This is a serialization of the new book written by Carl Flowers, owner of Silveus Plantation, the subject of "Groton's Anonymous Mistress." This 300-year-old house is accessed by Kemp Street near the boundary of Groton and Dunstable.

Part 64: The final chapter

By Carl Flowers

If the young person looking to take over the Mistress and her domain fully explores the odds of what it takes to be a successful full-time family farmer, he or she will find the deck to be stacked against him.

We're not talking about the hobby farmer or gardener who makes farming their second job after their regular full-time day job. Using Christmas trees as an example crop, my successor will quickly discover the overwehlming majority of Christmas trees sold in our area are imported. The wholesale price for one of these imported Canadian Christmas trees is $17. I was able to find only one Christmas tree lot in our area that sold American-grown Christmas trees, imported from North Carolina. The wholesale cost of the North Carolina Christmmas trees was $24. No imagination is needed to guess which Christmas tree has the greatest appeal to the general public.

The reason imported Canadian trees sell for so much less is because they are subsidized by the Canadian government. If you purchased the higher-priced, American-grown Christmas tree, the retail price might be in the neighborhood of $44.85. An imported Canadian Christmas tree allows the area retailer to at least double his money from $17 to $34 and maybe more. With the sale of 500 locally grown trees at $44.85, the gross income would be $22,425.

This might sound great if you believe the work involved took just a few weeks, but it takes no less than eight years to grow a 6- to 7-foot Christmas tree. To sell 500 trees every year, the farmer must take care of no less than 8,000 trees from the time they are planted to the time they are harvested, on approximately 8 acres. The land could have the value of four house lots or it could be less, depending on the locale of the land.

Straight off the top from the $44.85 selling price of a tree is the payment of $2.80 to the commonwealth to pay the state sales tax, which is included in the price of each tree. The next mandated payment is $6.39 for Social Security. These two payments of $9.19 are more than 20 percent of a tree's price, Next is the real-estate tax, which works out to about $13.05 per tree. This plus the sales tax and Social Security tax add up to $22.44, or nearly 50 percent of the tree's price. Depending on the number of buildings a farm has, the real-estate tax could be even higher.

With the real-estate tax deduction, the gross income from the sale of 500 trees is hammered down to $11,305.92, or $22.61 per tree. Next is the dictated cost of health insurance. This could be in the neighborhood of $4,500, thereby reducing the gross income to $6,805, for a $13.61 profit per tree, but the required cost doesn't end here.

Regular farm insurance has to be paid, which can run around $3,500 a year, or $7 a tree. Six dollars from $13.61 leaves $6.61 out of a tree's $44.85 selling price. From the $22,425 taken in for the sale of 500 trees only $3,305 is left as profit that can easily be eaten up by the need for hired help, and the repair and maintenance of equipment and buildings.

We haven't looked at what the state and federal income tax might eat away. And let's not forget about the money that's still needed to pay for electricity, heating and food. There's not going to be any money put away for retirement or for paying the inheritance tax.

After all the mandates are paid, it certainly has to make everyone wonder who's making the money. Is it the small farmer, government or the corporations favored by government? Several questions are answered by looking at all the mandated expenses. Six dollars and thirty-one cents per tree goes to Social Security, multiplied by 500 trees is $3,155.

These expenses make a clear statement about why 90 percent of all the food consumed in the United States in the next 50 years will be imported. We already know Massachusetts leads the nation in consumption of imported food. Just as all the mandated costs are a fact, so is the lack of a farmer's representation by certain individuals who are elected to state positions.

When certain individuals who are elected to state positons are approached about specific farm issues, their answer is nothing more than a brush-off. On one occasion, an individual who is a member of the state House of Representatives was approached about wildlife problems and crop destruction. The representative showed his callousness to the problems by stating, "If wildlife was a serious issue, certain organizations would be in contact with them." The same response was given at another time concerning the state's inheritance tax.

Ten: That's the number of times a phone call can be made and the elected person chooses not to return a call. When these individuals are pulling $60,000 a year or more in addition to their benefits and expenses, I have to wonder what the purpose is in voting. They address the people only at election time and negotiate with the corporations between the elections.