E. E. Barton's Bees


On visiting Falmouth, Ky., I was amazed at the stories they told of what sweet clover had done for that region.  One of the pioneer growers was E. E. Barton, and his experience with it sounded like a fairy tale.  Mr. Barton said that following the Civil War, most of Pendleton County was given over to tobacco growing, with little live stock, and not much rotation of crops.  It was a hill country,, and although it had fertile soil over a clay subsoil, the heavy rains soon washed away the shallow surface soil, and one farm after another was abandoned.  Hundreds of farms were abandoned, and many of them were sold for taxes, because no buyers could be found.  More than a third of the population left the county, and the farmers who remained had hard lines to make ends meet.  Sweet clover was stealthily sowed, probably by bee keepers intent on increasing the bee pasturage.  At first it was regarded by disfavor and fought as a dangerous weed.

Mr. Barton came into possession of a farm, somewhat against his will, because the owner could not pay the mortgage.  He tried renting it, and the tenant was unable to make a living, much less pay the rent.  After it had been abandoned, he went to great trouble to keep down the weeds, especially sweet clover.  Then came a year of drought, when there was very little feed for the cattle, and they were turned into the roads to graze.  Even then there was but little except the sweet clover, which was by this time rather common along the roadsides.  It was soon noticed that the cows were eating the sweet clover with relish and doing well.  Then somebody tried an experiment by sowing it in a field.  It thrived, the cows liked it, and the milk flow increased.  Mr. Barton by this time was quite ready to profit by the experience, and within five years, the farm which would not grow grass was producing good crops.  He bought more abandoned farms and sowed them to sweet clover, and his neighbors began to do likewise. 

One by one the farmers came back to their abandoned farms, new settlers came in, and everybody began to grow sweet clover.  Now there are fifty-thousand acres of it in that county.  Ask any farmer you meet on the streets of Falmouth what he thinks of sweet clover and he will tell you such tales of rebuilt fortunes from a combination of dairy cows and sweet clover as you never expect to hear.

There are now shipped from the county about a half a million pounds of seed yearly, besides thousands of dollars of dairy products every week.  They find that an average of 300 to 600 pounds of hulled seeds per acre can be secured from the white variety and 500 to 700 pounds of the yellow.  An average yield of from $40 to $100 per acre is the return from the sweet clover, according to local reports picked up on the streets.  Now one finds evidences of prosperity on every hand.  The farmers have fine homes, automobiles, and money in the bank.


excerpted from American Honey Plants, by Frank C. Pellett