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Skagit River Journal

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Agriculture in Skagit County
By J.O. Rudene, Skagit County representative
to Washington Legislature

This is Maplehurst, J.O. Rudene's farm on the north slope of Pleasant Ridge. Courtesy of The Coast magazine, December 1908.

The Coast magazine, December 1908, p. 367
      Skagit county has the reputation of raising more oats and hay to the acre than any other place in the United States. Skagit county is new yet, and has much in its future for development.
      On May 9, 1876, when the writer landed at LaConner there were but very few farms. A few settlers had opened up some farms on Swinomish flats, northeast and east of LaConner. It took time and much hard labor and money to get the land in cultivation; it had to be diked to keep the tide out; it had to be drained to get the surface water off, in order to grow crops.
      In 1880 the first beginning was made to dike up along the bank of Skagit river to keep it from overflowing its banks and thereby enhancing the value of the valleys adjoining on both sides. This work has been enlarged until now a big levee is to be found all along the river on both sides for miles, which works to perfect satisfaction.

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      Then came the clearing of the land, as the greatest portion had brush and trees on. Swinomish flats, which is now known as LaConner valley, and part of Samish valley near Edison had salt water grass instead of brush. The clearing has gone on at a rapid rate, and is still going faster. Nowadays the stumps are blown up with powder, then pulled together by steam power and piled up in big stacks. Forty or eighty acres are cleared in a little while and made ready for oats, potatoes, barley, wheat or hay. Skagit county has also a large amount of timber region and mineral resources in its lofty mountains.
      Now after the land is diked, cleared and drained comes the production of crops. Oats are grown from 75 to 150 bushels per acre, hay three to five tons per acre, barley yields from 75 to 100 bushels per acre, but it is not grown very much here as oats pay better. In the upper Skagit river valley corn grows as high as 12 feet, timothy as high as 5 to 6 feet, and for vegetables the Skagit country can't be beat in the way of raising large crops.
      Stock raising has become a great thing. More so since the two big condenseries started at Mt. Vernon. Good milch cows are in demand any time, and the county is filled up with good pure milk stock and the farmers are doing well. The production of milk prevails among the small farmers with 10, 20 or 40 acre farms. The larger farms are devoting their attention to agriculture and fancy horse raising. In traveling through Skagit county one can see the finest homes of anywhere in the United States good fine houses with all modern improvements, and large, well equipped barns, sheltering nice herds of cattle and horses. Horses are frequently sold at $350 and over; good match tams from $600 to $700 and $800. [Milch] cows range from $60 to $100 and over each.
      Anyone who admires beautiful scenery in the agricultural districts should travel through Skagit county valleys from Edison to LaConner, from LaConner to Mt. Vernon, Burlington and Sedro-Woolley, also over the Skagit delta to Fir. In the month of May when the grain is from six to eight inches high in one sight. The next panorama would be about the first week in September when the grain stands in shocks ready to be threshed. The next scene of interest is the big threshing machines scattered through the valleys, sometimes five or six can be counted and seen from one place. They, as a rule, thresh from 1,000 to 1,800 sacks per day of ten hours an average of about 1,400 or 1,500. To many it would be an interesting and novel scene.
      Many farmers sold their oats this year before it was threshed at from $25 to $27.50 per ton, and there was plenty of buyers. The oats were cleaned up very fast, and the farmers have a good market in Skagit county for all their products. I know of no better place on the west side of the Cascade mountains to locate than in the rich valleys of Skagit county. It affords great opportunity as yet to newcomers who want good farm homes.

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Story posted Aug. 27, 2011
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This article originally appeared in Issue 55 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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