She was young, popular, and had been reared in the city. Everybody laughed when she decided to farm—but that was four years ago.
When she decided to be a farmer everybody laughed. She was young, popular, unusually fond of frocks and fun. She had been reared in the city. She didn't know a Jersey from a Hereford, or a Wyandotte from a Plymouth Rock.
"You'll be back in six months," her friends said.
Four years have passed. Mrs. Charles S. Tupper still is "buried" in the country. Moreover, she is supplying eggs, chickens, honey, and home-canned goods to those of her former associates who are willing to pay for quality.
"Farming," said Mrs. Tupper, "is the ideal vocation for the woman who feels the modern desire for a job and the need of marriage and a home.
"I never wanted a job so keenly as when I found myself in a small city apartment without enough to do to keep me busy. After I'd swept and dusted and prepared meals for two, I had hours of time on my hands. The corner bakeshop, the laundry, and modern conveniences had thrust upon me more leisure than I could use. Mr.
Tupper is a young engineer whose work takes him to various parts of the Southwest. In his absence I felt strongly the need of filling up my idle hours in some interesting, useful way.
"I didn't quite like the idea of spending all my spare time on cards, calling, women's clubs, and social pleasures. I longed to be a real partner to my husband and to share in making the family income as well as spending it.
"We had a few thousand saved for a home, and were trying to decide where to build. One day it flashed upon me: 'Why invest in city property? Why not a little farm? Then we'll have a home; I'll have a job, and can make our living.'" The idea materialized into a modern bungalow on a 10-acre farm in Westdale, Missouri, an hour's drive from Kansas City. Mr. Tupper's salary furnished working capital for the enterprise and Mrs. Tupper has found congenial work as farmer-in-chief.
Poultry, bees, and a vegetable garden are Mrs. Tupper's specialities.
Her side lines are a pig and a registered Jersey cow. She looks after the poultry, works in garden and apiary, and milks the cow herself.
She employs very little help.
"It wasn't difficult to get a start in learning to farm," Mrs. Tupper explained. "I visited farms and studied the methods of farmers and their wives. I asked lots of questions.
"I didn't have any old fogyisms to unlearn, and I didn't acquire any. I went straight to the agricultural college and the state poultry experiment station for instructions. While I was living in the country supervising the building of the bungalow, I read and digested every bulletin I could get. I'm still studying bulletins. I subscribe for several farm papers and a bee journal.
"Of course, I learned a great deal from the practical experience of the people about me, but I checked up everything to the rules and directions of government and state agricultural experts, which may be had for the price of a postage stamp. I tried to take orders intelligently. I ignored old rules for poultry and bee-keeping." Mrs. Tupper's chickens are hatched in incubators, hovered in a coalheated brooder house, fed according to experiment-station directions, and reared in poultry houses built from experimentstation designs. From the first they have been practically free from lice and disease. She gets winter eggs. Even in zero weather and at times when feed is most costly, her spring pullets more than pay their way.
"Bees responded as readily to proper treatment," she said. "My second season I harvested $265 worth of comb honey from twenty working swarms. And I was stung not a half-dozen times at that." Some of Mrs. Tupper's neighbors were inclined to joke at first at her appetite for bulletins, her belief in experts, and her rigid insistence on pure-bred stock and poultry. They admit now that her faith has been justified.
If Mrs. Tupper had trod in the well-worn neighborhood ruts, she would have marketed her produce by the country-store-commissionman- retailer-consumer route; but again she did not. From the first she planned to plug the leakage of farm profits in middlemen's commissions. When she had anything to sell, she put on a goodlooking tailored suit, a becoming hat, smart shoes and gloves, and went to the city to talk to ultimate consumers.
The consciousness of being dressed appropriately—not expensively or ornately—is a valuable aid to the farm saleswoman, Mrs. Tupper thinks.
"If a salesman comes to me shabbily dressed or flashily dressed, I can't give him a fair hearing," she said. "I may let him talk on, but I decide against him the instant I look at him. So I reasoned that a trim, pleasing appearance would be as valuable an asset to me as to the men who sell pickles, insurance, or gilt-edged bonds. It would mean a favorable first impression and open the way to show samples and make a sales talk.
"If I tried to interview a prospective customer handicapped by the consciousness that my skirt hung badly or that my shoes were shabby, not only would I be timid and ill at ease, but my appearance would suggest to the city buyer the very slipshodness and lack of reliability he fears in buying direct from the farm.
"I go strong on attractive samples. It would be useless to try for fancy prices if I brought honey to town in mean-looking cases or rusty cans. A slight drip down the side of a package might not be proof positive of poor quality, but it would frighten away a careful buyer. Likewise, I do not illustrate my egg sales talks with a sample dozen of odd sizes and shapes. It is needless to add that goods delivered to customers must be of the same quality and appearance as the samples, and that one must keep one's promises to the dot. A little well-directed enterprise will land a customer, but only good service can hold him." When the current wholesale price of honey was $3 a case, Mrs.
Tupper's comb honey has been in demand at from 20 to 30 cents a pound. She disposes of every pound to private customers and to one grocery store which caters to "fancy" trade. She sells eggs from her 400 Anconas at from 4 to 6 cents more a dozen than the country store is paying its patrons who bring in eggs and "take them out in trade." Mrs. Tupper figured that if a trademark has advertising pull for a manufacturing concern, it would help the farm business. She christened her 10 acres "Graceland Farm," and this name is stamped on everything that leaves her place. She had cards printed bearing the name of the farm, its telephone number, and its products.
Graceland Farm is also emphasized on letter heads.
"Prompt attention to correspondence is an easy method of advertising a farm business," she suggested. "A typewritten letter on letterhead stationery, mailed promptly, creates a pleasant impression on the man who has written to inquire the price of a setting of eggs or a trio of chickens.
"Suppose I delayed a week and wrote the reply with pen and ink, or, worse, with a pencil on ruled tablet paper. I'd stand a good chance of losing a customer, wouldn't I? If I didn't miss an order outright, I should certainly leave a suggestion of inefficiency and carelessness which could only be charged to the debit side of the business." She has found that a $50 typewriter and a letter file have helped greatly to create the good-will which is as essential to the farmer business woman as to the woman who runs a millinery shop or an insurance office.
Mrs. Tupper has encouraged automobile trade. Her apiary is within sight of the road, and a "Honey for Sale" sign brings many a customer. Many of her city patrons have the habit of driving to the farm and returning with a hamper laden with eggs, honey, butter, or canned stuff from the vegetable garden. The garden last summer supplied material for more than 900 cans of vegetables.
The neighbors smile at her zeal for fairs and poultry shows.
"It isn't fun altogether; it's business," she tells them.
It was cold, disagreeable work, for instance, to prepare an exhibit for the Heart of America Poultry Show at Kansas City last fall; but Mrs.
Tupper felt repaid. She won first prize on hen, first and second on pullet, and fourth on cockerel. Then she exhibited at the St. Joseph, Missouri, Poultry Show with even better success.
"These prizes will add to the value of every chicken I have, and to all my poultry products. They give me another advertising point," she said.
"The shows gave me a fine opportunity to meet possible customers and to make friends for my business. I was on the job for days. I met scores of people and distributed hundreds of cards. I learned a lot, too, in talks with judges and experienced breeders." The Tupper bungalow is neat and attractive. In spite of her duties in the poultry house and apiary, Mrs. Tupper serves appetizing meals.
She finds time for church work and neighborhood calls, and gives every Thursday to the Red Cross.
The housework is speeded up with such conveniences as hot and cold water in kitchen and bathroom, and steam heat. The kitchen is an efficient little workshop lined by cupboards and shelves. Mrs.
Tupper can sit before her kitchen cabinet and prepare a meal without moving about for ingredients and utensils. A service wagon saves steps between kitchen and dining-room.
The floors of the bungalow are of hard wood. They are waxed a few times each year, and a little work each morning with dust mop and carpet sweeper keeps them in good order. The washing is sent out.
"I couldn't earn an income from the farm if I had a farmhouse without modern improvements," Mrs. Tupper declared. "Reducing drudgery to a minimum is only plain business sense. Laundry work, scrubbing, and dishwashing have a low economic value. Such unskilled labor eats up the time and strength one needs for the more profitable and interesting tasks of farm management, accounting and correspondence, advertising and marketing..
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