From Our 'Agricultural Correspond cnt
The Royal Agricultural Show which opened at Windsor on Tuesday celebrates the centenary of the society responsible for it.
By presenting a replica of an oldfashioned form, the organisers of the Show have afforded graphic. evidence of the progress that has been made.
It is, of course, the alliance of agriculture and science which chiefly accounts for the development effected.
The results of research work, employing about 200 qualified scientists, have put Great Britain in the front rank as regards the quality of its agriculture. The work that has been done in countering disease, in directing breeding, in supplying superior types of seed and in providing chemical fertilisers, would astonish the outsider.
And to this must be added the possibilities opened up by the use
of machinery on the land, a feature the prominence of which in the history of the century disposes of the British farmer's alleged conservatism.
Of these developments the discerning visitor to Windsor is given ample proof. The Show is nothing less than a Pageant of Progress.
And yet, looked at from. another angle, the exhibition is little more than a façade hiding a state of things which, 4n son] e respects, is more disquieting than at any other period during the century since the Show was first established.
True, the scientific and mechanical advance, even if we grant that some of the experiments due to it have been and are likely to be disastrous, has been tremendous. But science and mechanism cannot by themselves solve the problems of agriculture. There is always, as Alexis Carrel points out in Man the Unknown, the human factor. And because this aspect of the matter has been neglected, British farming to-day. behind the fagade of the Pageant of Progress which it has erected, is at its wits' end to stay the drift to the towns which deprives the fields of the labour necessary if the potentialities which science and the machine have made available are to be utilised.
They Laughed One farmer writes : "For the past seven years I have not been able to keep a boy on my farm. I had one keen youngster. He left because his own schoolfellows working in the towns laughed at him." And an agricultural labour leader reports : "We are facing an agricultural revolution, a new peasants' revolt. It is not spectacular, but it is going on all over the country and people are refusing to go into agriculture."
The labour leader just quoted continues : " In the decade 1921-31 the population of England rose by 5 per cent. In 15 rural districts in the North Riding the population during that period fell by 5.4 per cent. Those who live in that area have no reason to think that the drift has been arrested since 1931."
Materialistically minded politicians
have one invariable remedy for this state of things. They apply the commercial motive. Everything; they declare, can be bought if only you are prepared to offer a good price. Is there reluctance in a national crisis to enlist in the Army? Then raise the soldier's pay and improve his conditions of service. It is in this way that the shortage of agricultural labour is being approached. The conclusion of the writer who speaks of the new Peasants' Revolt is that " the industry must be put into such a position that. it can give to the villager and the rural worker as high a standard of living as the skilled worker in the town."
It does not seem to occur to anyone that the best fertiliser for the improvement of the soil is a genuine love of the land on the part of those tilling it. Our research stations have not yet discovered how to manufacture this love. Their crucibles and microscopes are powerless to kill the microbe of urbanism in rural youth.
Keeps Family Together
And there is another thing beside love of the soil the recovery of which would help to solve this labour problem. One of the great advantages, from the spiritual and moral standpoint, of farming in the past as compared with town jobs was that it kept the family together.
Change of Mentality
But to recover the spirit which preferred the simple homely joys associated with the family farm will require changes in the mentality of our generation of which as yet there are no signs. Meanwhile the solution is found in offering the hireling more money, which only accentuates the hireling motive. It is not that way agriculture will be revived. Such is the somewhat grim state of affairs which lies behind the Windsor faqade.