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[COMMUNITY] Chinese American Contributions to Development of U.S. (Agriculture)

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  • madchinaman
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2005

      1. Introduction
      2. Background
      3. Chinese became part of the California farmers
      4. How were the Chinese Farmers Important:

      Supplied valuable cheap labor
      Introduced and experienced new farming techniques
      Introduced and developed new crops/fruits
      Supplied farm products and promoted industry
      Increased farmland acreage and added value to land


      INTRODUCTION: The great valley of California is known as a fabled
      food baskets. It is a great place for farming. But it wasn't worth
      so much until the Chinese came. The Chinese have thousands of years
      experience on farming. So, even they came to America, they still
      continued what they did in their homeland. The Chinese helped to
      develop agriculture. They have had discovered many different kinds
      of fruits. It was a great contribution to American agriculture.The
      Chinese's agriculture helped to grow up United States economic.

      They didn't just develop new kinds of food, they also brought some
      kinds from their own country. At first the farmers in California
      only planted wheat. Later, they grew large quantities of fruits,
      vegetables, and flowers. Some of the food were grew more and sold
      all over the country, such as plums, sugar beets, peanuts,
      chrysanthemums and peas.

      Because chinese farmers contributed their expertise to the infant
      fruit and vegetables agribusiness, they saved California from
      economic disasters that hit the rest of the nation. Often the seeds
      of many fruits and vegetables as from cherries and teas to celery
      and asparagus-made the botanical journey from China to America
      easily. But growing them in here were another matter.

      Villagers or farmers were sometimes brought to the Americans
      specifically for the purpose of planting and growing tea and only
      the Chinese grew it. These farmers contributed not only the seeds
      and the sweat that transformed the deserts of California into a
      pastoral cornucopia, but they contributed their knowledge of
      agricultural science and technology as well.

      BACKGROUND: Back in the history, big pieces of land in the
      Sacramento and San Joanquin valleys were nothing but swamp.
      Tuleland, the term of what it called, was taken from an Indian word
      that means a kind of bulrush that grows in marshy land. The huge
      delta of the two rivers was made up of mucky stuff that was formed
      by river-borne sediment and dead grass and reeds.

      knew that there was rich soil in those swamps. It would take hard
      work and a lot of labors, California had a small population of
      farmers as the Chinese immigrants arrived in the United State, in
      the delta. After many Chinese left gold fields, the farmers hired
      more land to drain the marshlands. Many companies used the same
      system of workers. Chinese foremen hired their own people. They put
      up tents, took care of supplies, and paid each worker $1 a day.


      1) Supplied Valuable Cheap Labor: While most Chinese farm workers
      did not achieve fame, the people of California depended on their
      labor. With the valley land ready for growing crops, farmers needed
      some people to plant, cultivate, and harvest. Again they turned to
      the Chinese. Machinery could handle such of the work on a wheat
      ranch, but hand labor was needed for intensive and specialized fruit
      and vegetable crops. The growers got a double bargain. The Chinese
      were not only forced to work for next to nothing - they proved to be
      extremely capable. "They are the mainstay of the orchardist," said
      the Pacific Rural Press, "The only supply of labor he can depend
      upon. They are pickers and packers of fruit. It is difficult to see
      how our annual fruit crop could be harvested and prepared for market
      without 'Chinaman'."

      By the 1870s, 75% of farmers in California were Chinese. In the
      vineyards, they harvested the grapes, and they dug the underground
      wines cellars. They picked apples, peaches, pears, cherries olives,
      citrus fruited, and cotton. They grew pumpkins celery, asparagus,
      and cabbages.

      Most Chinese worked as field hands. They were employed as field
      pickers, pears, and strawberries. The Pacific Rural Express on
      September 16, 1893, wrote, " It is difficult to see how our..
      Nevertheless, they were often poorly paid for their talent and hard

      2)Introduced and Experienced New Farming Techniques: Actually, the
      Chinese farmers knew more than the American about agriculture. The
      Chinese began to farm before they came to the United State, so it
      was natural for them to look for work in agriculture. Most of the
      American farmer were new to farm. "The Chinese actually taught their
      overloads skills to American farmer how to plant, cultivate, and
      harvest or chard and garden crops," wrote Carey McWilliams, a
      historian who has studied California agriculture. It was a skill the
      Chinese did not pick up overnight in America. They came from a land
      where intensive cultivation was an ancient tradition.

      Some Chinese experienced with new methods of farming. It was Chinese
      farmers who first tried hatching eggs by using artificial heat. And
      the Red Bluff Beacon in 1870 said that the Tehama County peanuts
      which were grown by the Chinese were " the sweetest we ever tasted."

      3) Introduced and Developed New Crops/fruits: America had copied a
      lot of things from Chinese agriculture. Not only for the best, for
      example: Wheat, millet, and barley were grown in China many
      centuries before Europeans learned about them. All of our cereals
      but maize, sorghum, and some forms of oats originated in Asia. The
      common fruit trees of temperate zone, except for pecan and the
      persimmon, came from Asia, too.

      Ah Bing: He was a Chinese Horticulturist who succeeded in
      crossbreeding a new cherry variety that called Bing Cherry in

      Lue Gim Gong: He got his start while working as a strike breaker in
      a shoe factory in Massachusetts. On Sundays, he attend a Volunteer
      school started by the citizens of North Adams to Chinese factory
      workers English. Lue was a particularly bright student. He came to
      the attention of Frances Burlingame who invited him to live and work
      in her family home. She paid for him to take courses in the regular
      town school and encourages him to experiment with fruit trees in the
      family orchdards. Later, when his health did not allow him to remain
      in Massachusetts, she bought him an orchard in Deland, Florida.
      There, he developed many new and different kinds of Thanksgiving
      apples that were sweater than the ones other groves produced and
      raspberries that were a strange salmon pink color. People called him
      the wizard, and in 1911. He was awarded the Wilder Silver Medal by
      the American Pomological Society for his oranges. This orange could
      hang on tree for more than one year and did not spoil even when it
      took months to get to the market.

      Ginseng: Gingseng roots can be used in preparing herbal soups and
      other dishes, or ground into pill form or for tea powder. Ginseng is
      a short perennial shrub that grows in shaded hardwood forests in
      Asia and cultivated ginseng in the United States is now in Central
      Wisconsin. (Ginseng is considered a premier medicinal herb by
      millions of people. The ancient Chinese medical text from 200 B.C.,
      Shen Nong Herbal, claims that Ginseng vitalizes the internal organs,
      calms nerves, improves vision and intellect, and prolongs youth by
      making one feel healthy and young. Millions of Asians still agree
      with the old herb master and spend a fortune on ginseng roots and
      tea throughout the world. Native Americans in much of North America
      also use ginseng as a medicinal herb.)

      4) Supplied Farm Products and Promoted industry:
      When the Chinese vegetable peddlers near Los Angeles went on strikes
      in 1878, the people of Los Angles went completed without vegetables
      for several weeks. As truck gardeners, the Chinese were rated the
      best. They worked plots on the edges towns and sold their vegetables
      form wagons, driving up and down the city streets.

      When they visited San Francisco in the 1870s, Polish novelist Henry
      Sienkieicz was impressed by the truck gardens he saw: "San Francisco
      is situated on arid dunes and Sandy bills, and yet whoever goes to
      the outskirts of the city will perceive at the ends of unfinished
      streets, on the bills valleys, and slopes, on the roadsides , in
      fact, everywhere, small vegetable gardens encircling the city with
      one belt of greenness. The anti-like labors of the Chinese has
      transformed the sterile sands into the most fertile blacks
      earth .... The fruit and vegetables, raspberries and strawberries
      under the care of Chinese gardens grow to a fabulous size. I have
      seen strawberries as large as small pears and beads of cabbages four
      time the size of European beads, and pumpkin the size of our

      The Soquel beet sugar operation left several other legacies to the
      Monterey Bay Region. First, regional farmers, particularly those in
      the Pajaro Valley, learned from experience that sugar beets, and
      potentially other crops, offered a sizable, guaranteed profit each
      season that made them preferable to wheat. Second, the farmers
      understood that the key to the profit in any labor-intensive crop
      was the dependable, hard-working Chinese who were willing to crawl
      through the fields and give the beets the necessary care and

      By 1880 the revolution against King Wheat was well under way in the
      Monterey Bay Region, though the failure of the sugar beet experiment
      obscured this fact. Later Watsonville would become the sugar capital
      of Northern California, thanks in large part to the Chinese workers
      willing to bloody their knees in the fields.

      Historical background of the Monterey Bay Region: The Franciscan
      missionaries introduced agriculture to the Monterey Bay Region in
      1770. Surrounded by fields planted in wheat, corn, beans, and peas,
      with a vineyard and orchard usually planted adjacent to the mission
      buildings, each of the region's missions was worked by an Indian
      labor force. In each mission friars took annual tallies of livestock
      and produce.

      In 1832 the missions San Juan Bautista owned a total of 23,700 head
      of cattle, 31,000 head of sheep, and 2,100 horses.

      From 1770 to 1832 the same missions had produced a staggering
      1,321,000 tons of wheat. When the missions were secularized in the
      mid-1830s, the Indian labor supply dispersed, and raising livestock
      became the dominant industry during the late 1830s and 1840s. With
      neither an adequate source of labor nor an extensive market for
      agricultural product, the initial diversity of the Franciscans
      narrowed to beef and beans. In 1850 the United States census
      enumerator made the following assessment of the agriculture of the
      Monterey Bay Region: "Ranching is the principal interest of the

      Ranches of unknown extent, even to the owners, are covered with vast
      herds of cattle and horses whose number also, is generally unknown
      with proprietors. The extent of agriculture is the raising of a
      small patch of beans-hence the chief articles of food are beef and
      beans...Labor is almost unknown, hence no production."

      A brief, heady flirtation with potatoes in 1851 and 1852 ended in a
      catastrophic collapse of the market which made Yankee farmers in the
      region extremely wary of growing specialty crops. They returned to
      planting dependable wheat. When the drought of 1863-64 broke the
      back of the livestock industry, cereal grains emerged as the number
      one agricultural product in California.

      In 1881 King Wheat reined over 3 million acres in California which
      produced 1.5 million tons of wheat each year. Wheat fields covered
      the Salinas, Pajaro, and San Juan valleys in the Monterey Bay
      Region. The reliance on a single crop began to strain the fecundity
      of even the rich alluvial soils of these coastal valleys, but major
      obstacles stood in the way of diversification: poor shipping
      facilities and an absence of dependable agricultural labor.

      The checkerboard of textures and colors which characterizes the
      Salinas and Pajaro valleys represents an astonishing variety of
      agricultural products. In the 1980s the top ten cash crops of the
      region included broccoli, strawberries, apples, cut flowers, wine
      grapes, cauliflower, and mushrooms.

      It is difficult to believe that in the 1850s and 1860s the region
      was dominated by a single crop-wheat. When the first crews of
      Chinese farm laborers entered the region in the summer of 1866, they
      brought the same resourceful attitude toward working the land that
      they brought to harvesting the abundance of the sea. From 1866 to
      1900 the Chinese farm laborer was the mainstay of agriculture on the
      Monterey Bay Region, providing labor to plant, tend, and harvest
      crops and reclaim land and his experience to show Yankee farmers the
      vast agricultural potential of the region.

      Beet sugar: Crops such as tobacco, hops, and mustard seriously
      threatened the reign of wheat, but sugar beets finally
      revolutionized agriculture in the Monterey bay Region. Sugar beets
      came into their own when the largest beet sugar factory in North
      America began operating in Watsonville in 1888. The industry brought
      profound changes to the economic, political, and social fabric of
      the region, including the establishment of an essential Chinese
      labor force. The California Beet Sugar Company began when the first
      successful beet sugar plant in the United States was built in 1870
      on the east side of San Francisco Bay at a place called Alvarado
      (now Union City) in Alameda County. The mill was operated under the
      guidance of two experts from Fon du Lac, Michigan, while the capital
      came from several California investors, including Benjamin Flint of
      San Juan Bautista. Some of the beets processed at Alvarado were
      grown near the factory with the remainder coming from Flint's rich
      bottom land in the San Juan Valley. The crew of Chinese farm
      laborers listed on Flint's ranch in the 1870 federal census probably
      worked that first crop of sugar beets.

      The mill's investors planned to shift all the beet acreage to the
      Monterey Bay Region and ship the beets to Alvarado for processing.
      The first season was successful (the first successful season for a
      beet sugar factory ever in the United States), and in 1871 Flint
      distributed sugar beet seed to thirty Salinas Valley. Before the
      plan to extend the beet acreage into the valley could be realized,
      the company went bankrupt in 1872. The soil around Alvarado proved
      unsuitable for beet growing, and the cost of fuel (coal was burned
      to power the steam plant) was prohibitive.

      This brief experience with sugar beets in the region demonstrated
      that the soil was excellent for raising the beets and that
      sufficient Chinese labor was available to support the labor-
      intensive beet cultivation on a large scale. The first order of
      business, however, was to cut the cost of fuel and move the factory
      closer to the beets. In 1874 the company re-capitalized and moved to
      Soquel on the north side of Monterey Bay.

      The boilers, graters, desiccators, and separators were moved from
      Alvarado to Soquel in the spring of 1874, and a new three-and-one
      half-story factory was constructed just upstream from Camp Capitola
      on the east bank of Soquel Creek. The first beet crop was planted on
      the alluvial plain surrounding the factory site (present-day
      Capitola), and while assisting in the construction of the factory,
      Chinese farmers cultivated, thinned, and weeded the sugar beets.

      Chinese workers thinned the beets by crawling along each row on
      their hands and knees. In fall the Chinese dug up the beets, cleaned
      and topped them (the tops were used for cattle feed), and loaded
      them in wagons for the short trip to the factory. The 1874 campaign
      (the French term still used in the sugar beet industry to describe
      the processing season) ran through the fall of 1874, and Chinese
      factory workers cut and loaded firewood for the boilers, lifted and
      moved the 180-pound syrup cans, and packed the four tons of sugar
      processed each twenty-four hour day. Of the 200 men employed by the
      California Beet Sugar Company, 145 were Chinese. The company
      extended its beet acreage eastward for the next two seasons, and by
      1876 over half of the beets processed at Soquel were grown in the
      Pajaro Valley and shipped to Soquel on the narrow-gauge Santa Cruz

      Strawberries: The Santa Cruz County strawberry industry began in the
      strawberry in fields north of Santa Cruz. The first bigger and
      successful planting of strawberries in the Pajaro Valley came late
      in 1880, and by 1881 a fledging forty-two acres of strawberries and
      had been planted in the valley. The introduction of irrigation,
      totally with the surplus of Chinese farm laborers freed up by the
      worker of the soquel beet sugar factory, caused the strawberry get
      jumped to 268 acres by 1885.

      In the years 1886, a number of Pajaro Valley farmers entered into
      lease with Chinese berry contractors. The landowners furnished the
      land , plants, water, and boxes while the Chinese furnished the
      skilled labor to plant, cultivate, pick, and pack the berries north
      of Watsonville owned by Thurber, Buckley, and Steward cultivated one
      hundred acres of strawberries and forty acres of raspberries and

      Chinese farm laborers preferred to be paid a piece-rate rather than
      a daily wage, and sharecropping arrangements were even more
      desirable. But the most highly prized working arrangements for the
      capital-poor Chinese were leases under which they reclaimed the land
      in exchange for its free use for its free use for four or five years.

      5) Increased Farmland Acreage and Added Value to Land:

      The Chinese began to employ in highly skilled land reclamation crew
      in l870. They wielded shovels and worked waist-deep in water, and
      they drained the tule, swamps and marshes and transformed them into
      agricultural lands by l877. They had succeeded in creating a full
      five million acres of valuable farmland. They reclaimed eighty-eight
      thousand acres of rich delta land from 1860 to 1880. The Chinese
      were the first to devise the tule shoe, an oversized horseshoe,
      which distributed the horse's weight over a large area and prevented
      it from sinking into marshland. Once the land became fit for
      agriculture, the Chinese remained in the area to plant, harvest, and
      preserve the crops.

      By the late of 1880s the Chinese were clearing the willows and tules
      out of the sloughs country west of Watsonille and bringing marginal
      land into berry and vegetables production. In 1980 a Chinese crew
      planted one acre of raspberries on reclaimed land and sold the
      berries for $1,300. Another piece of reclaimed sloughs land produced
      200 sacks of potatoes (one hundred pounds per sack) to the acre in
      1888 and 180 sacks to the acre the following year. The crop of
      choice seem to have been berries. Whenever Chinese cleared land in
      the sloughs district they put in raspberries, and they leased
      desirable tracts of land in different parts of the valley, paying
      cash rent in advance to cultivate blackberries. When the reclamation
      leases expired, landowners rarely renewed them on a long-term basis
      with the Chinese farmers, preferring instead of growing berries or
      vegetables themselves.

      SACRAMENTO, Marketing and Manufacturing Center for the Northern part
      of the great Central Valley: The capital of California is
      Sacramento. This rich agricultural valley is watered by the
      Sacramento River. To the east of the city rises of the Sierra
      Nevada, a mountain wall that is always snowcapped. To the west are
      the Coast Ranges. The California gold rush helped put the city on
      the map. This city is now a leader in fruit and vegetable canning,
      freezing, and shipping. Among the chief products of the surrounding
      area are beef cattle, rice, diary products, peaches, prunes, wheat,
      and vegetables. Tours are given of the California Almond Growers
      Exchange in Sacramento. Total Population and Population Engaged in
      Agriculture had been changed year by year.
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