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ments. The average number of acres per farm now owned is 29}, valued, with buildings, at nearly $100 an acre, or $2,900 a farm. The middle or median farm is 26 acres in size. Of these farms, 32, or 64 per cent, carry an aggregate indebtedness of $21,350, or $667 a farm, leaving the average net value of land and improvements actually owned $2,822 per farm. These farmers represent the upper, rather than the lower, half of the Italian population measured by material wealth and prosperity, but the same degree of progress obtains throughout the entire community. The general financial condition of the 50 South Italian farmers included in the Commission's inquiry may be shown as follows: Farms leased and owned: Total farms of race.
50 Average size of farms, acres.
29. 32 Median farm... Kind of farms: Small fruit farms. First purchase of land and improvements: Total number of acres.
857 Average acres per farm.
17.14 Total value...
a $48, 051 Average value per farm.
a $1,001 Average value per acre.
a $59 Farms now owned..
50 Total number of acres.
1, 466 Number of acres cultivated.
01.064 Number of acres not cultivated.
a 336 Present value of land and improvements..
$145.000 A verage value of land and improvements per farm. A verage value of land and improvements per acre.
$99 Number of farms showing indebtedness..
32 Total indebtedness..
$21, 350 A verage indebtedness per farm.
$667 Gross value of all property.
$162. 438 Net value of all property. A verage net value of all property per farm....
$2,822 The following shows this increase in prosperity in another form, and has the advantage of affording individual comparisons. For example
, of money, 8 have accumulated more than $2,500 each, 7 between $1,000 and $2,500 each, and 5 now have acquired property valued at $500 or more; 2 of the 20 own more than $5,000 worth of land and equipment. Similar progress is shown by other groups.
a Not including 2 farms, 40 acres, inherited.
CABLE 21.— Value of property brought to Hammonton by South Italians, net value of
property now owned, and number of years since first lease or purchase.
Atlantic County, N. J., lies in the geological and topographical division of the State long known as the “Pine Barrens. Until within recent years this area was accounted all that the name implies an unfertile, unsettled region, barren of cultivated vegetation, and covered only with a growth of pitch pine, scrub oak, and in the lowlands dense cedar thickets, interspersed with beech, gum, poplar, and other swamp vegetation. The entire area is of recent origin and is geologically assigned to the coastal plain division. It was once an old sea bottom, and the variety of soils and low, swampy spots bear testimony to the ocean currents and sea drift of long ago. The general contour is flat and low, the contour lines showing that very little of the region in question has an elevation of more than 100 feet, and very much of the county is not more than 50 feet above sea level. Hammonton Township lies between the Mullica and Egg Harbor rivers and is in part included in what is known as the Mullica and Egg Harbor Divide Oak Lands. This divide lies on both sides of the
. Pennsylvania and the Reading railroads, and on the north side represents some of the best and highest lands in the county. The elevation of a bench mark in the village of Hammonton north of the railroad is marked 102.82 feet, and parts of the township reach an elevation of 152 feet.
While the general aspect is level, there is a gentle decline toward the sea, very gentle indeed, the currents in the streams being very sluggish; in places the fall does not exceed 5 feet in a distance of 20 to 25 miles. But while the land is level over a large area, there are numerous breaks, irregularities and undulations, sufficient on the whole for good drainage. Indeed, the observer who drives over the territory would call much of the country "gently rolling," although wide stretches are to the eye "dead level.” Toward Mullica River on the north and toward Egg Harbor River on the south the land is low; much of it poorly drained; great tracts of swamp and bog appear, some of them still covered with dense growths of cedar. Much of this land lying about Hammonton has been cleared of the original pine and the second growth of white and scrub oak, chestnut, and sassafras, but a great deal of land yet remains covered with scrubby pitch pine, burned-over stumps and sprouts of white and black oak, burr or scrub oak, and chestnut, that seem to fare very poorly on the light, sandy soil. In the lowlands, as has been
, said, cedar swamps appear.
The soil upon which the Italians have settled varies somewhat in texture, but is usually a sandy loam, occasionally a light yellow gravelly loam, with a retentive subsoil of yellow clay or gravel The sand varies from a coarse white, gravelly sand, with almost no humus, to a very fine sandy loam, nearly the texture of river alluvium, capable of retaining fertilizers and moisture, and not nearly as deficient in humus as the coarser sand.
In nearly all cases the soil is porous and drains easily. In no cases have the Italians employed artificial drainage systems, although some of the American farmers have done so. On the whole, the Italians are settled on the sandiest and originally the least valuable lands in the neighborhood. Almost all have cleared their own fields of stumps and original vegetation and have planted them to berries and vines. The cost of this grubbing, breaking, and preparation for a crop, was about $21 an acre to those Americans who hired the work done. Some of the sandy fields look like sand dunes, after the pines have been removed, and a very high wind is likely to remove the top of an unusually elevated farm and deposit it on the neighbor's property across the road. Unless the public roads have been graveled they are very heavy. The wheels cut deeply into the drifted sand, and where the fields are not cultivated one gets the impression that the land is
But this impression is incorrect, as the acres of adjoining berry fields, orchards, and vineyards testify. It is not a soil that is adapted to grains or forage crops. Many acres are too light for sweet or Irish potatoes or vegetables, but on all but the very coarsest and sandiest Soils small fruits, grapes, and berries do well under the stimulus of Various sorts of commercial fertilizers. In few places have the farmers been more successful in adapting the crops to the peculiarities of the soil. Live stock, hay, grain, and Irish potatoes have no soil and climate are much better adapted to special fruit crops. Other adaptations of the soil to specific berry crops will be discussed
It is sufficient to recall that the area now occupied by Italian
, waste of white sand partially covered with briars and underbrush. loaded with luscious fruit, growing on an apparent desert of white To the western farmer these fields of luxuriant blackberry bushes sana matter sand is a sight as astonishing as it is instructive and enlightening. body to the soil and makes it somewhat less porous than it appears There is an underlying mixture of siliceous material that gives some
waste and desert.
on the surface.
A great deal has been said in praise of the general healthfulness of the climate of certain parts of south Jersey. The New Jersey coast summer and winter resorts are known the country over, and Vineland has an enviable reputation as a place for recuperation and rest both summer and winter. Hammonton enjoys much the same climatic conditions as Vineland. The temperature is not extreme either summer or winter, the mean for the year at Atco running about 52.50° and at Vineland 53.33° F. There is a wide daily range, however, especially in the summer months, accounted for by the sandy nature of the soil
, which becomes intensely heated during the day, but radiates the heat very rapidly after sunset. Often after days when the surface sand has been almost hot enough to burn the feet of the berry pickers, the nights are refreshingly cool, even chill at times. The winters are not severe. There is some snow usually, but the mean winter temperature is a little above 32o. As low a temperature as 24o has been noted at Atco, 10 miles northwest, and 11° at Vineland, 18 miles south of Hammonton.
The dates of latest killing frosts at Vineland are seldom as late as May 1, and the early frosts in the fall are seldom recorded before the last days of October. Farming operations begin in March, although clearing of land may be continued most of the year and plows may be run until well on toward the new year. There is, then, a long growing season, with ample time for preparing the land and for removing the débris after the crop has been harvested. The strawberry season follows that at Port Norris and Vineland, but the blackberry and raspberry harvest at Vineland and Hammonton are nearly simultaneous.
Rainfall is ample and very well distributed throughout the year, as may be seen from the table below:
TABLE 22.— Temperature and rainfall at Atco and Vineland, N. J.
Compiled rom Geological Survey of New Jersey-Fina. reports o. the State Geologist, 1888, Vol. I.)
The precipitation for the year is normally 48 inches, and no season is credited with more than one-third or less than one-fifth of that quantity. For individual months the mean average at Atco gives the highest record, 5.87 inches in August, and the lowest record, 2.85 inches for April. The comparative monthly figures for Vineland are very similar, the high record being 5.09 inches in August and the low record 3.12 inches in April. The whole trend of the reports from which the preceding table is taken shows a very equable distribution of precipitation throughout the year, sufficient in any normal season for plant growth. The heat in the summer combined with the excessive evaporation and seepage due to the sandy and porous nature of the soil sometimes causes the fruit to shrivel and dry up and vegetation to burn if the rainfall is below normal for a short time. On the other hand, the coating of fine, loose surface sand, frequently stirred with hoe or cultivator, is an excellent conserver of soil moisture, and even a long continued dry spell is not likely to result in permanent injury to the berry bushes and fruit trees.
The atmosphere is not excessively humid. The lowlands and the newly cleared lands are not malarial and fevers common to new sections are almost unknown. Taken as a whole the dry air and loose porous soil provides a very healthful climate both winter and summer. There is no doubt that the mild, congenial atmosphere, together with the cheap lands and easily tilled soil and the character of the particular products raised were the determining factors in the first settlement of Italians at this point. Later, natural conditions, together with the encouragement of friends and neighbors, did much to keep up the flow of immigrants.
The tax roll of the year 1908 enumerates 368 real estate owners of Italian origin in Hammonton township. Twenty-four of these own lots or very small parcels in the village only. The following table shows the distribution according to acreage: TABLE 23.-Real estate in Hammonton Township, N. J., owned by Italians, distributed
by size of holdings.
Eliminating the lots and the parcels under 1 acre in extent, there remain 313 holdings upon which some agricultural operations may be successfully conducted. It is not possible, however, to make a living from an acre of land, employing the system of agriculture here in vogue.
It will be well within the bounds of truth to say that all owners with holdings less than 3 acres in extent rely on some supplementary occupation for part of their annual income. On this basis there are 242 farms owned by farmers of Italian origin in Hammonton. Considering these 242 farms, the median, or middle farm, is about 14 acres in size; two-thirds of the farms are 20 acres or