Agriculture to Agribusiness

Triumph of Diversity

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Importance of 1863-1864 drought

Devastating effect on cattle industry

People looked to agriculture as a new industry

A Bonanza in Wheat

The most important California farm product in the late nineteenth century was wheat (1860s-1893). It became important because:

Wheat required little or no irrigation and actually benefited from long dry summers

Farmers knew how to grow it and it was relatively inexpensive to grow

It was a nonperishable crop that could be transported profitably for long distances; therefore it was shipped all over the world as well as to the eastern United States.

From the late 1860s to the early 1890s, grain was produced in vast amounts on the large wheat ranches of the valley.

Economic Effects

An elaborate structure for the marketing of wheat to the world grew up almost overnight.

British and American companies bought wheat in California and sold it on exchanges in England and elsewhere.

Isaac Friedlander, the “Grain King,” and others monopolized the wheat industry

Hugh Glenn, who owned more than 60,000 acres of wheat land, had many dozens of teams of eight horses pulling what was known as the Stockton gang plow.

During the 1870s and 1880s, California wheat growing developed into the most mechanized and structured form of agriculture in the world and became the state’s major export industry

New Inventions:

First ever Steam powered tractors used in the San Joaquin Valley (1886)

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End of the Wheat Bonanza

Competition: New wheat farms started producing on the Great Plains and in Europe, Asia, and Australia

Overproduction glutted world markets and wheat prices plummeted.

Soil depletion: The dry farming of wheat had the peculiar disadvantages of a one-crop agricultural economy and year after year of such farming inevitably depleted the soil and eventually wheat farming was displaced by other more profitable crops

Irrigation: The spread of irrigation also helped to make other crops more profitable and by 1890 sugar-beet production led by Claus Spreckels in Watsonville-Salinas area and the Oxnard brothers in southern California was a dominant crop.

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Fruit and Specialty-Crop Farming: the benefits of diversity

Specialty crops were grown – For example, after 1870, citrus, rice, winter vegetables, melons, and cotton.

Fragile, perishable, and unfamiliar to American farmers, the new crops needed specific climates, soils, and handling.

In particular they required more water than nature provided.

Farming Organizations

Sponsor innovation

Combat disease and pests

Disseminate information

Lobby government

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Fruit and Specialty Crop Farming (cont.)

California State Agricultural Society 1854

Specialized organizations

Livestock

Wine grapes: began with the missions

By 1900, 80% of the USA wine production came from California (R&B 204)

Deciduous fruit

Oranges

The “Riverside Navel” orange

Raisins

Nuts

Sunkist (1893) association of citrus growers

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