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Connecting Merced Agriculture to Yosemite National Park

Mon, October 30, 2017 9:55 AM to Fri, December 15, 2017 11:00 PM
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In 1926 Highway 140 construction was complete and it connected Merced to Yosemite National Park. During that time Merced’s farming community was facing some serious challenges. Merced County Agent John L. Quail writes in the narrative report for 1926-1927:

Many new settlers have been coming into the County during the past three years. For the most part, these people are entirely unfamiliar with the local climatic conditions and crops. The Irrigation District most recently completed has been settled largely by people who have developed land during a period of high costs... Many of those who have purchased land in the County during the past few years find that with the declining prices of farm products, their mortgages far exceed the sale value of their property. Many foreclosures have been made… This severe economic situation has had a marked influence on the Extension organization and has been a great hindrance to the extension program.

Quail and his fellow Farm Advisors had a potential solution to this challenge: market Merced’s products to Yosemite National Park. As Quail writes in the narrative report for 1926:

As is the case with other farming communities, one of the most serious problems which faces us is the marketing of our products. It is recognized that California’s Chief handicap lies in the great distance necessary to transport material to consuming centers. It is therefore high desirable that all local markets be developed to the utmost.

  Lying immediately adjacent to Merced County is Yosemite National Park which annually entertains many hundreds of visitors. During the past year, with the completion of a new highway, travel into the Valley increased 79%, and a total of 490,000 visitors spent an average of two days each in this area. The markets within the Park are controlled by a corporation to whom the government has given the entire concessions. The market for farm produce in this area has never been encouraged or developed. Even the employees of the Park order much of their material by mail. The visitors bring much of their material with them or pay exorbitant prices while in the Valley. If marketing facilities were improved, in all probability much more produce would be consumed and prices would be greatly reduced for the consumer and increased to the producer.

 

 

Quail then goes on to detail the work the Agricultural Extension Service undertook that year to establish a system to supply California farm products to Yosemite Valley.

It is unclear, without further research, if the Merced farm advisors were successful in marketing their products to Yosemite National Park. This summer, colleagues in the Digital Curation and Scholarship unit digitized annual superintendent reports from Yosemite National Park, and these will be accessible online later this year. Combing through the Cooperative Extension archives and those from Yosemite, scholars may be able to trace historic connections between agriculture in this region and the Park. If you would like to read more of this report or reports from other years please contact me at evallen@ucmerced.edu.