By Katherine Ross
Beale Memorial Library has specialized resources on California’s agricultural history, both in our government documents and local history departments. Below is just a sampling of the unique resources available, spanning over 100 years.
On the government documents shelves, we have 150 historical U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers’ Bulletins, from 1913’s “Use of Corn, Kafir, and Cowpeas” to the 1984 “Farm Beef Herd.” Other brief, but informative, agricultural bulletins include USDA’s “Agriculture Information Bulletin on Hop Production” (1961).
From the California Agricultural Experiment Station, the bulletins range from the 1907 “Report of the Plant Pathologist” to the classic 1988 “Soil Survey of Kern County.” And from the California Agricultural Extension Service, we have titles ranging from the 1933 “Developing the Agriculture of Kern County” to the 1972 record of “Wine Grape Varieties in the San Joaquin Valley.” Other intriguing bulletins and circulars center on lesser-known California crops, such as rice, macadamia nuts, red clover and sugar beets.
Over the decades, various compelling topics have challenged farmers, and many are represented in these bulletins and circulars. Examples include: “Nature, Value & Utilization of Alkali Lands” and Tolerance of Alkali” (1906); “Water Requirements of Cotton”; “Studies on Mechanization of Cotton Farming” (1954); “Flax-Management Practices”; “Farm Drainage Methods” (1917); and “Booms, Depressions, & the Farmer” (1948).
The Jack Maguire Local History Room, open in the afternoons, provides a large number of newspaper clippings on agriculture from the 1930s to recent years. It also has clippings on specific crops, such as almonds, cotton, grapes and potatoes. There are 20 clippings folders, subdivided by topic, on the multifaceted agricultural history of migrants in our county, starting from the 1930s Dust Bowl era.
Major agriculture leaders, such as DiGiorgio, Kern County Land Company and Tejon Ranch, have their own files in this room, representing a significant part of Kern County’s agricultural heritage.
Several of our library’s books chronicle agricultural contributions of our county’s diverse community of farmers. The Local History Room gathers these in one place and we have duplicates of some titles, which may be checked out. Some examples: “The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography”; “Allensworth, the Freedom Colony: A California African American Township”; “Epitaph for a Peach” by David Masumoto; and “Three Farms: Making Milk, Meat, and Money from the American Soil,” about the Weisshaar family and Tejon Ranch.
Our agricultural past is worth revisiting and a great deal of it may be found at the Kern County Library. Come by and see!
— Katherine Ross is a reference librarian at the Beale Memorial Library, main branch of the Kern County Library system.