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ITALIANS IN NEW YORK STATE.
NUMBER AND CLASSIFICATION.
According to the census of 1900 there were 1,204 Italians engaged in agricultural pursuits in the State of New York. Of this number 966 were males and 238 females; 900 of the males were born in Italy, 63 were of the second generation, and 3 were not specified. Of the first generation 572 and of the second generation 47 were agricultural laborers, and 328 of the first generation and 18 of the second generation were farmers, planters, overseers, etc., while one. was not specified. Of the females engaged in agriculture, 213 were of the first and 25 of the second generation.
In the investigation made in the State of New York of Italians in agriculture, a study was made of those owning, or renting farms and depending entirely upon the income thus derived for a livelihood, and also of those employed as farm laborers during the agricultural season and who for the remainder of the year are engaged in other forms of labor. The investigation covered approximately 4,425
. persons depending entirely or in part on agriculture for an income.
It was found that the great majority of Italians engaged in farming or employed as farm laborers in the different Italian settlements investigated were from southern Italy. Most of the farm owners had been in the United States for a considerable period of time, usually from ten to twenty years, while those who were renters or who were engaged in seasonal occupations, such as general farm labor, employees of canning factories, fruit pickers, etc., show a shorter period of residence, many having been in this country less than five years. The reason assigned for the fact that Italian farm owners show a longer period of residence, as compared with farm laborers and renters, is that few possessed sufficient money at the time of landing in the United States to purchase a farm, and it has usually taken a considerable length of time for a tenant or a farm or general laborer to put aside suflicient capital to purchase a piece of property. Most of the farms now owned have been paid for with money saved out of the earnings of the owner since his arrival in this country.
There are two classes of Italian farm laborers: First, those who live in agricultural localities and are employed more or less regularly by their fellow countrymen who are engaged in farming, or by neighboring American farmers or by canning factories; second, an urban class who go to the country for the farming season, returning in the fall to their regular occupations in the cities. This second class of laborers are generally employed by large canning companies, through padrones, and the men are worked in gangs, usually being quartered on the farm of the company.
PREFERANCE FOR AGRICULTURE.
The occupations of the Italian farm owners, renters, and farm laborers investigated, in the United States prior to the time of entering agricultural pursuits, have been varied. The great majority, however, have been general laborers, pick-and-shovel men, railroad section men, and laborers on general construction work. Very few have been skilled laborers, and few have been factory employees. None were formerly coal miners and iron or steel workers. In Europe their occupations were as varied as in the United States, but the majority had been farmers or farm laborers.
The reasons given by Italians for entering agriculture were numerous. Many of the farm owners or renters had been farmers or farm laborers in Italy before coming to this country, and naturally were anxious to return to their old pursuits; some became farmers through the advice of friends who had attained success in agriculture; others came to agricultural settlements to be near friends or relatives and took up farming as a means of livelihood; while a few engaged in farming, thinking the outdoor life would be of benefit to the health of the family. Farm laborers who reside in agricultural communities were actuated in entering agricultural pursuits by the same causes as were mentioned above and most of them are saving money with the idea of eventually purchasing a farm. On the other hand, Italians who are brought out from the cities for the farming season are induced to work on the farms by the fact that the whole family can find ready employment through the summer months, wages are good, and the cost of living much lower than in the city. Though they are anxious to come to the country for the summer as farm laborers, they are really industrial workers and very few have any idea of eventually becoming farmers.
ITALIAN RURAL COMMUNITIES.
At Albion, Oneida, and Geneva, N. Y., Italians were investigated in seasonal occupations. In Albion and its vicinity there are about 350 Italians, including men, women, and children, who depend upon agriculture for part of their yearly income and 300 additional farm laborers of this race are brought in each summer from Buffalo, N. Y., for the canning season. About 475 come to Oneida from the cities for the canning season, and in Geneva and its vicinity there are about 1,500 Italians, including men, women, and children, who depend on farm work for their livelihood during the agricultural season; most of those enumerated above are engaged in some other form of labor during the winter.
At Canastota there are about 50 families depending entirely upon agriculture for their support. Of these, 20 own farms, the rest being either tenants or farm laborers. In Lyons and Clyde and vicinity there are approximately 100 families deriving an income from agriculture; 40 own farms, about 20 are renters, and about 40 live in the towns and work on farms in the summer. At Port Byron and its vicinity 35 Italian families are engaged in some form of agriculture; 10 own farms, 10 are tenants, and 15 are farm laborers. Near almost all the larger cities in the State Italians may be found who own or work in market gardens, and in one or two localities
Italian owners or laborers in orchards or vineyards are reported, there being a considerable settlement thus engaged near Fredonia. Very few engaged in general farming or employed as general farm laborers were observed.
From a general study of the three classes of Italians in agriculture it was observed that those owning or renting farms are more nearly Americanized than individuals of the other two classes. As a general rule, they have been in the United States for a number of years and have thus had the opportunity to acquire the English language and adopt American customs; and as property owners they naturally show more civic interest. In all localities it was stated that the proportion of Italian property owners who had taken out naturalization papers was much greater than among those who are tenants or farm laborers. The interests of the Italian farmer and his American neighbors are the same, and the community of interest thus formed has done much to bring about the Americanization of the race. The residence of the Italian farm laborer in the agricultural community where he is employed also offers advantages tending toward early Americanization which the Italian of the cities or of industrial centers does not possess. The Italian farm laborer is often employed by the American farmer, and thus comes into daily contact with Americans and more readily learns the language and customs of the country. Further, their associates are the Italian farm owners of earlier immigration, and this association also has an Americanizing influence. It was very noticeable that the Italian farm laborers secured from the cities were much less intelligent and progressive than Italian farm owners, tenants, or general farm laborers residing continuously in the country. In the cities whence they came they live in Italian colonies, trade at Italian stores, work in gangs of Italians on the railroads and on construction work, and associate very little with Americans. On the farm they are also worked in gangs, usually under the immediate supervision of an Italian, are quartered together, and here as in their winter work, they are surrounded by few Americanizing influences.
The standard of living of Italians on farms is without doubt higher than that of Italians in cities and industrial localities. There is less congestion in living and sleeping quarters, less filth is observed in apartments and houses, and the police report less crime among Italians in rural districts than in industrial centers.
SYSTEMS OF AGRICULTURE.
Very few Italians have engaged in general farming, most of them confining themselves to the small crops. Only a few instances were observed in which Italian farmers owned over 50 acres of land, the usual farm being from 5 to 15 acres, and many were farming but 1 to 5 acres of land. The reason for the South Italians being small farmers is that few had sufficient capital to invest in a large acreage. Practically none have had any previous experience in general farming and almost all are ignorant of the methods of raising the staple crops. Few know anything about the care necessary in handling horses or live stock in order to insure the best results, and as most of the tilling and planting on the Italian farms is done by hand, the farmer and his family are able to cultivate only, a limited acreage. The size of the farm generally depends upon the size of the family, as the average Italian farmer is averse to employing farm laborers. It was also observed that Italians generally confined themselves to one or two crops, such as onions, celery, etc., with which they are uniformly very successful. On large farms where wheat, oats, corn, hay, and staple crops are raised, the South Italians in New York have achieved no marked success, due to the causes given above and the lack of intelligent fertilization, crop rotation, and preparation. Their fort seems to be specialized commercial agriculture.
The chief objection to Italian farm laborers on the part of American farmers is that they require too much supervision and that few show any initiative. On the other hand, South Italian laborers have proved very satisfactory on truck farms, nursery farms, and on the farms of canning companies. Here they are worked in gangs, and where little machinery is used and most of the work is done by hand, many farmers prefer them to Americans, because it is stated the Italians are more easy to handle and are steadier and more re liable workers.
The contrast between living and housing conditions in agricultural localities and in cities and industrial communities is very marked. It is evident that more attention is paid to sanitary precautions in the homes of Italian farmers than in those of industrial workers. In cities and industrial communities the apartments or houses in which Italians reside are generally rented, and little attention is given by the owners to necessary repairs; this was particularly noticeable in coal mining localities where the houses are owned by the companies operating the mines and are rented to their employees. There congestion and the overcrowding of sleeping rooms are very prevalent, owing to the large number of boarders, and in consequence, apartments are very unclean. In agricultural settlements these conditions are less in evidence, few boarders are kept, and the Italian farm owner in New York at least seems to take pride in the appearance of his property, keeping it in repair and seeing that the premises surrounding the dwelling are kept clean. The interior of the house is not always as well kept as it might be, but when contrasted with homes of Italian industrial workers, conditions are far superior.
CANASTOTA, N. Y., SOUTH ITALIAN ONION GROWERS.
Madison County is located in the central part of New York State. It lies between 42° 43' and 43° 12' north latitude, and meridians 1° 5' and 1° 28' east longitude from Washington. The total area is about 649 square miles, or 451,168 acres.
The town of Canastota is situated near the northern boundary of Madison County, and according to the census of 1900 had a population of 3,244, while in 1909 the population was estimated to be close to 4,000. It is on the lines of the New York Central and Hudson River, Lehigh Valley, and West Shore Railroads, and the Erie Canal. The railroads and canal furnish good transportation and give ready access to all markets. There are several factories in Canastota, but it is in the fine agricultural country in the vicinity that the town finds its principal source of wealth.
There are two settlements of Italians in the locality, one in Canastota and the other 2 miles northwest of the village, at Onion Town. It is estimated that about 50 families are engaged in farming and that at least 500 Italians, including men, women, and children, in or near Canastota secure their living from the farm. About 20 families own their property; the rest are either renting, farming on shares, or hiring out as farm laborers. The Italians in the locality, with a few exceptions, are from southern Italy, and are divided as follows: Men 21 years of age or over.
200 Women 21 years of age or over. Boys between 16 and 21 years of age. Girls between 16 and 21 years of age
40 Children under 16 years of age... Total.......
500 These can be considered permanent residents, there being also a floating population of Italians engaged in other pursuits, which will be enumerated elsewhere.
Though the soils surrounding Canastota are admirably suited to raising general crops, no Italians have entered this branch of agriculture, but all confine themselves to truck farming on the muck land. This method of farming appeals to the Italian, as he has been brought up in his own country on a small farm and thoroughly understands the planting, cultivating, and harvesting of the small crops. Onions, beets, carrots, potatoes, and celery are the vegetables produced for market, and every immigrant farmer has a garden where peppers, beans, turnips, lettuce, cabbage, etc., are raised for home consumption. No poultry or live stock is kept on account of conditions which will be explained later.