Unfinished Article for Florida Grower.

Material Information

Unfinished Article for Florida Grower.
Series Title:
Writings and Speeches 1891-1920
Rolfs, Peter Henry
Physical Location:
Articles, Speeches and Other Writings
71. Unfinished Art for Florida Grower.


Subjects / Keywords:
Rolfs, Peter Henry
Agriculture -- Florida
Agriculture -- Study and teaching -- Florida.
Agricultural Experiment Station.
University of Florida.


Draft of an article for Florida Grower by P. H. Rolfs about Florida and agriculture

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida Archives
Rights Management:
Copyright Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier:

UFDC Membership

Peter Henry Rolfs
University Archives


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Article for Flor

Never finished
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Florida is almost invariably viewed from either an acute angle

or from an obtuse angle, rarely from a right angi-'le. The unsuspect-

ing dupe who has parted with his money without seeing the land or

-making any investigation other than that commonly made by the buyer

of a lottery ticket or the holder of mining stock, is likely to see

his Florida possessions from a very io sse.i .f ew. The man

who homess to Florida and puts a considerable aj ount of money into

lands or who has money enough to make Florida a playground for th

winter, is likely to see visions such as brought x 4w pari o

Smpwei;a in quest of the fountain of perpetual youth. .-mp .

The .,anz who comes to Florida anrd looks squarely at the mat-

ter from a business standpoint, and calculates carefully how much

he can make or how much he can lose in an agricultural vaI, has

certainly more chances of succeeding than he has of failing. In

other worm.s he starts out more T.han even in the game, and if he fails

it is due to some condition that arises over which he has no control.

As Others See It.

In the CountryL nGentleman Mr. Harry Stabler uses ti.e following

paragraph. "You may not discover -a bucket shop in the whole %f

Florid.a; but you may see and also hear tell of the victims of a cer-

tain class of land sharks who infest the State, beside whoi, the most

conscieneeless shell game operator is an angel from Heaven." This

is certainly an extremely severe indictment not only of the law

makers of the State who peri:it it to be possible for such conditions

to flourish but a]so of the class of real estate men wio are doing

an honest and honorable business, of whom there are as large, -
probably a largerpercentage, in Florida than would be found in any
other SLate of equal development.
gao Instance
About a year and a half ago a man caine through Trj office e

having teen directed to it by a friend of his. This young man was
in the prime of life, a railroad engineer runiing rut of Chicago,
and getting, according to his statement, $180 per month salary.

He had before him the probability of about twenty years of active
service. His father-in-law and his brother were likewise engaged
in railroad work and receiving salaries each s.m... larger than

his own. These three men had each bought a 10 acre tract of land,
aTM r w at* in Central Florida, they knew not where excepting from the

map tha{ was handed them by the sales agent.
ITeither thi young man nor either of his relatives had ever

had tent'ss experience on a farm, but were fully convinced that
it would. be an easy matter for this young man to improve the thirty
acres of land and in less than a year make a certain profit of not
less than $100 per acre. -
This young man was extremely astonishedAat being told that
truck growing in Florida required as much good sense and training
as did the running of a railroad engine or a train of cars. I asked

him cnd idly what kind of success I would make of tt E trying to
take an engine out of a Chicago tme and trying to take

out a oc .1 express. a

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Another Instance

About three years ago a Chicago man came to nmy office and

wanted to get a considerable amount of information in regard to some
land. located about 30 or 40 miles southwest of Gainesville. After

getting a pretty clear idea of the location of his land he examined

the"pig in a p6ke"he had bought. This now was a good Illinois farmer
yet he had bought a farm without seeing it. After viewing his pos-

sess:ioiLs the gentleroan came bacd a very much wiser and madder man ;
he said frankly that he had been lied to and imposed upon, and that

he intended tr. make it warm for the swindlers, as he called them. I-
S S that this would be the last I would hear of the matter but

contrary to the usual experience in such cases a deputy marshall had
the pleasure of watching over one of the head men in the concern that

sold this farm or land "sight unseen". The amount of it was that

this Illinois farmer was not only an honest man but expected other
people to be honest, and if they were not honest he was going to

use all the machinery of the law necessary to punish the dishonest
fellows. If such a line of procedure were uniforimly adopted there
would be very few land crooks a1-d sharps able to maintain themselves

in Florida. Eut those land companies that are doing a shady busi-

ness depend upon buying off the fellow that got bit should he really
make a fuss about it.
Florida Needs Farmers

According to the U. S. Census about 5, of the area of the

State is under cultivation, and from my experience with census enumer-
ators this means cleared land, wLether it is actually in crop or

lying fallow; it also means some of the land that has n:ot been clear-

ed but is actually in fence. On this 5r of the land reside some

of the best educated and most aLle agriculturists in the United

States, and that is equal to saying in the world. This, however,

leaves us still a vast opportunity for expansion in agricultural lines.

and the mJan who has ambition and determination'eed have no hesitancy

in attacking the agricultural problems in Florida any more than in

aniy other part of the United States. If, however, he comes to the

State expecting to secure the services of the other fellow for noth-

ing, or for very small pay, he will find himself quite as much mis-

takeni as he would be in any other part of the country. But the real

w-.rker who is willing to attack the problei/L, either as laborer, as

manager, or as owner, will certainly f'nd abundant opportunity. This

has been demonstrated so many times that it is hardly necessary to

more t-an mention it ..jd a score of illustrations will come to mind.

A College Stump Grubber

One of the striking illustrations that I now recall occurred

on the farm belonging to my friend Dexter. Mr. Dexter was having a

consideraLle amount of land cleared witn a view of making it into

fari,.s, end consequently had use f.-r a great deal of labor, when one

morning a young man approached him andf asked for work. Mr. Dexter,

being a pretty good judge of men, told this young college graduate

that. he did not have any work. But the young iLnan knew better and

felt he was not being treated quite square, and told Mr. Dexter that

he knew he did have wcrk and that what he wanted to do was to dig

stump111. After some persistence he was fitted out with a.set of

tools, a-.d naturally Mr. Dexter kept his eye on the young man. The

f first day he hold out splendidly at the work; the second day there

was no abatement; the third day continued like the first. By that
time thle young man .a -.ea.a and told -stif he did not quit

digging ,stumps he woulu complete the w:rk and there would be no more

jobs left for the laborersga that at he must -de s quit
grubbing stumps and tale charge of a squad. To make a long story

short the young man is now in ,a ver, responsible position as manager
Sfor one of the large firms in the State. At the same time when
this young caiiie into the State, hundreds of others equally able

and intelligent drifted in, but were looking for"'.oa'J rather than

n thre Forida oils

In the language of the salesman, Florida laid is worth what
it will bril:g e-- t. To the sucker all lands look good.

To the shark none is-better than the piece he has '

the man observing it from. a' riglht'angle" 4 finds extrer.iely fine

land, g._,od land, indifferent land, poor land, and. some that is ab-

solutely worthless from an agricultural standpoint.,

The pioneers and old settlers in the State have unconsciously

developed a very acute senee of what is good and what is bad land

While they may not be able to impart to others the knowledge as

to how to judge land there is n.l o. of confusing them as

to what is good and what is bad.

According to the natural vegetation, lanJs group themselves
into a somewhat general classification that the average person will
be able tc, comprehend with very little stud.y. These may be grouped


as follows when studied in the order of their generalrelative pro-

ductiveness:- harfiock, first class rolling pine land, second class

pine l-.nd, flat wooIs, spruce pine land, prairie laId, muc: land,
and everglade.

Ham ock land.

The hai j'mocK land is the primary group that has bee used

since the early settlement of the State. This naturally contains

a larger amounLt of fertility than the pine land. Fundar.ientally

there is no difference between thn~eaeumock land and t"Le-,6ini land.

SS tihee ro ndof countless years, ho,,'ever, have built up a fertility

C. due entir,-ly to the fact that fires 1ept off of a

rS=S33s. The fire factor has rmai.e the strikingi difference be-

tween the hlamaiock a'ind the piney woo '.s. =S was very liiportant to

the earlier settlers who were unable to obtain fertilizers and did

not have t4Le information necessary to the" "aat use of cieAi-


1Haioiocks are naturally distinguished front all other lands in

thai upon thei!i occur various species of hard woods, and generally

ani absenAce of pine.

(T.iere are several subdivisions frequently spoken of as haar-

iLock lanJ, such as low hai:,iock, palmetto ham..ock, etc., not to jien-

tion the you_.g ha.:iiiock:.

Young- Haidiook

About twenty-five years ago, when Floridawas going through
r pt of boo,!Ls, it was found that nearly all of the un-

ocupied hairiocl:s had been bought up as "investments". There was,


*~ JW~6I


therefore, a great dearth of h land unless a person was will-

ing to pay from 4So to 0150 per acre. A very astute financier/p
A ,-Ha
'ewas-r, in Lal:e County, aaa tiis difficult. He soon had on the

markett hundreds of acrr-s of young hammock, au et ti--

tnat he aade( ? ) a goal aman/ thousands of dollars in sell ing this

young'cl: which .to thie residents was a well known spruce pine

scrub, interspersed with young hard wood trees.

First Class Rolling Pine Land

The rolling pine lands or -first class pine lands extend over

a very large portion of the State of Florida. It is characterized

by t.eL presence of large pine trees belonging to t'wo or three species

bu all classified as yellow pine now since timber has become valu-

able. In the most fertile regions these pines grow very close to,,

gether and produce large sized saw logs. TWhere the land is less

fertile the trees become more scattering but are still quite large

in size. On the poorer lands the trees become shorter and smaller

in diameter. The undergrowth ray consist of scattering hardwoods

palmetto and other minor vegetation. .As a rule the surface is of a

sandy nature. The subsoil is frequently of clay though at times

first class pines are produced on land that has several feet of

sandy soil.

The ideal pine land from an agricultural standpoint is one

that _s a sandy surface soil and a clay subsoil coming to within a

few inches of the surface. Where the clay subsoil does not coiie

within. two or three feet of the surface it is a little lm.ore diffi-

cult to maintain its fertility for general cropping purposes, but

for citrus groves it is generally found to be the very best, ea-


Iecial:ly if tne surface soil is of a fine saiLdy texture.
Second Class Pine Land

There is a., insensible gradation between the first class pine land
and the second class pine land. In the main the latter is charac-

terized by a less vigorous growth of pine trees and also with a con-
siderable amount of har.kwood undergrowth of various species of oaks.

These are variously known as black jack ridges, turkey oak ridges,
etc. The second class pine land is usually of an open and leachy
nature. If the surface soil is of a fine texture it is pretty cer-
tain to ,rake good citrus groves though somewhat difficult to bring
into a good state of cultivation for general cropping purposes.

When the soil becomes open and sandy greater difficulty is exper-
ienced. in producing good citrus groves upon it and of producing
good f.irrm crops.
Flat Woods

In many parts of the State one can drive for miles through
the flat woods,the trails leading around through the scattering under-'
brush, the land almost always on a dead level, and during the rainy
season there is likely to be a considerable a,.iount of water on the
surface. This gradually drains off through the depressions.
Here and. there through the flat woods cypress ponds may be found,
tupelo ponds, aad even ponds with no tree growth in their .
These )a :ds where pr-perly located make good truck farms,

and under a few exceptional conditions make fair citrus groves.
The land needs thorough and deep drainage, not dry weather drainage,
but drainage that will carry off the water even when we have "the
worst rainy spell in forty years'. The difficulty with draining

* I

these 2ands usually is that tIe outlet is insufficient, and while

it would. le easy enough to drain any ten acre field, quarter section,

or section, for that matter, it .becomes almost imripossible to find

an outlet for the water. Since th-e area is all so nearly a dead

level it takes w. eks. and sometimei-s a month or more for the water

to drain off sufficiently to give citrus trees a good chance to

grow. And even with thorough and deep drainage it usually requires

several years before the land is in a state fit to produce good

citrus groves. The trees usually start off briskly and sometimes

grow fcr five or six years without. encountering any special diffi-

cu3ty. Then a nLumber of years nay occur during which it is.rather

discouragiig to the planter.

One c.f the very coifmon characteristics of the flat woods land

is underlying hardpan. The dista.-ce below the surface at. which this

occurs w1ill depend upon tlhe prevailing Iheight of the water-table.

The thickness of the ha.dpan mjiay vary front a very ,thin layer of less

than an inch to several inches, or even, ii unusual cases, to more

than a foot in thickness. Sometimes the hardlian is of a very close

and ind u-ate texture whije in other cases it may be very soft and

percept Lb2 e only as a coloring matter. The matter in

hardlpa.: is an inert, organic material. Where the water-table is

permanently lowered aid the hardpan broken up, the soil in time be-

comes tolera-.t of citrus trees. However, in many cases the hardpan

becomes an advantageous condition in the soil, in that it periits

the ready er,.ployment of surface and sub-irrigation.


Spruce Pine Land

This is a more polite name for the old "scrub" of the earli-

est settlers. It is characterized by the presence of spruce pine,
a very soft wooded tree, rarely growing more than 30 or 40 feet high,

thoLug> sometimes the trunks contain what might be thought to be a

saw log. There are a considerable number of variations of the
spruce pine land; in some places hickories and bays are .liberally

sprinkled among the spruce pines.

As a general proposition the oily agricultural use that can
be made of this land is for growing pineapples, but for this purpose

it is the best land in the State. A chemical analysis of pine-

apjle soils has shown that the finest and best crops of this fruit
have been raised oin soils that analyzed 99.Yi of insoluble matter.
In some regions and under certain conditions land which was

producing spruce pine liberally sprinkled with hickories and bays

has made excellent citrus orchards and produced some of the finest
fruit, but such groves have required pretty careful nursing to be

kept at their best. Geologically speaking these regions are merely

extinct sand dunes.
Prairie Land

There is usually an insensible gradation in elevation from the

pine lay.d to what is called prairie, and in turn a shading by insen-

sible gradation from the prairie into the savannah,' or land that is
permanently overflowed. The prairie lands are sufficiently high to

be free from water for a considerable portion of the year. They make

among the best of truck lands in the State. Their general value

lies in the fact that they are low and also likely to have a suffi-

cient amount of moisture for crop production, and on the other hand

requires no clearing of .timber before it is ready to be utilized for

crop purposes. The prairies are designated by various names such

as sandy prairies, marl prairies, or muck prairies, depending upon

the co position of the soil. In addition to making excellent

truck lands, the prairies have at times been employed for planting

to citrus groves. Where they are not underlaid with hardpan the

trees grow off remarkable well and do splendidly until the soil be-

comes water-logged or the water backs up and drowns out the citrus

Muck land.

The muck lands occur in all -parts of the State and are usually

the result of cutting a drainage ditch or canal from sohie lake or
Ssaw grass swamp. Among the best crops of trucl: of various kinds

are raised on this character of land. There are all variations

of this Luck from merely black sand to almost pure peat. All of it

is spoken of as muck land and it is usually characterized by hold-

ing water well and having other qualities that are advantageous

in the growing of vegetables.
S Everglades

In our old geographies the Everglades of Plorida extended

as far north is probably Sanford, and like the Staked Plains, when
development looked for the Everglades it kept receding southward,

until now the name is restricted for the most part to the land

lying to the southward of Lake Okeechobee. In the Everglades region

are millions of acres of land that in time will become the most pro-

ductive a:-.d profitable of any in the State. At the present time,


however, cnly a very small percentage Is sufficiently drained to

make it useful for crop purposes. In many parts this soil is made

up principally o4 peat spoken of in the local vernacular as muck.

In time when the peat shall have becoire thoroughly disintegrated

and the question of moisture thoroughly under control, the land will

come into service not only for general crop purposes but also for

citrus growing.


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