The Washington Apple
Orchards and the Development of Industrial Agriculture
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
Washington’s success in producing apples was not a happy accident of nature, according to Van Lanen. Apples are not native to Washington, any more than potatoes are to Idaho or peaches to Georgia. In fact, Washington apple farmers were late to the game, lagging their eastern competitors. The author outlines the numerous challenges early Washington entrepreneurs faced in such areas as irrigation, transportation, and labor. Eventually, with crucial help from railroads, Washington farmers transformed themselves into “growers” by embracing new technologies and marketing strategies. By the 1920s, the state’s growers managed not only to innovate the industry but to dominate it.
Industrial agriculture has its fair share of problems involving the environment, consumers, and growers themselves. In the quest to create the perfect apple, early growers did not question the long-term environmental effects of chemical sprays. Since the late twentieth century, consumers have increasingly questioned the environmental safety of industrial apple production. Today, as this book reveals, the apple industry continues to evolve in response to shifting consumer demands and accelerating climate change. Yet, through it all, the Washington apple maintains its iconic status as Washington’s most valuable agricultural crop.
“When you bite into a Washington apple, you’re getting a taste of history. Amanda Van Lanen has done an admirable job of harvesting that history, showing us how Washington’s most iconic fruit has been picked, packed, marketed—and industrialized to its core.”—Douglas Cazaux Sackman, author of Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden
“Van Lanen shows in convincing detail that the famous Washington apple was no accident of nature. It was a distinctly human creation, dependent on the confluence of diverse historical factors, all of which are explored in The Washington Apple. The ubiquitous grocery-store apple, as it turns out, is a complicated, fragile thing.”—William Thomas Okie, author of The Georgia Peach: Culture, Agriculture, and Environment in the American South