The Northwest's Need of Men
Where Farms and Homes Await the Thrifty Immigrant
by John Scott Mills - Harper's Weekly May 24, 1913
The growth of the Pacific Northwest has been continuous. Oregon, Washington, and Idaho have an area of over 250,000 square miles, with all accredited population at the last census of 2,140,349. The States of New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio with an area of 192,095 square miles, were given a population of 27,184,102. New York has a population per square mile of 726.9; Pennsylvania, 117.3; Illinois, 68.3, and Ohio 90.0. The population of the Northwest states per square mile is: Oregon, 3.3; Washington, 5.3; Idaho, 1.1.
In the twenty-four principal cities and towns of these Northwestern States there are 859,923 inhabitants, and 1,290,046 live in the smaller towns and in thc country. In ten years the increase in urban population in Washington was 166.0 per cent.; in Oregon, 115.3; in Idaho, 216.2. For the same period the rural increase was; Washington, 84.7 per cent.; Oregon, 35.0; Idaho, 83.1.
Further analysis is not needed. A vast domain is sparsely populated. It has need of people. The country requires settlement and population. The cities are overcrowded. City building should come as the result of development of adjacent territory, and not as a prelude thereto.
The value of the immense mineral deposits and timber of these three states is immense. But the basic and perpetual wealth of the Pacific Northwest must come from her farms. The hope of this section lies in the small farm well tilled. There is here in this region a foundation upon which may be built an agricultural supremacy unparalleled in the history of the past, the magnitude and compelling excellence of which will make this the greatest of all productive regions of the globe.
This is a broad assertion, but one of unquestionahle truth. The claim is based on the soil--the volcanic ash, which predominates, in this undying soil of the lava deluge there is a fertility of such fruitfulness that the yield is both constant and large. Ninety per cent of the soil in these states is of the character mentioned. The hills of Eastern Oregon and Washington and Western Idaho are mounds of volcanic ash; the broad plains and rolling lands of the Inland Empire are covered to a cultivable depth with the same rich deposits. These possess an advantage over the silt. and alluvial soils in that the soluble matter has not been washed out.
What a few years ago was barren land has become the home of settlers, where orchard and meadow, flock and herd are making men rich. The diversion of a mountain stream has transformed the barren valley of the Yakima into one of the most productive sections of the West. In the Lewiston-Grangeville districts in Idaho there is grown what is claimed by experts to be the finest timothy and clover seed grown in the United States. This is a non-irrigated district.
In the Touchet and Walla valleys of Washington, and in the Columbia River Basin in Oregon, are some of the finest orchards of the hemisphere. In the commercial orchards, where the growers have specialized, are produced the fruits which are in demand in every American metropolis, in the markets of London, Berlin, St. Petersburg, and other cities of the land beyond the sea. The strawberries have a national reputation, and the vegetables are as good as can be grown.
In the western counties, where the precipitation is greater, larger yields of celery, asparagus, kale, turnips, and other root crops are grown. Here the green of the fields is perennial, and it is here that the dairyman is at his best. This means a great deal, for the country east of the Cascades is a dairying country. There is no necessity for housing stock as a protection against the severe cold. All owners of milch cows provide for their animals, but this provision means only shelter from the rain, for the temperature rarely drops to the freezing-point, and where thirty-five degrees above zero is accounted cold weather. On these evergreen pastures the stock finds abundance of feed.
It is interesting to note how the land-owners of this section have responded to the call for diversification on the farm. The Pacific Northwest, ten years ago, was spending from $15,000,000 to $20,000,000 per annum for meat and poultry products, shipped from the East. The railways, the commercial organizations, and the press preached the gospel of diversified farming to the man on the land until he became a convert and is lending his efforts to meet the demand and endeavoring to keep the money at home.
Hogs and poultry thrive in this genial climate. Men and women are specializing in pigs and chickens, and the porcine family and the feathered tribe are paying the household expenses on hundreds of farms of varying size.
The farmer is the only man who can solve the problem of the cost of living. If he undertakes it in earnest he will accomplish his end. From the vantage ground of the farm must come the aid to the helpless men and women of the cities of our land. Production regulates cost. Population has increased more rapidly than production in the East. High prices originate there. The West buys there. Increasing population on the lands of the Pacific Northwest means augmented production of the necessities of life. Therefore, the increased cost of living being due to paucity of production, the West must be looked to for a remedy for existing conditions.
To populate the West should be a simple matter. Multiplied thousands of good American citizens have gone to the Canadian Northwest in the past few years. They were led to change their place of residence and their allegiance to the republic by alluring statements concerning the land, its prices, and its products. The purpose of this article is not to reflect on other countries, but to call attention to this one. But it will not be taken amiss if those who contemplate going across the line will familiarize themselves with weather conditions in both countries and incidentally compare yields, markets, and general living conditions here and there.
There has been some attempt at publicity in connection with these lands of the Northwest, but their general character is little understood by the homeseeker. There are no free lands here, but there are homestead locations to be had, land under Carey Act projects, land in irrigated districts, dry-farming, and logged-off lands. In some instances there is pioneer work to be done, as for instance on the logged-off tracts. But with some labor devoted to clearing the land of the small growth, it can be cultivated without removing the large stumps.
The land in the Carey Act projects and in the irrigated sections will have to be leveled, and the dryfarming tracts will need some preparation. The expenditure of labor in any instance, however, is trivial in comparison with returns--trivial to the man willing to work industriously for a few years, with the assurance that a competence awaits him as a reward. The Northwest is not a place for drones. There is no invitation sent to such. A little capital in cash and an abundant reserve of energy means home and comfort and independence to the man who will do things.
The field is inviting. The commercial organizations and the transportation companies are endeavoring to get settlers on the unoccupied lands, and are also trying to induce holders of large tracts to subdivide them and put them on the market. The men who are wanted are those who will engage in cultivating tracts of not more than one hundred and sixty acres. In this land of abundant yield ten acres constitutes a farm, so that a quarter section will give ample scope to any man.
Under present conditions, the farms are not cultivated as they should be. There is too much idle land. There is absence of crop rotation. There is lack of sufficient labor to produce enough for home needs.
The tide of immigration is flowing, this way. The people of the Old World are looking for homes in the New. There are thousands of homeseekers in the United States who are undecided where to locate. They will be wise to give more thought to the Pacific Northwest, and to take advantage of the magnificent opportunities it affords for home-making and the enjoyment of life in a region possessing such advanages.
Legislation in the interest of the farmer has just been enacted in Oregon. The agricultural college is to take its work to the farm. Scientific farming is to be taught. Practical men will impart instruction, and there is anxiety for knowledge on the part of the land-owner. Demonstration trains, agriculturists in the employ of the railroads, literature treating of every occupation on the land are at the command of the farming communities.
The states of the Northwest offer exceptional advantages, and in telling of these the people now here ask nothing other than honest investigation as to the merits of what is to be had. The man who is in search of a location for a home will be wise if he devote some time to looking over the field and make thorough inquiry regarding the character of the soil, the extent of its productivity, the demand for what can be grown, the distance to market, the transportation facilities, the weather, the church, school, and fraternal privileges.
This country will stand inspection. Honest investigation will disclose the fact that it is not over-rated, but that its excellence is underestimated in the literature descriptive of it and the assertions made by tbose who speak of it.