17th Annual Report of the State Board of Agriculture of the state of Missouri (1884)

Fruit growing, as a business, is coming to be one of the most important features in all our farming operations; in fact fruit farming is of itself a business and one of the most profitable of all farming operations if it be carried on in a systematic way and with good common sense.

Of all the fruits the apple, being the standard and the most important, will be first spoken of.

In planting the apple orchard we must understand that we do not lose the land after the orchard is planted. It can be well cultivated in corn for five or eight years, then seeded to clover and timothy.

The fact of it is that we make too great a bugbear of this planting of orchards, when, in fact, they need no more attention in proportion than do the cattle in our fields, or the grain, or the horses, or the hogs. We think that when a tree is planted it should take care of itself, while a colt, pig or calf, we know needs attention all the time, and we give it to them. Let us do the same with our orchards and we will see a grand result follow.

Let a man plant ten, twenty, forty or eighty acres to apples and give the proper attention to them, give them as much care as you would your grain or your stock and in ten years you will begin to reap' a rich harvest.

Wheat or corn will give $10 per acre and in ten years $100 per acre. Apples in ten years will give $100 per acre and will increase yearly, after.

You can grow more apples per acre than you can corn and with less trouble.

Stock pays a good per cent on the investment, and yet the apple orchard will pay many times as much on the same. money.

Let a man invest the same amount of money in fruit farming as in any other department of farming and he will find, with care, that his fruit farm will pay him better than all the rest.

I have in mind one fruit farm of forty acres of apples which last year produced $6,000. Many instances can be given of apples giving $100 per acre, and others of $150 to $200 per acre, and a few of $300 per acre.

I do not like to figure out profits for the future for we so often come short of our figures; but when these facts stare us in the face and we have seen and know of them, it is no ways wrong to notice them. The whole secret besides that spoken of is in having the right varieties. I would give for a commercial orchard Jonathan, Penn. Redstreak, Huntsman, Rome Beauty, Willow Twig, Winesap, Jannett and Ben Davis. Distance, 30 feet.

The pear, as a profitable crop, is a failure in our western country. I am inclined to let it go unless we can find some suitable location where it will not blight, and that will be hard to do. For money, then, I would let the pear alone.

The peach is an item of profit, and of great profit, where it can be well grown and put upon the market in good shape. Fine peaches bring enormous figures even when there is an abundance of other fruits and common peaches.

The peach orchard is by itself a great investment. An orchard well taken care of will, in four or five years, bring in a good income and a handsome profit. Plant peach 163 to 20 feet, taking 100 to 160 to the acre; cut them back after the second year and every two years after. They need the best of cultivation to make thrifty and healthy trees. We treat our peach on the too-much-let-alone plan, or fence‑row plan, and cannot expect the best results from it.

The southern part of our State is destined to be the best peach country, for some of the cold winters injure the trees and kill the fruit in all the northern and central parts of the State, and we will have to look farther south for the peach belt. The peach orchard has paid more and will pay more than the apple orchard when we have a good crop; but we should, if possible, plant the peach and apple together, as the peach will be out of the way before the apple will bear much, and will by that time have paid all expenses and more for them both. I find that if I had planted all my orchard on that plan it would have been better for me, for those so planted have paid me the whole expense of the orchard for ten years, and if I had the whole planted the same it would have been thousands of dollars in my pocket. If thus planted, put the apple 33 feet and the peach between, with a row of peach also, making three peach to one apple.

The best varieties are Amsden, Crawfords Early, Foster, Troth's Early, Crawfords Late, Stephen's Late, Rare-Ripe, Smock, Salway, Heath Cling, Keport White and Wilkins. There are many new varieties that may be better, but these are the old stand‑by's.

The cherry and plum are profitable for orchard, and the cherry can be planted between the apple the same as the peach and will prove a success inmost soils. Early Richmond, Eng. Morello and Ortheim are the only ones fit to plant for market.

The plum should be planted entirely by itself for fear the curculio will spread. The Wild Goose is the most profitable and is very much so. I have seen trees that paid $10 each last year.

In fruit farming we must not neglect the small fruits, as they are an adjunct of the most profitable fruit farming.

You can grow strawberries between the apple trees or peach trees for three or four years, and then they will need changing. Raspberries and blackberries can also be grown the same way, especially where ground is scarce. But I now doubt the propriety of such a course, and would much prefer to have them by themselves, unless land is very scarce. A raspberry and blackberry patch will last a long time if not planted too closely, and if they are kept healthy and free from rust.

As soon as the raspberry patch fails to give a net income of $100 per acre, I would say cut them down, plow them up, and plant again.

Strawberries are the most profitable of all the small fruits on the same amount of ground. They will produce more bushels to the acre than will corn or potatoes, as a rule. They will bring ten times as much money per acre as will corn, or potatoes, or wheat. They grow quickly and the next year you have a good crop. They have produced 200, 300, 500 and 700 bushels per acre, and that the next year after planting.

The raspberry will give one-half of a crop the next year after planting, and the second year will give a full crop. I have had them pay $100 the next year after the planting and $300 the second year per acre.

Blackberries have rusted so badly that we have been obliged to give them up. But where they can be grown they will pay as well as raspberries, and there is to be a great demand for them, more and more every year.

For the strawberry for market I would plant Chas. Downing, Crescent, Monarch, Capt. Jack and Miners' Prolific.

For the raspberry plant Hopkins, Doolittle Gregg, Miami, Thwack, and Cuthbert for south Missouri.

For the blackberry plant Lawton, Kittatinny and Snyder, (where they will do well.)

I believe we can yet obtain a native blackberry that will be just what we want, and for such an one many are watching and working.

I have purposely shown that fruit-farming will pay when one kind of fruit is grown, and now if they are all combined, as they should be on every fruit farm, there can be no question of the results of fruit-farming.

In fact, I may say that it is the most pleasant and profitable farming that can be engaged in. I except no kind of stock raising or grain farming.

One of my friends, twenty-five miles from market, was in bad health, and was obliged to rent out his farm. I advised him to take ten acres and put it into fruits of all kinds. He feared to do soon account of market, but finally did so, and he supplied all the neighbors for miles around with small fruits of all kinds, and the ten acres brought him more money than did all the rest of the farm.

Then to answer the question, "Does fruit growing pay?" I would say that well managed fruit farming is the most profitable of all pursuits.

Now, this is the bright side of the fruit business. But like all others, there is the dark side. I can give you just as dark a picture as the above is bright. Not one of the above facts but what I have realized in fruit farming, and could produce figures from hearsay far above those given.

But for the other side, I can tell you where I have planted 1,000 pear tress and grown them ten years, to see them all blight and die in two years after.

I can show you patches of blackberries that produced 1300 to $500 per acre, that are entirely killed by the rust.

I have planted 2,000 apple trees—every one of them three times. The first year the grasshoppers killed them all; second year the drouth killed them all; third year nearly all lived.

You need not expect everything to go smoothly, but must take affairs as they come.

And yet after all, I reiterate the statement made before that fruit farming is one of the most pleasant and profitable avocations a person can follow.

One thing more, above all, fruit growing opens up a field as broad and grand and full of possibilities as can be found in any other calling. If a young man wants a field he can never fathom, here is one. Let anyone who loves nature take the field of horticulture.

Prof. Tracy—I have had some experience in accord with Mr. Goodman's lecture. During the past season, in Columbia, a good country town market, my neighbors sold strawberries for fifteen cents per box. I used two boxes in picking, putting the poor ones—about one box in four or five—into one box, and the good or best into nice boxes. I readily got twenty-five cents per box. We did not use our boxes a second time. This is a small matter as the boxes cost but a half cent each.