This section is from the book "The Potato: A Compilation of Information from Every Available Source", by Eugene H. Grubb, W. S. Guilford. Also available from Amazon: The Potato: A Compilation Of Information From Every Available Source.
Idaho is one of the newest states in the Union, both in point of history and agricultural development. As in most of the Western States, mining caused the first immigration.
Lewis and Clark went through the Snake River Valley in 1805, but in 1860 the state was inhabited only by the Nez Perces, Palouse, and Coeur d'Alene Indians in the north, and the Blackfoot, Bannock, and Shoshone in the Snake River country.
Irrigation farming is making southern Idaho one of the richest and most famous agricultural sections in the world. The first irrigation was along the small streams where individuals took out ditches to water their small farms and fields. Local consumption took all of the first farmers' produce and more. Even now the people of Idaho import much of their foodstuffs.
The next stage in irrigation was the company or community ditch system, where a few hundred or thousand acres were watered by a number of farmers working together, doing most of the work themselves. All of the work performed in these first two stages of the business was done as cheaply as possible, and comparatively little capital was required.
In the Twin Falls country the first irrigation was along Rock Creek and Goose Creek on the south side; along Wood River above and below Shoshone; on Clover Creek on the north; and from springs in the north side of the Snake River Canon at Blue Lakes and along down the river to the Hagerman Valley. Successful crops of fruit, grain, hay, and vegetables have been raised in these places by pioneer stockmen and miners for forty years.
The great Snake River plains, the most fertile and best drained agricultural section in the state, were undeveloped because millions of dollars was required for large improvements before the settler with ordinary means could find a place.
To I. B. Perrine of Blue Lakes is due the credit for successfully starting the extensive irrigation work in the Twin Falls country. He located the dam at Milner from which water is diverted, and interested capital in the possibilities of the country. J. S. & W. S. Kuhn of Pittsburgh, Pa., have spent and are spending twenty million dollars in developing the possibilities of this agricultural empire. Five years ago sage brush and coyote reigned supreme; now 40,000 people have their homes in the Twin Falls country.
There are 54,000,000 acres of land in Idaho. Of this amount about 2,500,000 are irrigated. Over 450,000 acres are contained in the irrigation projects already built and being built by the Kuhn interests.
At the present time the tracts reclaimed in Idaho by J. S. & W. S. Kuhn of Pittsburgh and their associates include the first, second, and third segregations of the Twin Falls North Side Land & Water Company, embracing 220,000 acres; that of the Twin Falls Salmon River Land & Water Company, embracing 80,000 acres; and that of the Twin Falls Oakley Land & Water Company, with 50,000 acres; also pumping projects covering 100,000 acres.
The achievements of these organizations are among the greatest in the history of irrigation and agriculture.
To develop in the desert one of the richest agricultural districts in the world is to produce wealth for the state and nation, and make it wonderfully fast.
More development per acre is made in five years under these big projects than was the case in the fertile corn belt in thirty. More capital is being used in developing farms now than ever before, and nowhere is this condition more marked than in this section of Idaho.
The water supply of the greater part of the western slope of the Rocky Mountain system is far in excess of the land available for irrigation. There can never be any question of an abundance of water for the irrigation of all of the lands in southern Idaho if it is properly cared for, and never any possible question about those with the first water rights.
By actual test products grown in the irrigated districts of the West have a higher food value than those of any country where conditions are less favorable for crop perfection. Soil, sunshine and moisture control are responsible for this. For instance, the average weight per bushel of the oats grown in the Middle West and East for 1908 and 1909 was twenty-four to twenty-six pounds. In the irrigated Twin Falls country oats weigh thirty-eight to forty-nine pounds per bushel. A legal bushel is thirty-two pounds. Oatmeal manufacturers have found that oats produced by irrigation contain 7 per cent. more meat as compared with hull than any other oats they have milled. Idaho sugar-beets have a high sugar content, and Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson, the father of sugar-beet industry on this continent, has said that it would be possible for Idaho to supply the United States with its sugar. Idaho fruit is high in nutriment and sugar content, because these elements are elaborated by the plant in the presence of sunshine. Its delicious flavor and fine texture are very marked. Meat produced from rich grasses is in turn high in food value.
Potato digging near Twin Falls.
Potatoes near Jerome - junior author in field. Photo taken August 10, 1909