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Valley of the Shadow

Valley Virginian: April 14, 1870

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Things That Ought Not To Be
(Column 01)
Summary: This article suggests that Augusta farmers have concentrated their efforts on too few crops and focused their energies on the highest prices. This, the author says, is a mistake. First, farmers should diversify. They should concentrate on crops such as beans and hops in case staple crops such as corn should fail. Further, products should be sold locally, even if this means the lowering of market value. Otherwise, products sold in Richmond and elsewhere will only wind up being imported at a higher price.
Full Text of Article:

We live in one of the finest agricultural regions in the U.S. We have fertile soil, varying in quality in different sections, and adapted to every kind of grain, grass, fruit and vegetable. We have a delightful climate, and culture is seldom interrupted by excessive cold in winter, or drought and heat in summer. We have also an active, industrious population. One would suppose that with such a soil and climate, and people, every thing would be produced that is necessary for the comfort of man.

But such is not the fact. There is bad management somehow. Our people do not make the most of their God-given advantages.

In passing along our streets, it is mortifying to find, at almost every grocery store, large numbers of barrels of potatoes, apples, butter and even CABBAGES, bought in the North, and brought here to supply our home market. Some of these vegetables are brought from New Jersey and New York, and the potatoes from the bleak regions of Maine.

We maintain that this is a reproach to our people. It shows that they lack either industry, or good judgment. Where is there a country better adapted to raising potatoes then Augusta? Where is there a country that ought to produce more butter or of better quality? As for apples, we have heard that skillful fruit raiser, Mr. Franklin Davis, say, that he had tried every part of the country from New Jersey to South Carolina, and that there was no portion of it so well adapted to the best varieties of apples, as the Valley and Piedmont regions of Virginia.

And cabbages! Think of bringing cabbages from New York to a "kraut" county like Augusta!

Why should not our people raise their potatoes, apples, butter, and cabbages? We have hill sides for favorable weather, and rich alluvial bottoms for dry seasons. Why should our country be drained of money to pay for articles that ought to be produced at home? No people can ever prosper who buy more than they sell. The true policy is, to produce every thing we need, and to make a little more than we need, so as to have some to sell. Then the balance of trade will be in our favor, money will begin to accumulate in the hands of the people--and we will not hear so much of hard times.

The enquiry presents itself--why does this condition of things exist? We answer unhesitatingly, it is because our country people do not sufficiently diversify their productions. They are content to follow along in the old ruts made by the vehicles of their fathers. Because their fathers raised wheat and corn exclusively they think they must do the same. Hence it is wheat and corn all the time.--And if the wheat or the corn crop fails, they are reduced to great distress. Our people overlook small crops too much. It would seem as if they thought it beneath their dignity to raise beans, peas, potatoes, cabbage, strawberries, raspberries, and many other small commodities for market. This is a great mistake. There is more profit in these small articles than in large ones. The last Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, tells us of a man near Petersburg Va., who raised $1700 worth of hops from a single acre. Which of our farmers last year made $1700 from 100 acres of corn or wheat?--We have heard of thousands of dollars per acre, being made by cultivating straw-berries and dwarf pears. In the palmy days of Rome, three acres was regarded as an ample farm for one man.

Our people must change their system of cultivation. They must work less land and work it better. They must vary their crops. They must get down off their stilts. They must not despise small things. "Many a mickle makes a muckle" is a good old Scotch proverb. We must cultivate those things that pay, and we must diversify our productions so that if one misses another may hit.

We fear our country people fall into another error. They are sometimes too grasping. They often ask too much for their commodities. The true policy is always to sell when you can get a fair paying price. Those who will hold out for the "top" of the market, are very apt to be disappointed. They may hit occasionally, but they will oftener miss.--During this year $50,000 to $75,000 have been lost to our county by too greedy a spirit in the people. They could have sold their flour last fall at $7 to $7.50, but they held on for higher prices and now have to take $5.--Thus they have lost $2 to $2.50 per barrel for say 50,000 barrels of flour, besides the interest on the proceeds, making as aggregate of probably $100,000 on one single article. This amount would, by passing from hand to hand, have paid off nearly the whole indebtedness of the county. So it is with butter, apples, &c. Farmers bring these articles to town--refuse to take a fair price here--send them to Richmond, and after months delay, get less than they were offered. We have actually heard of butter being sent to Richmond and sold--which was afterwards brought back to Staunton and sold here.

The truth is the farmers will find the Staunton market generally as good as the Richmond after they deduct freight and costs.

In old times when Staunton was a village of 1400 inhabitants it furnished a small market. Our fathers found it so, and sent their produce to Richmond. Now we thoughtlessly do the same thing although the condition of things has entirely changed. Instead of 1400 people, it now has over 5000--(at least the Legislature says it has!) and it now furnishes a market which, take the year through, is as good as that of Richmond. It is to the interest of our people to keep up and stimulate this home market. Even if they lost a few cents a barrel on flour &c, by selling here, they would be compensated by having a good market kept up always for other things that will not bear transportation. "Live and let live" is a good maxim. Let every body be satisfied with a good price without seeking to extort the uttermost farthing. It is best in the long run. Liberality begets liberality. If we show a desire to trade, on fair terms, with others they will be willing to meet us in the same spirit.

Now is the time for setting out all kinds of crops. We earnestly entreat our farmers to make simple preparations for crops of potatoes, beans, cabbages, &c., and let us in the future, make these articles of export, instead of import.

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[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: A. B. Cochran was elected judge of Staunton.
(Names in announcement: A. B. Cochran)
[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: The paper reports that an estimated 50,000 African Americans left Virginia in the past three years, and 5000 whites entered.
[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: The paper asserts that the Valley Railroad subscription, if passed, will bring $1,500,000 into Augusta for land damages.
County Townships
(Column 01)
Summary: Governor Walker appointed the following to aid in dividing Augusta County into townships: Bolivar Christian, C. G. Merritt, M. W. Hogshead, J. Givens Fulton, and Dr. Samuel Kennerly.
(Names in announcement: Bolivar Christian, C. G. Merritt, M. W. Hogshead, J. Givens Fulton, Dr. Samuel Kennerly)
(Column 02)
Summary: David W. Gilkeson died near Greenville on March 31st of consumption.
(Names in announcement: David W. Gilkeson)

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