An Illustrated History of the State of Idaho
By Lewis Publishing Company, 1899, Page 304-306
An advancement in fruit-growing has already been made, in the Payette valley that places it among the foremost in the state and surrounding country. It is past the experimental stage. N. A. Jacobsen shipped the first solid car of fruit— prunes—from Payette in 1891. since which time shipments have increased, until last season they amounted to twenty-five car loads of green fruit, twenty-three car loads of melons: and by express, 3,537 crates of berries and 1,689 crates of cantaloupes. In addition there have been from time to time shipped dried fruits. There are about six hundred acres of tree fruits now in bearing, an acreage that will be doubled within the next two years, and should not even another tree be planted there will within the next five years two thousand and five hundred acres come to bearing.
There is little danger, however, of planting ceasing. An average yield of such fruits as prunes and apples is a car load to an acre, and the average number of hands ordinarily required to care for it during the harvesting season is five per acre.
The above figures give an idea as to the point whither the industry is tending. The acreage of berries is large and in many instances the growing of them has been more profitable than of tree fruits. The production of melons is assuming some magnitude, and the acreage of them the coming season will reach two hundred and fifty.
The following is a list of the fruits that are grown in the valley with profit: Apples, prunes, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, quinces, cherries, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, dewberries, blackberries, currants, gooseberries and ground-cherries. Plantings of walnuts, chestnuts, pecans, almonds and English walnuts are also being made, and the few nut trees in bearing have shown big and profitable yields.
The right of the apple to the title of the "king of fruits" was established early in the history of man. It has successfully defended that title against all challengers ever since; and while the apple is the "king of fruits" the "king of apples" grows in the Payette valley. It is of large size, fancy flavor, colored so highly that generally the same apple grown by irrigation and perpetual sunshine here is unrecognizable beside the one grown in the east, and is of a weight and keeping-quality not excelled. Its early productiveness is a feature of its value. One-year-old nursery stock will bear fruit the fourth year from planting, will yield a partial crop the fifth, a large crop the sixth and seventh, and from the eighth to tenth come to maturity. The number of apples that a tree will put forth is an increasing marvel as one year succeeds another.
From two to three boxes—forty pounds to the box—of marketable fruit off a five-year-old tree to twenty boxes off one from seven to ten years old are ordinary figures, although the standard estimate of first-class fruit from trees aged seven and upward is ten boxes. Taking the latter as a basis, there being generally planted fifty trees to the acre, the average yield year in and year out may be safely placed at five hundred boxes per acre— an even car load. Last season these apples sold in the Chicago and New York markets for from two to four dollars per box, if they were Jonathans, and from one to three dollars a less fancy varieties.
"Incredible as it may seem, Idaho has the best show of prunes in the general exhibit" (at the World's Fair)—San Francisco Examiner, May 10, 1893.
Coming as this does from the heart of California it is generous praise from a worsted competitor. The prunes in this exhibit were from southwestern Idaho, some of them from the Payette valley. If the apple is the "king of fruits," the prune is the "royal consort." The state engineer of the state of Idaho places the average yield of prunes in Canyon county, of which the Payette valley forms a considerable part, at twenty-five thousand pounds to the acre. Although there are a number of prune-growers in the Payette who annually exceed these figures, and there are some whose trees are yet in the first years of bearing, who equal them, they are sufficient for the purpose of illustration and are an official statement capable of proof. The average number of trees to an acre is about one hundred, making the yield of each tree two hundred and fifty pounds.
Many of the Payette valley growers sold their product in the green state, some for three-quarters of a cent per pound on the trees, and others for one cent delivered at the station in Payette. Gross proceeds of two hundred and fifty dollars per acre leave a wide margin for the expense of care and picking. Others have shipped to eastern markets with large profits, and some have made long shipments at a loss. As yet the only practical way of handling this crop, by evaporation, has not been adopted to any extent. The need of it is felt, however, and there are at least two projects on foot looking to the establishment of evaporating plants. The particular excellence of the Idaho prune is in its size, flavor and large percentage of sugar. In the Payette valley there is no fear of wet weather to give it an excess of water, making it dry, light or poor, or to develop the fungus diseases that sometimes cause disaster in Oregon.
The prune has become a staple in the market and where the properly cured and packed Idaho product has been offered it has commanded a price often above that of California. Prune trees begin bearing the third year from planting and yield largely the fourth and fifth.
There are many residents of the Payette valley who contend that the pear is the fruit to grow for profit. Certain it is that it reaches a size, lusciousness and carrying quality which make it as marketable as it is in any country. An average acre's yield according to the state engineer's estimate, is eighteen thousand pounds. On market pears are generally quoted at from two to four cents, with even higher figures for the fancy article attractively packed. So far none of the pear orchards in the valley have suffered seriously from blight,—that universal enemy of the pear tree, the cause of which is yet a matter of speculation among pomologists and bacteriologists. Like other fruits the pear bears early, the third year generally furnishing a crop.
The quality and productiveness of these fruits is such that many orchardists are planting them extensively. Some question their ability to stand the climate, but the Payette valley furnishes peaches when they are a failure in every section about here, and none of the bearing apricot orchards have gone a season uncroppea. Peaches yield from eighteen to twenty thousand pounds to the acre and always command a good price. The yield of apricots is about the same. Both begin bearing the second year. They, too, await the advent of the evaporator that their entire value may be utilized.
Cherries, plums, quinces, nectarines and other tree fruits all bear in like proportion to those stated above and at the same early date, but have not been so extensively planted. Their acreage will, doubtless, be much less than of the staple fruits, but they will be grown at a profit and form a considerable part of the total volume of business.
The staple small fruits grown commercially are the strawberry and black raspberry. Both yield profusely and have that same carrying quality that makes Idaho's tree fruits famous. Already large shipments of strawberries are being made, some of them going to points east of Chicago, and the profits secured in some instances seem almost fabulous. A prominent nurseryman of Payette sells his berries on the vine for two hundred and fifty dollars per acre, the buyer picking and packing. The black-cap is grown chiefly for drying, yielding at a conservative estimate from one thousand to one thousand and five hundred pounds of the dried fruit to the acre. In the season of 1897 the market prices were from ten to fifteen cents. While every fruit-grower and rancher has nearly all the other small fruits and grapes on his place in quantities sufficient for home consumption, no extensive effort to utilize them commercially has yet been made, although there is no reason why there should not be.
The most popular of fruits in its season is the melon, particularly the cantaloupe. It is the ne plus ultra of the breakfast table and the facile princeps of all desserts. It is said of the cantaloupe that it is the one fruit of which enough cannot be had; and the smiling watermelon is synonymous with a tickled palate. Both these melons grow to a state of high perfection here. The sandy soil on the lower lands is just what they require for an early and rapid growth. Last year twenty-three car loads and thousands of crates were shipped. The standard for melons in recent years has been, by common consent, the melon grown at Rocky Ford, Colorado. Payette valley melons shipped to Denver have elicited the following comment from the G. G. Liebhardt Commission Company, under date of January 5, 1898: "We know of no other place, outside of Rocky Ford, where as good melons are raised as we have seen from your point.
The trouble with all cantaloupes raised in the east is that they are just like a turnip: there is no taste to them. The only way they can eat them is to put sugar on them; but the beauty of the Rocky Ford melons, and also the melons at your place, is that thev are sweet. They do not require any artificial sweetening."
One incalculable advantage that the Payette valley melons have is that they are from two to three weeks ahead of the Rocky Ford. The first shipments here in 1897 were on July 26.
Some idea of yields and profits may be gained from the experience of R. L. Jimerson, who certifies to the fact that in 1897 from two acres of ground, he delivered at the Payette station eight hundred and twenty-seven crates of cantaloupes that netted him $627.32. It does not necessarily follow that all can come and do likewise, but what man has done man may do. For the purpose of advancing this industry there has recently been incorporated a company styled the Payette Valley Melon Growers' Association, with a capital stock of three thousand dollars.
APIARIES. (Page 310)
The busy bee is another important and profitable prop to the fruit business. Many berries and tree fruits have need to be fertilized from some other of the same family, and the bee is a most potent agent in this work. Every orchard should have its apiary. The country affords every possible inducement for the bee to make honey. Three and four times a season the alfalfa and clover blossom give a harvest that yields a superior product. Alfalfa honey is a special brand in the west. The countless fruit blossoms are enough to almost set the drones at work, and even the sage-brush puts forth blossoms in the spring that the bee seeks. The country, since the introduction of bees, has become filled with wild swarms that have escaped from the home hives through the carelessness of keepers. They seek lodgment in buildings, groves and out of the way places, and as much as fifty to one hundred pounds of honey has frequently been taken from these nomads at the end of the season.