Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/223

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213
THE FRUIT INDUSTRY IN CALIFORNIA.

the present output can be indefinitely increased. It is believed by the best horticultural authorities that fruit, in various forms, will become more and more a great food staple, used by the masses of the people, and that new markets for the enormous output can be developed from time to time in the United States and in Europe. Like wheat, a staple, fruit in the future will not make fortunes nor "pay for a ranch in one year," but will give safe, steady returns upon the labor and capital invested.

The extensive area that might be devoted to fruit culture, if the demand justified such a use, can be seen by the following figures: San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, and Los Angeles Counties, all noted for their semitropic fruits, contain 20,913,000 acres, or in round numbers one fourth the area of the State. Fresno, Kern, and Tulare, the great irrigated counties of the San Joaquin Valley, famous for their vineyards and deciduous fruit orchards, contain 14,737,000 acres. The rich and beautiful fruit counties of Alameda, Butte, Placer, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, and Ventura, added to the above, bring the total area to nearly 50,000,000 acres. It need not be supposed that all these immense districts can be cultivated. There are deserts and barren mountains, as well as fertile valleys, plains, and hillsides. But if only one third of the area of these counties is capable of being cultivated, and if only one third of the cultivated acreage is used for fruits, these counties alone can produce, when their orchards are in full bearing, twenty times as much fruit as the present entire yield of the State. The future of the fruit industry of California depends upon the growth of the demand for fruit products. All the other conditions are favorable for the development of the business, but the problem of the possible demand can only be solved by continuing to plant trees, gather fruit, and send it to the markets of the world.

The picturesque side of California fruit-growing is very attractive and must long remain so. Just now everything is in the creative stage: vineyards and orchards are being extended along the valleys and up the slopes; the cabins of pioneers are giving place to modern cottages and stately dwellings; villages are fast becoming towns; and towns are rising to the rank of cities. Only about the old missions can one find orchards that deserve to be called venerable, as measured by European standards. Take out a few old trees of olive, fig, orange, and pear, and all that is left are less than forty years old.

Blossoming springtime in these great orchards is charming, as almonds, apricots, peaches, and all the rest of the deciduous fruit trees come into flower over square miles. The very roadsides are sometimes covered with drifts of petals blown from the overhanging boughs. Loquats ripen and are fit to market almost