This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
THE abundance of fruit in Missouri and Kansas is a constant topic of conversation and admiration by as all. In St. Louis, just as we were leaving, we were treated to luscious grapes and peaches as early as the 24th of July; and pears were in abundance on every fruit stand at strangely low prices. For instance, grapes were sold as low as 2½ cents per lb.; pears (Bartlett), at (1 per bushel; peaches, 50 cents to $1 per basket. The entire country around St. Louis, and particulary toward Kirkwood, is a succession of groves and vineyards, and the trees appear to hang loaded with unusual supplies of fruit. I notice that the trees bear at a very young age, fully one-half earlier than with our growers at the East. Apple trees we would at home consider too small, here are yielding a peck to a bushel to every tree, and in form and color such glorious beauties as would make a New York marketman smile. About ten miles out on the Pacific railroad, State of Missouri, Mr. Mason has a vineyard of twenty-five acres devoted almost entirely to culture for wine purposes. His crops will average about 12,000 lbs. per acre, or six tons.
At the present low prices of grapes, if sold in bulk, he would average but 8 to 5 cents per lb., or $360 to $600 per acre, but very sagaciously he adopts another method altogether; with proper apparatus he converts all his fruit into wine, makes a good sherry, packs it in cases, and sells it at $9 per case. His six tons of grapes will yield him 600 gallons, worth $4 per gallon or $2,400 per acre. These figures of profit stagger us, for we have nothing to compare with them in the East, and we would doubt, them were not the facts before us, and account books to prove sales.
In general the soil and climate of Missouri are wonderfully congenial to the production of all classes of fruit. Such peaches as we saw would, both in size and beauty of color, more than excel anything we ever knew from Delaware, while the grapes are noted all for their size and sweetness. The farther westward we traveled, the more frequent appeared the fruit orchards; and at Hermann, situated upon the banks of the Missouri river, we appeared to have reached the most thriving fruit center.
Fruit boys surrounded us on every hand at the station, and offered their peaches at ridiculously low prices, two and three for a cent; at this price, we emptied more than one boy's basket. Beyond Hermann we noticed occasional orchards, but not as old nor as frequent in number as near St. Louis. The summers of Missouri are constantly warm, with slight change of temperature throughout the growing season ; and fruits of every description are developed in the most extraordinary manner. The grape is most noticeable for its luxuriance, and vineyards are portions of every farm, all devoted principally to wine making. I understand that prices are now very low. Col. Col man, who has a large fruit farm, the crops of which he expected would yield him $30,000, will now yield him but $10,000 in consequence of low prices.