The Hood River Glacier, Hood River, OR., August 2, 1901, page 2


     The following article appeared in the Practical Fruit Grower, Springfield, Mo., and was written by Henry T. Williams, an extensive fruit grower in Arkansas and Colorado, who has been sojourning in our valley for the past three months:
     Wherever one goes in the Northwest at the proper time of the year, in spring, he will find in all the stores of every neighborhood one sign: "Hood River Strawberries." Underneath that sign are gathered in crates some of the most tempting sights in beautiful strawberries that a person ever beholds. In little square boxes, holding just about a pound each, or less than a quart, are arranged in regular rows, just like apples, face side up, large, handsome, firm dark red berries, of most inviting appearance. All crates are packed alike, all boxes faced, all berries of the same color, one variety only -- everywhere alike, every day, all the season. That sign wherever displayed settles the fate of every strawberry from every other part of the country. No other berry can be sold with flavor but this one variety, and from but one place -- the true home of its adoption -- Hood River, Oregon.
     There are certain peculiar merits connected with this berry -- and the locality where raised -- which makes it unlike any other variety, so exceedingly difficult of imitation or of competition that it constitutes a chapter in horticulture very remarkable. This variety is called the Clark's Seedling. It has been tried in other places, west and east, in other soils and other climates, but it has none of the characteristics it possesses when grown here. The same variety is not like itself when removed from here to any other section.
     Here it is a large, firm berry, solid, deep red colored, flesh to the center, so firm and its skin so close and tough that it will carry for days in open crates without any change or variation, and so solid in its character that when canned it retains its color, form, solidity and flavor so perfectly that it can be taken from the cans and placed on the table in nearly the same perfect appearance it has when gathered fresh; so it becomes the ideal favorite of households for canning and preserving; and home canned berries can be called upon all the year for either strawberries and cream, short cake or any other of the uses that strawberries have. In canning it retains its firmness, not breaking the skin, the berry does not dissolve into mush nor the juice leave the fruit and spread all through the can. However, the uses and the demand for it fresh for the table are such that not enough are raised to meet the demand, and while it lasts no competition is able to displace it and none fills its place. It seems to have found a place of its own and fills it to perfection.
     The profits from its culture are most encouraging. I have never seen strawberry fields on the face of the earth cultivated with such care and attention as the best fields receive here. Straight rows are run in one direction and as straight ones across them in another, and at the intersection a plant is set. As much care is used in putting them out as if it was an orchard, and if you stand in any position you will find the plants in rows all ways, just like trees are placed, in the same beautiful regularity. These rows are kept constantly cultivated -- one way by horse cultivators in rows 2½ feet apart, the other way by hand cultivators, rows 15 to 18 inches apart. All plants are kept in hills. No runners are allowed to form. While picking the pickers are instructed to pinch every runner off. After the crop is gathered the grower has a large circular cutter with a sharp edge and long handle, which he uses frequently, going up and down the rows for which he lifts and sets down forcibly over every plant and cuts off all runners starting around. The hills are preserved for four, five or even six years but usually four years is considered the limit of profitable growth. The number of plants or hills acre is usually 15,000 to 17,000.
     All growers use water for irrigation. Constant cultivation and irrigation is kept up until the time for picking comes, but irrigation is not expensive and does not make the berries soft. When well cultivated the hills average one box or pound each, which, if that proportion were kept up over a field, would be 600 crates of 24 boxes each per acre. In practice the best yields are 300 crates, or a trifle over the best places, and the common average is 150 crates per acre.
     The picking is done by Indians, who come here in large numbers from nearby reservations, and do the picking for 1½ cents per quart. Those who face the berries receive ½ cent per quart. The berries are often very uniform and can be packed in rows in the box, similar to apples, and the top layer is always laid in regular rows. Picking lasts from four to six weeks, owing to differences in elevation where raised. The country is loud and picturesque in color. Every Indian wears a multi-colored blanket and every squaw a bright shawl.
     The honor of having the first berries from Hood River is coveted by many places, but usually Seattle gets the first crate. The price sold at there is usually 50 cents per pound box. The first crate this season brought the grower $12. During the ____ first week growers received a net _____ price of $5 per crate, and the second week $3 per crate. The entire crop of the valley was marketed at a uniform average price of $2 per crate to the grower. Taking these prices and these yields together the returns to the grower average $300 to $600 per acre to the best growers and $150 or more to the rest. Many reports of success have been made it, too numerous to mention. Often one crop has paid for the grower's farm, and all he had first expended returned. A very fine grower received $1,800 from 3¾ acres of land.
     The crop for the season was 40,000 crates, or about 60 car loads, and the net returns were $75, 000 to the cultivators. These returns were received for about 400 acres of land, that being the extreme estimate of the number in cultivation.
     The demand exceeded that supply. Markets that wanted them could not be supplied, and had to go without. Commission men who wanted them on commission were told that nothing left this place except when paid for in advance or guaranteed. Dealers who wanted to beat down prices were told that if they were not good to stick by prices first given they would not get any. The dealer had to be good to the grower, or he got no fruit. Never before was the grower king of the market. Orders were turned away. Not enough were raised.
     Land is high. Strawberry land is $75 to $150 per acre. Often this is refused. Most places are small, usually 10 or 15 acres. A single crop pays for a man's land. Many began poor. Their first crop gave them a home.
     What is it that gives this berry its excellence here no one knows. It is unexplained. Whether soil or climate no one can tell. The berry is not the same elsewhere. It carries for distances of 1,000, 2,000 or more miles safely and holds firm to the end. Its flavor equals its reputation. This place is sixty-six miles east of Portland on the O.R. & & N. railway.
     Imagine a beautiful valley, with the grand and beautiful Columbia flowing across its northern end, and through its center another river -- Hood river -- flowing down from Mt. Hood; standing in the center, among farms of fruit and amid the pine groves, you look south and behold one of lofty snow-white peak -- Mount Hood -- but few miles away, and then turning north another lofty snow-white peak - Mt. Adams -- and on either side ranges of lesser height covered with the green verdure of forest pines or firs, and before you farm after farm of fruitfulness and beauty -- and you have a picture of rural delight. It is a combination of rare value, to give pleasure to the eye or the pocket and contribute to the pleasure of a home and comfortable livelihood. This is the home of the Hood River strawberry - thrice blest! and full long its time to last!

©  Jeffrey L. Elmer