Book Review:
Harvest Heritage: Agricultural Origins and Heirloom Crops of the Pacific Northwest

  • Posted 5/14/2014
  • Essay 10765
By Richard D. Scheuerman and Alexander C. McGregor
With color plates by John Clement
Paperback, 186 pages
Illustrations, appendix, bibliography, index
Washington State University Press, 2013
ISBN 978-0-87422-316-3

Harvest Heritage is a lovely, thorough volume, full of story, documenting grain production in the Pacific Northwest from pre-contact to the present day. Scheuerman and McGregor's use of gracefully placed excerpts from letters and diaries help readers understand and care about the optimism and tenacity that was -- and is still -- required of those who farm this region. 

The authors begin by going through what many readers will find familiar territory: the early expeditions and settlements of this state's first non-Native explorers and residents -- but with the fascinating additional information of each group's agricultural experiments and experiences. We learn, for example, that David Thompson grew the Inland Pacific Northwest's first cereal grain (barley) in 1808, and that by 1833, Fort Vancouver's harvest of wheat, peas, barley, oats, and buckwheat amounted to thousands of bushels. This is history, with emphasis on story, through the lens of agriculture, and it is fresh and captivating. The history of the region's early gristmills, agricultural experiments, and grain commodity industry are also explored. 

Harvest Heritage also recounts the origin of the Pacific Northwest's fruit and orchard industries.  Grafted apple, pear, plum, and cherry trees brought to Oregon Territory from Iowa by the Henderson Lewelling family were used to establish the region's first grafted stock nursery.  Grafts from this stock became the means by which thousands of families throughout the region established home and commercial orchards. Harvest Heritage clearly and succinctly lays out the story of the origin of one of our region's most lucrative industries. The book's later chapters consider irrigation and the "greening" of industrial agriculture. 

Period and contemporary drawings, advertisements, and photographs augment this text. This book will be hugely useful to educators teaching students of all ages, to Pacific Northeasterners interested in knowing more about the origins of the region's agriculture, and to anyone who has ever wished for more context for the "Grown In Washington" sticker on their lunch time apple or pear. Highly recommended. 

By Paula Becker, May 14, 2014

Submitted: 5/14/2014

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