The October meeting of the Webster Farmers' Club was held Saturday at the handsome home of Mrs. Almira Chamberlain, four miles north of Dexter. This beautiful modern farm house with its ample veranda and large, bright, sunny rooms, situated on a wide spreading, well kept lawn, which has a gradual natural slope to the road, is an ideal place for such a gathering and a proper accessory to the well cultivated 335 acres of farm land that are tilled and managed by Mrs. Chamberlain and her sons. Over 40 people were present at the meeting and sat down to the inviting dinner that was spread by the good ladies who had charge of the refreshments. After dinner a period of social visiting was indulged in and about 2 o'clock President Geo. Merrill called the meeting to order and the proceedings opened with prayer by Rev. G. A. Morehouse.
The election of delegates to attend the meeting of the State Association of Farmers' Clubs at Lansing, Dec. 13-15, was left over until the next meeting of the club in November.
No regular program had been set for this meeting so the president called on Wm. Ball, of Hamburg, to speak to the club, inasmuch as he had been down on the September program and was absent.
Mr. Ball prefaced his remarks by saying that be would endeavor to speak on some subject on which his brother, E. A. Nordman of Lima, could agree with him, that being seldom the case, as Mr. Nordman generally changed his mind from one meeting to the other. (Laughter at Nordman). He then went on to say that what interests farmers more than anything else nowadays is how to make the farm pay the expense of working it, and keep the family and give them a proper education, etc. The farmers who give the best attention to the interests of the farm are the most successful ones. Those who prospered years ago are prospering today. With slack farmers it is the opposite. Too many farmers raise too much wheat at the expense of stock raising. The farmer who will prosper best in the future is the one who has a variety of interests - some cattle, sheep, some swine. To raise wheat successfully he must have a margin on his wheat and that is impossible with the acreage at present sown and the price at 60 cents a bushel. This can only be remedied by improved tillage and thus get more yield to the acre and so decrease the acreage sown. Cultivation is the great secret of success. The general tendency of farmers nowadays is to reduce work, the old time method was hard work. Farms in Webster are all good and will all give good crops if properly worked. He then discussed the different methods of fertilizing the farm, and closed by saying that the best fertilizer for the farm was what grows on the farm.
E. A. Nordman, of Lima, was the next speaker. He did not want it thought that he changed his mind as often as Mr. Ball said he did. Thera is an old adage which says, "Wise men sometimes change their minds, but fools never do." (And here the laugh was on Ball). He then went on to discuss the best way to get a catch of clover which was in bis opinion one of the best fertilizers for a farm as its roots brought up the potash that was so necessary to plant life and urged his hearers to try to get a better growth of clover. Cultivation is a great husbander of moisture. Keep the ground stirred and the crops will not suffer from drouth. In answer to a question as to the value of commercial fertilizers he said he had experimented with them, but most of them were a failure. He had had the best results from sowing plaster and thought he would go back to it. Barnyard fertilizers are the best mulch for clover as it protects the roots and they grow.
J. W. Wing said he had never been ablte to keep bis farm in as good a condition as he could wish with barnyard manure and had to resort to other means of fertilizing. Constant cropping to wheat is bad, especially for light lands. Plaster is good to get a clover catch on first seeding. It is good to retain the moisture. He illustrated this statement by telling of two fields of clover that he had one year. One was sown with piaster the other was not. He walked through the one which had no plaster on it and his boots were perfectly dry, but they were quite wet after walking through the field sown with plaster. An examination of the plants showed a drop of water about the size of a large shot which was husbanded in the center of eacb plant. Only put in as much crops as you can well take care of and let the rest go to pasture.
Wm. Ball further advocated the keeping of cattle, sheep and swine on the farm. So many should not be kept that the pastures will be gnawed down to the ground.
R. C. Reeves, of Dexter, looked to some of the members as if he was asleep, but when called on it was evident that such was not the case. He thought they were threshing old straw that had been threshed over time and time again - and then he qualified this criticism by saying that "it always yielded good results. " He did not believe in economy as that is what keeps us poor. He did not think that the plowing under of green crops was in it with turning under the roots.
Wm. Latson and Wm. Benz thought the best results were obtained from top dressing. E, A. Nordman spoke of an idea he bad which he had not yet put in practice, namely, to leave a long wheat straw and and cut it to serve as a mulch for clover.
Up to this point the meeting bad been rather dry, but it livened up considerably when President Merrill said a short time was yet left if they wished to discuss the October topic sent out by the association "The most practical solution of the railroad taxation question."
Cyrus M. Starks set the ball a-rolling when be made a series of remarks in which he deprecated the extreme views of some people with reference to the amonut of taxes that should be paid by the railroads, and the amount of noise made about it. He was not sure that we might not get somewhat mixed up in this matter and draw the thumb screws too tight. The railroads are not getting such a large percentage of profits as is claimed by some people. We must take a broad view of this matter. He did not know but that they required a little switching but we must not thrash them too hard.
This brought E. A. Nordman to his feet who had not met a man who believed that the railroads did any more for the public than they were forced to do. Even Starks had admitted that they did not pay their just proportion of taxes. We cannot remedy this question of taxation without making some noise.
Wm. Ball stood up for the railroads which have made traveling and transportation cheaper than before they were built. They are a benefit to the public. They increase the value of property all along the line. The state in days gone by had tried to build railroads- the Michigan Central and Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee- and had failed, it then gave the franchises to the present companies.
J. W. Wing wanted to see the subject ventilated until we arrive at the facts. He compared railroad taxation in this state with that in vogue in New York and Masachusetts, and blamed the free passes given to legislators as being at the bottom of the low taxation of the railroads in this state. The senate at the legislative session of 1897 had blocked every act of any good to the people that bad been passed by the house of representatives.
The meeting then adjourned to meet Saturday, Nov. 12, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Ball.