16 June 2014

Olmsted's plea for scientific agriculture

Watching science improve farming in other places, particularly England, Frederick Law Olmsted wanted his fellow farmers to see these same improvements. He plead for a better exchange of information that would help them all improve their yields and keep up with these standard bearers. Having detailed the great outcomes that were being elsewhere ("the average crop of all England has increased eight bushels per acre") he made this plea:
Farmers of Staten Island! it is the application of Science, of THOUGHT TO AGRICULTURE, that does this! What results might we anticipate if the Thought, the Skill, the Enterprise, the Energy, should be brought to bear upon our noble employment, which have given to the world the Steam Engine, the Cotton Gin, the Steamboat, the Railroad, the Electric Telegraph! And why shall we not ask it? No man expects the Merchant, the Mechanic, the Manufacturer of the present day to succeed in his calling while stupidly shutting his eyes to the light of Science, or scornfully pushing aside the proffered aid of the student. They readily avail themselves of aid from all sources. It is time the Farmer did so too. They have no patent right to improvement. Progress is no half-hardy plant that must be trained to the walls of cities. Why is it, then, that in all the pursuits of Human Industry we see such rapid achievement, while in our Art, the art on which all other arts depend, the wheels of progress move so strangely slow?
From the Appeal to the citizens of Staten Island by the Board of Managers of the Richmond County Agricultural Society, by Frederick Law Olmsted as corresponding secretary of the newly formed Richmond County Agricultural Society - December 1849.

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