Many made a good living from agriculture
“Mines make a country rich but the true basis of all development, the legitimate basis upon which a county grows, the cities spring up and the people become prosperous is agriculture.” – Avalanche Echo Special Edition, May 1893The residents of the mining towns of Leadville and Aspen were hungry. Like all communities, a steady supply of quality food, in quantity, and at reasonable prices, kept their economies growing. Garfield County farmers from Carbondale to Parachute recognized this market, putting thousands of acres of land into production.In 1891, it was reported by the Avalanche Echo newspaper that Garfield County had 27,270 acres of assessed agricultural lands. A year later, that number had increased to 29,811 acres. For cattle and hay production, the 28,269 acres dedicated to grazing jumped to 40,853 acres in 1892.A wide variety of crops were grown by the hard-working farmers. Vegetables produced the greatest profit. Potatoes, beans, cauliflower, parsnips, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, turnips, onions, asparagus, and beets thrived in Garfield County’s soil.In the early 1890s, orchards were in their infancy, with most less than 40 acres in size. Farmers planted many different varieties of peaches, apples, pears, plums and apricots. Some weathered the climate better than others, but failures did not deter continued experimentation. Cantaloupes and watermelons reportedly grew with “astounding size, with crisp flesh of an exceedingly fine flavor.” Patches of gooseberry produced bountiful crops.Grains such as oats, wheat and barley received little acreage, due to a lack of flour mills in the area at that time. However, fields producing alfalfa were abundant and necessary to feed the growing numbers of cattle raised in the county.The Avalanche Echo encouraged the filling of the county with small industrious farms. “A small tract of land – ten or twenty acres – is ample; a few acres in agricultural produce and a few in orchard, both carefully selected and laid out with regard to varieties, and with industry and intelligence, a good living is assured.” Portraits of farmers such as New Castle’s H.J. Albert, Y.H. Chabot near Rifle, and Parachute’s J.B. Hurlburtp, testified to the peace and profitability farming one’s land could render.In 1893, agriculture was considered the pathway to personal independence and to the profitability and stability of Garfield County. The Avalanche Echo encouraged, “In a country where the farmer easily raises all that is necessary for his table – where he can have fresh venison on his table the year round without cost – where he can raise the finest of fruit in abundance – in a country where the streams abound in whitefish and trout – and, above all, in a country where crops never fail – in such a country the settler must be happy, for he has no fear of future want to worry him.” “Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday and Thursday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.
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