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Overview of Salem Agriculture
 

Available, fertile land was the reason the pioneers chose to settle in the Willamette Valley. Lumber and farming became the first commercial enterprises as the farmers established saw and grist mills on Mill Creek. Pioneer missionary Jason Lee built his mill near the fork of today's Broadway and High streets in what they considered North Salem. A historical marker marks the site now across from Boon's Tavern. These mills served not only the builder but also neighbors who relied on them to grind the wheat and saw the trees which they had cleared from their lots. The 1890 edition of the Sanborn Insurance map shows the existence of sawmills and grist mills.

The map also shows the location on the north bank of a mill race which had been taken off Mill Creek and entered the Willamette River on the southern edge of Salem. This is at the present site of Riverfront Park. Another mill was on the Willamette River near Mill Creek. Wheat was once considered a primary industry in Salem. Farmers from all over Polk County brought their wheat to Lincoln, north of Salem, where steamers made regular stops to pick it up and transport it.

Naturally cool but not freezing temperatures, abundant rainfall and the fertile valleys favored certain crops such as strawberries, timber, loganberries, filberts (hazel nuts) cherries, marionberries, hops, nursery stock, grass seed, and prunes. Canneries and mills sprang up to process the harvests and resources produced in the valley. Rich soils provided abundant feed for the raising of cattle and sheep. Meat packing and wool, flax, wheat, and lumber mills were developed to process the bounty. Agriculture remains a vital part of the commerce of the Salem community in the 21st century. The bounty of the land and the Willamette River was an influence when bands of Kalapuya Indians decided to encamp around the Salem thousands of years ago. Salem remains a good place to gather with an abundance of food for those with enterprise.

Today acres and acres of wheat fields stretch on both sides of the route from Salem to the coast. Hops were another primary crop which for a period made a strong showing and is still grown around Salem.

Researched by Joan Marie "Toni" Meyering

Written by Joan Marie "Toni" Meyering and Monica Mersinger

 

 
Strawberry label

Strawberry label
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Daisy Milk label
Daisy Milk label
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