Blossoms and borders: Cultivating apples and a modern countryside in the Pacific Northwest, 1890-2001.




Bennett, Jason Patrick

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At the turn of the twentieth century, apples served as a catalyst for far-reaching social and environmental change in the North American West. As people debated the future of North American society as a rural or urban civilization, rural advocates found their answer in horticulture. Steadfast in their conviction that urban environments were corrupt, immoral, and disordered, people on both sides of the international boundary engaged in a boisterous promotional campaign that culminated with the creation of an orcharding landscape that spanned British Columbia, Washington State, and Oregon. Consequently, countless communities found new purpose or came into existence organized around the cultivation of apples and other assorted fruits. Fully aware of negative stereotypes that depicted farming as backwards and unfulfilling, horticulturists argued that fruit farming would lead to the creation of a modern countryside. Guided by scientific agriculture, refined and intelligent settlers would transform rural life by uniting in partnership with “Dame Nature,” leading to bountiful harvests as nature was finished to its “intended end.” As a result, the orcharding landscape would organize an alternative modernity that stood in juxtaposition to the urban-industrial axis of development. Despite their location in different political projects, fruit farmers on either side of the International Boundary bore striking affinities that were affirmed and reinforced through publications, associations, exhibitions, and educational initiatives, underlining the significance of the border as a vantage to appreciate divisions as well as continuities. While the creation of a modern countryside was sustained by high hopes, growers did not anticipate that nature’s bounty would in many instances stand as a curse rather than a blessing. Through two world wars, growers wrestled with the changing contours of rural life, particularly as it related to rural growth. While orcharding endured, its original conception as the nucleus of a progressive and middle class rural society did not.



apple, fruit, horticulture, rural, ecology, borderlands, landscape, colonialism, countryside, modernity, agriculture, migrant, regionalism, boundaries, northwest, pacific