National Geographic : 1944 Jul
Britain Fights in the Fields New York Times Blackout Light Beamed Down, an American Tractor Plows through the Long Hampshire Night At spring-planting crisis, labor-saving tractors save even more important time. To keep machines running, schoolboys often relieve drivers at lunch hour. So essential to the plowing up of some six million acres of grasslands, Britain's main tractor factories did not convert to weapon-making. The hog farmer is an example. First, after having raised hogs all his life perhaps, he is required to reduce his operations and cut down his herd. Total hog numbers have been re duced by 59 percent of prewar figures to save feed for more efficient direct human con sumption (page 52). He is required to raise feed according to the number of hogs he keeps. He must sell a certain percentage of the feed he raises on his own farm. He must buy his feed supple ments against coupons issued by his county committee. He may butcher for his own use only according to the regulations. Finally, when his hogs are ready for slaughter he must notify the county commit tee, which will specify the date when he must sell them and the market where he must de liver them, at a fixed price. Then he pays an income tax which quickly reaches the 50-percent level. More Acres; Less Machinery The limited supply of farm machinery is in greater demand than usual because of the limited labor supply and the marked increase in acres now under cultivation. The prob- lem is met by making every implement, every plow and tractor and drill, serve to its maxi mum efficiency. It is rationed by the county committee. The farmer who can show that he needs it most, who can use it to better advantage than any of his neighbors, is allowed to buy an available tractor or other implement, and then is required to share it with his neighbors under the direction of the county committee (page 32). For maximum efficiency many county com mittees own and operate tractors on a con tract basis. The countycommittee of Northum berland County owns and operates 500 trac tors. The farmers would prefer to own these tractors themselves, but the tractors are kept working more hours a year when shared under county-committee control. For farm labor, the British farmer has fallen back on women, old men and children, war prisoners, and on long hours for himself and his family. I remember the old Scots man who told me that his wife had followed him in the wheat field last fall and bound grain bundles by hand behind his scythe for the first time in 46 years.