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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

To the Editor of the New Zealand Country Journal

page 180

To the Editor of the New Zealand Country Journal.

Sir,—The new rule of the Agricultural and Pastoral Association, requiring, after July 1st., that all members shall be ballotted for, suggests the consideration of the relations that ought to exist between the Association and its members, and what might be advisable towards an increase of benefit to all concerned.

Certainly the time is come when these should be more definite. The Association has fought its way through difficulties and early troubles not so much by the help of an organization fitted for its purposes, but simply by reason of its strong claim on the Agricultural and Pastoral interests, and these interests now considerably advanced have carried the Association along them. The objects which the Association has in view are now so evident, and the benefit accruing from its action so much more plainly seen, that it appears a wise step on the Association's part to regulate more closely the connection between it and its members, that is if its managers have framed the above bye-law with the intention of laying down more clearly the position the members ought to hold toward it; a position which demands support, and a corresponding privilege and duty on the part of members who are now to be admitted only after the ordeal of a ballot. Time was when the Association had been content with annual support from whoever could be prevailed on to subscribe. On one great occasion it even sold for a comparatively small sum life-memberships to wipe off liabilities. Now, it is to be hoped, it feels its position so secure that it can face the farming and pastoral public, whose interests it does its best to conserve, by a bolder front, and ask to be supported as other and older societies are supported elsewhere.

The writer's experience is mainly confined to the position of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, of which he has been a member many years. It is the oldest Agricultural Society in Great Britain; and if outstripped by the wealth and greater advantages of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, it can at least boast to have shown the Royal Agricultural Society the way, and to have in no degree lost the claim to be considered the elder sister through any sacrifice of the real objects of the Society, or from having been found wanting in any respect, except that it has had to do with a poorer country and a more scattered population. In this respect therefore the writer's experience as to older societies may be more useful as gathered in a country where support could only be the result of practical benefits.

First then, to explain the position which the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland bears to the farming public in that country in order to justify the position taken up by our Association by its new Bye-law :—In Scotland, as a broad rule, every landed proprietor and his eldest son, every tenant farmer of any position, every merchant and business man connected with land, every manure or chemical merchant and manufacturer, all as a matter of course, almost as a matter of honour, are subscribing members of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland. And the practice of the Society being to shift its yearly place of show, so that in a cycle of years every part of Scotland shall be visited, keeps up a lively interest in its proceedings, as well as periodically renews by a practical exemplication the benefits of belonging to it. The counties are grouped for show purposes,—Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, Aberdeen, Inverness, and Dumfries being the different show centres, each of which town has a circle of counties attached, who find a certain proportion of necessary funds, and do a certain amount of necessary local work; and the result is always a large addition to the Society's list of members from the counties whose turn it is to have the Annual Show among them.

It would be premature to advocate a peripatetic show here, as no out district could give the facilities for such an experiment at present, neither could the Association do without the gate-money certain at Christchurch, nor could the public be put off with the difficulties of attending shows elsewhere. But perhaps another part of the Highland and Agricultural Society's plan, equally a proof of universal care for the interests of the farming community of the whole nation, might be adopted here. Its practice is to give medals or prizes for competition at all local shows affiliated to it, in page 181 all the principal classes, such distinctions having an honour of their own far above the other awards of the local shows. Such a position might easily be taken up by our Association towards the smaller Country Shows, which, although exceedingly useful and important from a local point of view, require mainly to be assisted towards a standard of excellence. This standard might be given by a judicious offer of medals or premiums from the Association to stock or exhibits deserving of such distinction; and each local show might be made an excellent opportunity for bringing under the notice of farmers in the several districts their duty of supporting the Metropolitan Society. A similar plan might be adopted with regard to ploughing matches. At all events, it is to be hoped that the committee of management will not consider that their mission is ended until every farmer and landholder in Canterbury is up for ballot.

Another point deserving of ventilation, is the necessity of the Association's having a library for reference, and the current agricultural literature of the day for their members' benefit. We ought at all events to have the quarterly journals of both the Scotch and English Societies. These might be obtained by having if it were possible our Association affiliated to the older societies at home, or our President might be a subscribing member of each on behalf of the Association. Probably an application in the right direction might get us a complete set of all their back numbers. In any case the want of such are frequently felt; and although our climate and soil are different to those of England and Scotland, and our capital and labour on a different footing, still these publications as the results of experience, are of very great value to those who are thinking out similar and perhaps more difficult problems on their land in New Zealand.

I am, &c., &c.,

A member of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.