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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"


Chapter  8

Fruits and Berries

(-as transcribed from pages 43 - 48)

Prof. Frederic Cranefield, secretary of the Wisconsin State Horticultural Society at Madison said in an interview regarding the possibilities of Wisconsin as a fruit raising state:  "What about Wisconsin?  Wisconsin is a good fruit state; quite as good as any other state and far better than many.  Give the right kind of a man the right kind of land -- we have millions of acres of it in Wisconsin -- the right kinds of fruits and as much money may be made in fruit raising in Wisconsin as in any other place in the United States.  Don't go west, young man!  Stay at home and grow up with the country.  Even if you have only a little money, good horse sense, plenty of ambition, a stout heart, hardened muscles and a clever wife stay in Wisconsin -- we need you.

"With a capital of $5,000 a splendid fruit farm may be developed in Wisconsin that will yield in ten years an annual income equal to the original investment.  If this sum is not available $2,000 will answer, and if that is too much $1,000 and fair credit will place a beginning on a safe business foundation.  A young man full of energy without a dollar can make a start by working for others nd learning the industry, and before middle age own a business that will yield him a competent income for the rest of his days.  We have men in Wisconsin who have done it.

"After making a thorough research and scientific study of the soil and climate of Wisconsin we are sure of our facts when we made the statement that these conditions are as favorable for the raising of small fruits, apples and cherries on a commercial or market basis as in Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, or any other central or western state.

"In many respects, as markets, high color of fruit and freedom from frost, the conditions are more favorable than in any of the states named.  Taking into consideration the amount of capital required, the raising of apples or cherries in Wisconsin is as profitable as in any other state east or west.  To illustrate this statement I will call attention to one upper Wisconsin county in particular.  After ten years of careful observation I am well satisfied that Door county offers exceptional opportunities for fruit growing, particularly for the raising of sour cherries and apples. After a careful investigation of the returns from fruit growing in different parts of the United States I am well convinced that the net profits earned by several of the cherry orchards in the vicinity of Sturgeon Bay during the past ten years are greater than can be shown by any other areas of similar extent devoted to fruits of any kind anywhere in the United States.

"Land can be bought in Wisconsin, an orchard planted and brought to profitable bearing age for one-fourth to one-half the price asked for western irrigated orchard tracts. The cost of transportation from Oregon to New York on a carload of apples is about the same as ten acres of good fruit land in Wisconsin.

"Another thing, the Wisconsin fruit grower is within easy reach of one-third of the entire population of the United States. Only a few hundred carloads of strawberries of 300 bushels each are shipped out of Wisconsin each year, just about enough to make one good shortcake for Chicago. Strawberries bear one year after planting and yield 4,000 to 6,000 quarts per acre. No state in the Union can produce better strawberries than Wisconsin or furnish cheaper land adapted to their growth.

"Raspberries, blackberries, currants and gooseberries all thrive in every part of the state and are money makers. Two to four hundred dollars an acre may be made from berries. Grapes are raised in the southern counties and always bring a good price on local markets. A good crop of Concord or Moore's Early will bring $250 an acre. Wisconsin is pre-eminently an apple state. In size, color, quality and productiveness Wisconsin, Duchess, Wealthy and McMahan cannot be equaled. Early apples always find a ready market at good prices, and the money is in the grower's pocket long before the winter apples of other states are harvested, and with no storage charges to pay.

"A ten-year apple orchard, if properly handled, will yield an annual average income of $250 to $300 per acre. We have records of $1,400 per acre for a single crop. Where?  Almost anywhere in the state. There are but few sections in Wisconsin wholly unsuited to fruit raising, in fact, berries and all small fruits may be grown successfully in any county in the state. Concerning apples and cherries, certain sections are much better than others. This is true of other crops and of fruits in every other state. Fruit raising anywhere is not unlike any other business enterprise. Capital, common sense, energy, determination and close application to details are all quite as essential in fruit raising as in any other commercial enterprise.  It is the "Man behind the tree that counts."

Apple Industry

A great many years ago attempts were made in some portions of the county to raise apples with some measure of success, but the farmers of that period did not have the advantage which those of this day have in the benefit of scientific learning and instruction from the agricultural college in connection with the university, which has investigated all sorts of subjects which are related to agriculture in any way, and a great deal of attention has been paid to the subject of apple raising, and as to whether or not the soil and climate conditions in this part of the state will permit of apples being raised on a large scale.  In the earlier days alluded to, occasionally was found a small orchard which was planted by some farmer and just allowed to grow without any particular attention, except that in some instances the science of grafting was gone into when, perhaps, some man who had been familiar with the growing of apples in some eastern state knew the method of grafting apple trees; but in no locality in the county was a determined effort made to raise apples as a commercial proposition, although many varieties were in fact raised of good quality and flavor, but with the lack of attention these little orchards gradually went into decay and the trees died off, more for the want of proper care and attention than on account of any conditions in the soil or climate.

With the awakening all along the line in agricultural subjects has come a movement in this county in the last few years to experiment with the growing of apple orchards, and with the great assistance which has been rendered by the agricultural department of the university, and also the officials of the State Horticultural Society, we are able in this chapter to record the result of experiments which prove beyond any question that within the limits of Eau Claire county there is just as good fruit lands as can be found anywhere in the United States for the raising of certain varieties of apples.  For the year 1912 there were two hundred and twenty acres of orchard in the county, containing 12,043 growing apple trees, which produced 10,300 bushels of apples.

To illustrate what may be accomplished in the raising of fruit in Wisconsin we quote from statistics which show what one man did in one of the nearby counties, that of Monroe:

"If anything else was needed to establish beyond any question that apple growing in this part of Wisconsin can be successfully accomplished, and not only apples, but grapes, plums and cherries, it has been most conclusively furnished in the results accomplished by J. W. Leverich at his fruit farm in the town of Angelo, Monroe county. Mr. Leverich, who now is acknowledged one of the authorities on small fruits, started in 1904 an experimental orchard of five acres, which he planted in May of that year. In order to demonstrate to his own satisfaction whether these fruits, apples, grapes and cherries could be successfully raised if handled scientifically, his trees were selected with the greatest care and planted upon a piece of land which was carefully selected for the purpose, and his long experience in small fruit raising gave him the knowledge necessary to select 'the particular land which he did for this orchard. The tract is protected on the north and west by growing timber from the winds; to the south and east are hills which protect the trees from wind blowing from that direction. There are sixteen rows of fruit trees and two rows of grapes. The trees are set twenty-two in a row, and the two rows of grapes about four hundred feet in length each, in which there are seven distinct varieties.

"At the time of setting this five-acre tract into an orchard in the spring of 1904, Mr. Leverich placed between the rows of trees either raspberries, red raspberries or blackberry brush.  These berry brush have been thoroughly cultivated and cared for, as the trees and vines of the orchard were, and as a consequence there has been a crop of berries each year commencing with 1905. In 1906 the first returns from the orchard propel were secured, being ten baskets of grapes. The plum trees commenced bearing in 1907, and the apples in 1908, while the first cherries were secured in 1911, and it is the opinion of Mr. Leverich that this locality in the town of Angelo is not adapted to the culture of cherries. But his experiment has demonstrated beyond a doubt that the valley soil of Monroe, county, as well as the ridges, is suitable and just as well adapted naturally for the culture of fruits as the ridge lands. It only needs the intelligence, industry and perseverance, which are, of course, all necessary in an industry of this character to put into a paying proposition an orchard bearing apples, plums and grapes. During the fall season of 1911 Mr. Leverich exhibited in one or two store windows in the city of Sparta baskets containing the varieties of fruit and grapes raised in this orchard, and they made a tempting picture indeed. We have here the record which was kept by him from the time beginning with the planting of the orchard up until the market of 1911, showing in detail the number of baskets, cases or bushels, as the case may be, of fruit which was raised upon this five-acre tract of land from May, 1904, up to and including the crop of 1911, giving the total amount realized upon the entire tract:

Blackberries

"1905, 24 cases, $1.19 per case, $28.56; 1906, 152 cases, $1.47 per case, $223.44; 1907, 207 cases, $1.67 per case, $405.69; 1908, 288 cases, $1.59 per case, $557.92; 1909, 239 cases, $1.54 per case, $368.06; 1910, 124 cases, $1.93 per case, $239.32; 1911, 155 cases, $1.64 per case, $254.20.  Total, 1,190 cases; total, $2,231.86.

Black Raspberries

"1905, 54 cases, $1.21 per case, $65.34; 1906, 421 cases, $1.46 per case, $614.66; 1907, 305 cases, $1.60 per case, $488; 1908, 235 cases, $1.89 per case, $445.25; 1909, 145 cases, $2.05 per case, $297.25; 1910, 76 cases, $1.95 per case, $148.20; 1911, 111 cases, $1.56 per cases, $173.16.  Total, 1,342 cases; total, $2,231.86.

Red Raspberries

"1905, 10 cases, $1.21 per case, $12.10; 1906, 154 cases, $1.47 per case, $2226.38; 1907, 125 cases, $1.68 per case, $200; 1908, 215 cases, $1.75 per case, $376.25; 1909, 54 cases, $1.85 per case, $99.90; 1910, 10 cases, $1.98 per case, $19.80. Total, 568 cases; total, $934.43.

Grapes

"1906, 10 baskets; 1907, 110 baskets; 1908, 200 baskets; 1909, 20 baskets; 1910, 10 baskets; 1911, 175 baskets.  Total, 505 baskets, at 25 cents per basket, $126.25.

"Cherries - 20 cases, $1.50 per case, $30.

"Apples - 1908, 5 bushels; 1909, 10 bushels; 1911, 75 bushels.  Total, 90 bushels, at 75 cents per bushel, $67.50.

"Plums - 1907, 5 cases; 1908, 30 cases; 1909, 50 cases; 1911, 130 cases.  Total, 215 cases, $1.25 per case, $268.75.  Plants sold, $500.  Grand total, $6,235.98."

These figures are for cases of twenty-four pints each of blackberries and black and red raspberries, and sixteen quarts of plums and cherries.

The conditions of Monroe county are not much different from those of Eau Claire, the soil with few exceptions is much the same, except that in places, if anything, Monroe county has more sand. The farm from which the above figures were obtained is located in a valley where the soil is largely composed of sand. In Eau Claire county for many years has been raised small fruit, especially berries, but it is not until recently that apples have been raised in any quantities. In 1912 there were eighty-three acres given to the strawberry plant, from which 3,626 bushels of berries were gathered, and the same year 1,222 bushels of raspberries were produced from forty-seven acres and 1,030 bushels of blackberries were gathered from twenty-eight acres. Six acres set to currant bushes yielded one hundred and thirty bushels, and the grapes produced amounted to eleven bushels, and from three acres one hundred bushels of cranberries were marketed.

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