PULLMAN, Wash.— Agriculture is one of the most important industries in the Pacific Northwest. Family wheat farms are one of the largest economic drivers of jobs in eastern Washington, creating approximately 25,000 jobs and a trade surplus for the state. Oregon’s thriving $5.3 billion agricultural trade ranks first nationally in production of fifteen different commodities, including blackberries, hazelnuts, onions, and Christmas trees. In Montana, beef and wheat are the two largest, although many other products contribute to the state’s agriculture, including cherries, sugar beets, and sunflowers. Idaho is known for its seed industry—the state is responsible for over 80% of the sweet corn seed grown worldwide. But it wasn’t always this way. While contemporary farmers in dryland areas raise 65 bushels of wheat on a single acre of land, early records indicate the region’s humble beginnings yielded just fifteen to twenty bushels of the grain per acre.
The newest title from Washington State University Press, Harvest Heritage: Agricultural Origins and Heirloom Crops of the Pacific Northwest, is the result of a collaboration between two longtime friends—professor Richard D. Scheuerman and businessman Alexander C. McGregor—both lifetime residents of the region with strong ties to farming. Their work chronicles the rich history of Pacific Northwest agriculture, from its earliest years in association with the Hudson’s Bay Company, to the development of remarkable hybrid crop strains that have helped propel a green revolution. The narrative stretches across eastern Washington, Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Puget Sound, British Columbia’s Okanogan Valley, much of northern Idaho, and Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.