Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO ARTHUR YOUNG. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790)
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TO ARTHUR YOUNG. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XI (1785-1790).
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TO ARTHUR YOUNG.
Mount Vernon, 1 November, 1787.
* * * * * *
Before I undertake to give the information you request, respecting the arrangements of farms in this neighborhood, &c., I must observe that there is, perhaps, scarcely any part of America, where farming has been less attended to than in this State. The cultivation of tobacco has been almost the sole object with men of landed property, and consequently a regular course of crops have never been in view. The general custom has been, first to raise a crop of Indian corn (maize) which according to the mode of cultivation, is a good preparation for wheat; then a crop of wheat; after which the ground is respited (except from weeds, and every trash that can contribute to its foulness) for about eighteen months; and so on, alternately, without any dressing, till the land is exhausted; when it is turned out, without being sown with grass-seeds, or any method taken to restore it; and another piece is ruined in the same manner. No more cattle is raised than can be supported by lowland meadows, swamps, &c., and the tops and blades of Indian corn; as very few persons have attended to sowing grasses, and connecting cattle with their crops. The Indian corn is the chief support of the laborers and horses. Our lands, as I mentioned in my first letter to you, were originally very good; but use, and abuse, have made them quite otherwise.
The above is the mode of cultivation which has been generally pursued here, but the system of husbandry which has been found so beneficial in England, and which must be greatly promoted by your valuable annals, is now gaining ground. There are several (among which I may class myself), who are endeavoring to get into your regular and systematic course of cropping, as fast as the nature of the business will admit; so that I hope in the course of a few years, we shall make a more respectable figure as farmers, than we have hitherto done.
I will, agreeable to your desire, give you the prices of our products as nearly as I am able; but you will readily conceive from the foregoing account, that they cannot be given with any precision. Wheat, for the four last years, will average about 4s. sterling per bushel, of eight gallons. Rye, about 2s. 4d.—Oats, 1s. 6d.—Beans, pease, &c., have not been sold in any quantities.—Barley is not made here, from a prevailing opinion that the climate is not adapted to it; I however, in opposition to prejudice, sowed about 50 bushels last spring, and found that it yielded a proportionate quantity with any other kind of grain which I sowed; I might add, more. Cows may be bought at about 3l. sterling, per head. Cattle for the slaughter vary from 2¼d. to 4½d. sterling per lb., the former being the current price in summer; the latter in the winter or spring. Sheep at 12s. sterling, per head; and wool at 1s. sterling per lb. I am not able to give you the price of labor, as the land is cultivated here wholly by slaves, and the price of labor in the towns is fluctuating, and governed altogether by circumstances. * * *1
[1 ]“You give me some reason to hope for the result of your thoughts, or experiments, on a more eligible system of agriculture.—To receive it would afford me pleasure.—That the one which is now in general practice (if it can be called a system) is beyond description ruinous to our lands, need no other proof of the fact than the gullied and exhausted state of them, which is every where to be met with—but what change is most likely to restore the land with such means as is in our power to apply which will at the same time be productive to the Proprietor, is the question—and an important one—a question too which admits of no other satisfactory solution than such as is derived from a course of experiments by intelligent and observant farmers; who will combine things and circumstances together—Theoretical opinions should have no share in the determination, and what is good and profitable husbandry in one Country, may not be so in another—Articles which are very saleable in Europe might find no market in America, and if produced abundantly would answer no other end than to encumber our Barns or Granaries. Consequently two things must be engrafted into our plan, 1st Crops which are useful on our farms, or saleable in our markets—and 2d the intermixing these crops by such relations and with such dressings as will improve, instead of exhausting our lands.—To effect these is the great desiderata of Farming, and ought to be the pursuit of every farmer.—On this ground every experiment is a treasure—and the authors of them valuable members of Society.—Hence also the Societies which are formed for the encouragement, and promulgation, of these experiments, in other Country’s have rendered such essential services to the improved and improving States of agriculture in the old world and are so worthy of imitation in the new.”—Washington to Charles Carter, 20 January, 1788.