Educating the Farmer, November 14, 1912


Shared by Tom Giessel – Honorary Historian, NFU

Why So Little Thinking?

My Dear Editor,

Perhaps some of our brother farmers will think I am a crank on this subject, as I referred to it somewhat extensively in the August 15th issue of the Union Farmer.

I have observed that every great movement has been started by some agitator or crank. Perhaps he agitated his subject several years before he got a single convert. But he finally gets someone else to see as he does, and then we have two cranks on the same side. They continue to agitate and others join them. Local cranks on the same subject spring up here and there and the first thing we know we have whole communities and the people in general agreeing with them. It has now become public sentiment and something is going to happen.

And so, if we are a crank on the subject of educating the farmer, it is because we see the great need of it, and if we could be the means of getting them to see the need we would certainly be glad to wear the title of crank.

But please don’t infer that we consider the farmers ignorant. We have not said it, and more than that we are not going to say it. Farmers are not as big fools by half as some folks think they are. But it is a fact that as a rule they do very little thinking. We mean genuine hard study.

It requires less effort to feed a bunch of hogs than it does to think. Consequently, the farmer shoulders his sack of corn and goes to feed the hogs. He knows there is a man, somewhere, seated in a leather cushioned chair with his feet cocked up on a nice office desk, blowing ringlets of smoke toward the ceiling that is doing his thinking for him, so why should he worry about it? What is the difference, anyway, between the man who does the thinking and the man who feeds the hogs? Well, there isn’t much difference, if any, only that the man who does the thinking is off taking his vacation trip in a three-thousand-dollar automobile while the farmer that feeds the hogs is riding a thirty dollar cultivator trying to raise more corn to feed more hogs.

This perhaps, exaggerates the point to some extent, but there is still an element of truth in it.

Why doesn’t the farmer think? There are several reasons, a few of which we will mention.

One is that he doesn’t have the time. He gets up in the morning at four-thirty and is on the move until eight o’clock in the evening. He is employed every hour in the day and if there should be a few minutes of leisure, there are always so many little things that need to be done “right now” that he cannot concentrate his mind on anything else.

Also, there is a vital relation existing between the mind and physical organs of the body. When either is deranged in anyway it effects the other. For instance, just about time the farmer has fed up a lot of eighty cent corn to his bunch of hogs, the man in the cushioned chair “thinks” there is an oversupply of hogs and the bottom drops out of the market. Did you ever notice how an instance of this kind effects the appetite? The stomach draws up in a little knot about the size of your fist and absolutely refuses food of any kind except pickles and sauerkraut. This is an illustration of how a mental derangement effects the body. On the other hand, if the bodily organisms are deranged and out of harmony it provides a like effect upon the mind and consequently impairs our mental faculties and reduces our power to think. Thus, the farmer, who works hard from morning until night, as circumstances compel most of us to do, is not in a physical condition to do mental labor even if he had the time.

Another reason is that it doesn’t require much thought to harness a team and go to the field to plow. About all you have to do is to start them down the row and it is just about as natural for man as it is for running water to follow the lines of least resistance. It requires labor to think and if he can get along without it, he will be inclined to do so.

The last reason we will mention and perhaps the most important of all is that the farmer has not been trained to think. How few of them there are that can take up a subject, analyze it, and follow it out to a logical conclusion. There are few indeed. Why is this so? Simply that the farmer has never been trained to think. Reading matter is so cheap now-a-days that he can get his thoughts “ready made” which is much easier than hewing them out for himself. No matter if they are shoddy and are intended to befog and befuddle him, he takes them for granted and never stops to see whether it is a good grade of intelligence he is buying or a cheap grade of wish-wash.

We learn to think by thinking. And there is no other way to learn it. The mind is like the miscles of the body – it becomes stronger and more efficient by use.

Some poet has given the definition of thought as an “airy nothing.” We can neither see it nor feel it although we can see and feel its influence. It communes with Newton and we have the law of gravity. It communes with Stevenson and discovers the power of steam. It speaks to Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton and their co-patriots and we have the foundation of a mighty nation. It speaks Morse, Bell and Marconi and intelligence is flashed through hundreds of miles of space in an instant. It speaks to Wilbur Wright and wood and iron take wings and fly like a bird through the air.

To be brief, thought is the power that moves the world. It is the great dynamic of force and action. Nothing ever did nor ever will take place without first being thought out and the farmers’ condition will improve only as he recognizes this great truth and applies himself to its solution.

Brother farmers, we have a powerful and efficient organization to better our condition in the F. E. and C. U or A. It may be likened to a great locomotive standing on the track ready to perform its work. No matter how perfect the locomotive is in mechanism it must depend upon the steam for its power. What the steam is in the locomotive, thought and intelligence are to our organization. And as it requires the pressure of every atom of steam to secure the best work of the locomotive, it is going to require the combined intelligence of every member of our order to make it accomplish its purpose. So let us apply our minds to this great task and we shall be surprised at what it will accomplish.

R.W. Hooper
Fairfield, IL