Thanks to the dedication of Victorian gardeners, Britain once cultivated more varieties of apple than anywhere else in the world: more than 2,000 types of apples with all sorts of tastes, textures, shapes and sizes.
In this week's Journal The English Apple Man looks back to the late 1880's when 'commercial production' of 'home grown' apples and pears was well below consumer demand. Enormous volumes of apples and pears were imported from The USA, Canada, Belgium and Europe.
A friend alerted me to a visionary of that time and his book promoting the restructuring of farming with more fruit and less reliance on corn and root crops which delivered poor financial returns.
The author was Sampson Morgan and his book 'How To Make The Most Of The Land' was published circa 1890.
Sampson Morgan was a grower and an expert horticulturist. His book 'How To Make The Most Of The Land' is a detailed account of fruit production and particularly apples & pears.
Sampson observed the ludicrous situation where farmers were struggling to make a living growing corn and root vegetables. He set out a plan for the regeneration of farming with an expansion of apple, pear and glasshouse crops.
At this time Sampson observed the value of imports of apples and pears from USA, Belgium and Europe, Canada and Novo Scotia amounted to in excess of £1,500,000.
Sampson Morgan's Proposition and Plan were both an outcome of assurances given in several instances by members of the (then) Cabinet that the Government was willing to alleviate, if possible, the distress that existed in the agricultural industry, and it would carefully consider any practical and permanent remedy that might be suggested.
To this end Sampson Morgan submitted his scheme for the establishment and working of Freehold and Choice Fruit and Early Produce Farms throughout the country, which may be said to resolve itself in the following plans.
The State to purchase large lots of fertile Freehold Land at £20 per acre and then split them into Plot of 5 acres each.
Cost of each Plot £100 -0-0 (pounds shillings and pence or LSD)
Further to erect on each Plot a Cottage, a Glasshouse, Glass cold Frames, and furnish special Fruit Trees to the value of £252-14-0 (£252 pounds, 14 shillings)
To supply Seeds, Manures, Implements, Stock and pay Law Costs (Legal fees) & charges on each Plot, to the extent of £47-6-0 (47 pounds six shillings)
Total investment: £400-0-0
The Tenant to pay interest on the £400 advanced at the rate of 4%; or a total of £16 per annum until the principal be repaid. After 10 years the principal to be repaid at the rate of £20 per annum, or in larger payments, which would be optional. The security is not only ample, but of increasing value.
Each holder secures 5 acres of land, a five roomed cottage, a glasshouse 100ft long x 14ft wide; glass frames 100ft long x 14 inches wide, which would allow the grower to compete with the early and choice productions of the 'Continental' grower.
Implements, Seeds, Manures, and Stock; also 677 'Special Fruit Trees' for the insignificant sum of £16 per annum (or 6 shillings and 2 pence per week)
Sampson Morgan continues: The holder (tenant) is enabled for the first 10 years to secure and income of £200 from each plot by adoption of my (SM) 'Improved System of Culture'
After 10 years he secures independency from the produce of the 'Special Tree Fruits' - (The EAM interprets this to mean, breaking even on the establishment and growing costs as production matures to full crop)
"The value of all land throughout the country will increase by 'at least' - 50% "
Sampson Morgan asserts;
Our Country would be turned into a 'gigantic, productive, and profitable fruit farm. The land problem would be solved, and with it would be found an effectual remedy for the depression that exists!
Each allotment holder would become a tax payer after the first year.
Sampson Morgan clarifies
"If my plan be adopted there would be an opening for thousands of unemployed labourers to surround each Plot with a ditch and a bank, so that anyone who would wield a spade could secure employment at a low rate for months. This would be equivalent to the Government starting relief works. The cost would be included in the 'mortgage' which has been duly allowed in for in my calculations"
"It would also be the means of materially reducing the enormous importations of fruit and early produce into this country from abroad, which are greatly upon increase every year"
The English Apple Man Comments: "Excessive imports of fruit from overseas, 140 years ago! - Still resonates today!
While a few enlightened UK growers had embraced these opportunities, Sampson Morgan recognised the massive opportunity for a well organised home grown fruit industry properly structured and financed.
This review of Sampson Morgan's book will continue in next week's Journal with more fascinating detail into why farming was in a depressed state and the price of imported fruit created such an opportunity for home grown apples, pears, tomatoes etc.
Until next week, stay safe
The English Apple Man