In England the detrimental effects of farm tenancy that have been mentioned are in a large degree removed by the long periods which tenants occupy the same lands; father, son and grandson occupy the same farm throughout their lifetime, and the land owners are satisfied with a low per cent. of interest on their investment and have no thought of changing their tenants. Under such conditions there is little chance for a farm tenant to become a farm owner, and, in most cases, little desire.
In the north central states of the United States it is becoming more difficult for the farm tenant to become a land owner; prices of farm real estate have advanced so that it is becoming more and more difficult for the farm hand to own a farm. On the other hand, the present farms are passing from father to son by inheritance, and why should the per cent. of farms operated by owners decrease if one son in each family remained on the homestead, or one daughter in each family married a farmer and took up the management of the homestead?
Senator Morrill in his speech before congress in behalf of the land grant colleges, in 1858, said that, "The nation which tills the soil so as to leave it worse than they found it is doomed to decay and degradation." When these words were uttered, there seemed to be an endless expanse of public lands that only awaited the pioneer's plow to yield their virgin fertility; these lands have now been practically all taken up, and it is doubly important that the fertility of our soils should be preserved. The very fact that tenancy of farm lands tends to deplete their fertility is sufficient reason for a general interest in the subject.
Much has been written and said about the movement from country to city, and many causes have been assigned for it, but it has been the natural result of the introduction of labor-saving machinery and improved means of transportation, and fewer persons are required to carry on agriculture than formerly. However, this does not account for the decline in farm owners, and the problem still remains.
Legislation can do something to make it easier to own land than at present. The removal of taxes on mortgaged farms, the establishment of a better credit system, so that money can be borrowed more readily and more cheaply for the purchase of farm lands than is the case at the present time, would greatly add to the ability of young farmers buying their own farms.
Education that will teach a more rational system of agriculture and a greater appreciation of the possibilities of the farm and farm life will do much to counteract the tendency of farm boys to leave the farm lands that they have inherited to seek employment in the city.