Progressive Agriculture. 1919

Material Information

Progressive Agriculture. 1919
Series Title:
Writings and Speeches 1891-1920
Rolfs, Peter Henry
Publication Date:
Physical Location:
Articles, Speeches and Other Writings
111. Progressive Agriculture. 1919


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


Notes and typed talk by P. H. Rolfs on progressive agriculture in Florida to the Tampa Rotary Club, April 29, 1919.

Record Information

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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Progressive Agriculture in Florida.
by P. H. Rolfs

Gentlemen of the Rotary Club and Visitors:

I am indeed delighted to be with you tonight and gave the

-honor of addressing such a distinguished company. These are not

merely the perfunctory remarks to which an intelligent audience

is entitled. Being a member of the Rotary Club and having caught

the spirit o'f Rotary I am not only pleased to meet men of the high-

est standing in the community, but to find myself before an audience

whose ideals and aims are the same as that of the speaker. It

puts us on an easy basis before beginning. I have always found

the Rotary audience the easiest to address because of their altruistic

ideals and aims.


When we speak of Florida agriculture we have in mind that

large amount of work which has for its object the production of'

food material from Nature's own laboratory. This is indeed the

most magnificently equipped and constructed laboratory that man has

ever entered. Has it ever occurred to you that Nature has most,

* 2

wonderfully wrought out results that transcend our imagination?

People have delved in the soil for eons upon eons but it has been

deferred until the later day races to make the beginning of the

real understanding of our soils, and the alchemy that is going on

in them. Naturally many hypotheses had to be set up and tested

before man's brain could evolve, the correct e Books upon

books have been written, extending back thousands of years. By

gradual and painful toil knowledge has accumulated and passed on

from one human being to another, until now it requires several

volumes of large extent to reproduce all that has been learned

about a single plant. I doubt.if anyone would be so daring

as to attempt to collect all of the information extant that ight

be found regarding a half dozen of our most widely cultivated

crpps. Yet with all of the exact learning, is it not surprising

how little actually is known about any one crop, to say nothing

of farming in general? I have frequently made the remark before

audiences ,that were it possible to eliminate all of the mis-beliefs

an(d false theories we-would at one sweep make more progress than

any generation that had preceded as. In the language of Josh

Billings, XmigX&1 XKXI it should be said, "I would rather not

know quite so much, than to know so many things that are not so."

Florida has long been the land that has 7iven free rein to

the imagination. Our first written story of the H~SE tells us

Ponce de Leon
that 3JSMia came here in search of the Fountain of ImmortalYouth.

In our old geographies and our old histories that we studied in

the public schools we find Florida associated with cypress swamps

without end, alligators and crocodiles without limit in number and

gigantic as icheosaurs ?
his imagination
Even the present day adventurer. hase come to Plorida,XUS has

peopled the region with reptiles unnumbered, with razor-backs of

excruciating forms, with piney woods cattle having only two dimen-

sions length and breadth and with oranges growing from every

scrub oak in sight. His usual opinion of the population is that

they are physically shiftless and mentally indolent.- And his opinion

of the soil is that it is XPI poor you could not raise either an

umbrella or a disturbance on it.

The foregoing description is as it appears to some

people. Others regard it as a land of plenty where no one works,

not even "father". And yet that the land abounds in plenty and

all he has to do is to exercise a half a dozen of his brain cells

to make it a veritable El Dorado. Neither of these descriptions

fit the situation in the least particular. You could not add them

and divide by two because both factors represent zero, and only

mathematicians have a sufficiently vivid imagination to demonstrate

by mathematical formulae that there are zeroes differing in size.

Has it ever occurred to you that from a climatic stand-

point Florida is most favorably located of any part of the United

States? In studying ancient history you have learned that some

of the greatest civilizations that the world has ever seen arose

in climates very comparable to ours. Probably the oldest of any

civilization was that of Ninevah; they were undoubtedly civiliza-

tions earlier than that but they are less perfectly known. The

climate of that region is such as to produce many crops that we grow

in Florida. Egypt has long been considered the wonder of ancient

history. I need only to mention Greece and Rome in passing.

The soils of Florida have frequently been made the scape-

gaat for man's indifference and his desire to get along without

muscular exercise or brain energy. Any kind of an excuse is better

than none at all, seems to be the general motto. Yet with modern

day agriculturists we find that soils may be so transmuted that the

most abundant crops can be grown on what was formerly thought to

be the most sterile of regions. We have only to look at the map

of Europe and we will see a small peninsula jutting northward

into the North Sea. This peninsula is called Denmark. As late as

1870 this sand spit was considered so worthless that even the

warrAg nations of Europe did not care to annex it. After about

forty years of patient toil, the Danes have made this region one

of the most prosperous and densely settled portions of Europe.

While we were running after big business and robbing our Southern

soils of fertility, the Danes were quietly picking up our cotton

seed meal and acid-phosphate. But we do not have to go so far afield

to find definite illustrationsof what industry coupled with gray

matter will produce. Somewhere I saw the motto.. on the wall

saying that KXIA science is only organized common sense. If that

is true, the farmers that I am about to refer to are certainly

to be classed among the scientists. Where will you find anywhere

else in the world that soil which analyzes 99.44% sand and insolu-

ble matter being sold as agri cultural lands? And yet this is

the case with our pineapple lands on the East Coast. Take again

the soils around Hastings. In my short span of life I have seen

the land there sell for the timber ihat was on it for 25 cents an

acre. And after the timber was taken off it was not considered

worth paying the taxes on. Yet today you would have to pay anywhere

from $75 to $150 per acre for fXXd lands favorably located.

I want tonight to discuss particularly some specific

problems that are of immediate and special interest to us all.

It would be the easiest possible thing for me to occupy the entire

evening in discussing special crops. If I wereto start on citrus

culture it wo ld be possible to discuss only a very limited portion

of that subject. It would be the easiest subject on which to arouse

interest and discussion. Were I to take the subject of truck

growing it would give me time to say very little about it. As a

matter of fact it has taken over 300 printed pages for me to

tell in my book "Subtropical Vegetable Growing" how it should be

done. I am preferring, however to take a much more difficult

subject, and one SSSt on which printed matter is very difficult

to obtain, and then only in a frag entary way. I am referring to

the question of general agriculture, and especially as it pertains

to Hillsboro County. I want if possible to bring before you a slear

understanding of the general agricultural situation as you are facing

Sfi ures and
it. In this connection I have some of the most interesting7/Iata

In November, 1913, nearly a year before the beginning

of the European War, the United States passed from an exporting

nation to an importing nation, so far as our food was concerned.

We imported thousands of bushels of corn from South America. We im-

ported hundred of thousands of bushels of wheat from Canada. We im-

ported beef from South America. Under normal world conditions by

the present time we would be a nation of heavy importers of food

it 8

stuff. Nefer again in the history of the Untfied States werwil

see the time when the United States is not'paying a premium to at-

tract food stuffs from other countries. Our present crop production

was induced by artificial stimulation and under natural and normal

trade conditions we must adjust ourselves to the changed world con-


I remember making a trip to the Pacific Coast about ten

years ago and in Oregon I read a large bulletin board saying "this

is the last West". The Ia+d conditions in the United Statesas.e

such that only in the South do we have any large unoccupied fertile

land areas. Our crop development must take place in the South-

eastern United States. Florida is the least developed of the

Southern States, and yet has before it the greatest possibilities.

The SA te of Florida has within it a varied soil condition. Careful

estimate shows that we are cpocupying only about 8% -or 10% of the

area for farm purposes. As we have about 60% of our area repre-

senting good farm lands, it will be seen at a glance that we can

support at least six times our present population without materially

changing our methods of farm operation. In other words, we can

support a population of six to ten million people without KIN

MIIXXiXcrowding. This development will take place with the

earnest cooperation and splendid coordinat&nn that is the dominant

key note of our present development in Florida. It will require

the earnest study of the farm problems by the most active and in-

tCLligent citizens of our State. This cooperation and coordina-

tion has already been foreshadowed in the work of the last ten years.

4h Cooperation and coordination has brought about some most splendid

results. The southern United States in the last ten years has

made enormous strides forward. If the South has made phenomenal

strides, what shall we say about Florida? I told you sometime

ago that I would not talk on citrus. You already know what splendid

work you have done in this direction. I will not talk about truck

growing because everybody in the.United States knows that Florida

is the winter g e- -e-use for the United States,. I want to talk

about the farm animals. In the last decade the horses in Florida

have increased 34% iia number, being almost double the percent of in-

crease occurring in its nearest competitor. In the way of S1SS mules

I3KI her increase has been 52%; her nearest competitor is Arkansas

with an increase of 41%. In the increase in milk cows she IlK

is exceeded by only one state, Louisiana, Florida having an in-

crease of 28% while Louisiana has an increase of 30%. In the in-

crease in other cattle on the farm she stands fourth. It iq, how-

r "-ever in the increase in hog production that Florida stands out par-

ticularly strong. She hasd made an increase of 86% while her near-
est competitor,XXAI EfM, has increased only 76%.

I have given you these few statistics as they bring the

condition more vividly to your mind than could be done in any other

way. i4 *

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