vast areas; with no one surrounding a family rooftree with all that made the old home a paradise. . . .

This state of things is made possible, and is obtaining, solely by and under the power and use of machinery; first in the hands of individual capitalists; then in the hands of companies; and, lastly, by corporations.

The owners of these large tracts have bonanzas, yielding great profits, not one dollar of which is expended in beautifying and permanently improving their vast estates, beyond that necessary for the care of the stock and tools, nor in sustaining a permanent population. Their homes, their pleasures, their family ties, are not upon their farms. Their wealth is flaunted in the gaieties and dissipations, or expended in building and developing some distant city or country. But the owner and cultivator of the small farm in its neighborhood, upon which he has planted his rooftree, and around which are gathered all his hopes and ambitions, finds it impossible to pay his taxes, clothe and educate, or find any comfort for his wife and little ones. The case of the small farmer is steadily going from bad to worse. The two can not exist together; the small farmer can not successfully compete with his gigantic neighbor under present conditions. He will inevitably be swallowed up. It is at best but a question of time. . . .

 


Credits: William Godwin Moody, Land and Labor in the United States (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1883), pp. 31-32, 51-59.