Vegetable growers sometimes think their hours are longer and their hardships greater than those of any other class of husbandmen. It is true that they often work 12 or more hours a day and that they are sometimes exposed to unpleasant weather, but it is also true that there is usually good compensation for the long hours and the hardships, if they can be called hardships. Commercial gardeners, unless they use considerable glass, are practically free to rest on Sunday, while this cannot be said of men following some other lines of farming. With skillful management the gardener should get a profit on every hour of labor. Then, why should he not observe the same hours a day as other classes of producers, hiring extra help when necessary and paying for all service rendered in excess of 10 hours a day? The best service cannot be expected for more than 10 hours, and for this reason longer days should be avoided as much as possible and additional men employed to do the work required. Marketing by wagon often requires early rising and sometimes late retiring and salesmen should be well compensated for this work.
The number of men to the acre is determined by (1) type of gardening, (2) tools available and (3) method of marketing. In the most intensive market gardening one man to the acre can be profitably employed. An eight-acre market garden on Long Island gives steady employment during the entire season to 13 men. In truck gardening one man may be able to care for 3 to 15 acres, depending upon the kinds of vegetables grown and system of cropping.
It is always an advantage to plan the work so that a good proportion of the men will be needed the year round. This makes it possible to train the men so that their services will become more valuable every year.
The question of caring for the men demands careful consideration. There is perhaps no better plan than to provide neat, comfortable tenant houses. A highly successful Long Island market gardener, cultivating 80 acres in an intensive manner, gives 40 men employment through the summer. They are Poles and all of them are cared for in neat cottages. That is, perhaps a group of 10 men sleep and have their living quarters in an inexpensive but attractive house and the several groups meet for their meals at a boarding house operated by the owner of the farm. Prizes are offered to the groups of men for the best kept house and dooryard. The men are contented and come back from New York and Boston year after year for the planting and marketing seasons. Quite a number are retained the year round. The owner is very much pleased with the system.
A New Jersey trucker and fruit grower, operating on a very large scale, provides inexpensive summer houses for Italian laborers. Entire families from Philadelphia spend the summer in this manner, all the members who are old enough taking an active part in the farm work and in harvesting and preparing the crops for market. They are glad to get out of the hot, crowded city for what they regard as a pleasant summer outing. The whole scheme may be regarded as a fresh-air movement of the highest type. The able-bodied men perform the heavier work, while old men, women and children harvest and prepare most of the crops for market, and do all sorts of lighter work, mainly by the piece. With such a plan the earning power of a family is much greater than in the city, to say nothing of the benefits derived from living in the country.
In the South, colored laborers are used almost exclusively. Regarding the negro's efficiency, Oemler says he is the best for many reasons. New Jersey truckers are well pleased with Italian labor. At Moorestown, Italians are used almost entirely in the picking of strawberries. Poles and other classes of foreigners are hired extensively on Long Island, and large numbers of Italians are employed in the market gardens around Boston. On many farms a certain number of steady Americans are kept the year round for teamsters and salesmen and to look after work requiring some experience.
It is always better to furnish employment for the entire year if this can be done. It enables the gardener to secure a better class of men. The day laborer does not usually take the. interest or assume the responsibility that may be expected of a regular employee. For transitory laborers, piecework is preferred on many farms. This system is especially adapted to the harvesting and preparation of crops for market. If prices are properly adjusted it is absolutely fair to both employer and employee and relieves the gardener of much annoyance. At Norfolk, Va., potatoes are cut preparatory to planting for 20 to 25 cents a barrel, and picked when dug for 10 cents a barrel. Children and old men are sometimes paid 5 cents a glass for picking potato beetles.
The market garden referred to (paragraphs 7 and 9) at Cleveland, O., is operated on the profit-sharing basis. The system was modeled after a plan used by a great manufacturing concern. Liberal salaries are paid to men employed by the year. The salesman receives $75 a month; greenhouse and field foremen $50 and trustworthy laborers $2 a day. The salary of each regular man stands as so much capital invested in the business. If the salary is $50 a month the investment amounts to $600. Dividends are declared semi-annually. On this unusually successful farm the profits often amount to 20 or even 30 per cent. It can be readily seen that the men get quite an appreciable income beyond their salaries. Again, the Cleveland gardener stands ready to invest the savings of his men in the extension of his greenhouses and gardening operations. Several of them have taken advantage of the offer and in some instances the combined income of salary and dividends exceeds the profits of successful independent growers. All who have visited this establishment have been impressed with the satisfactory appearance of the crops and everything about the premises. The question naturally arises, What influence has this plan upon the quality of the services rendered? Suffice it to say that the system and the principles involved are certainly worth the consideration of every commercial gardener.