‘Harvest Heritage’ book honors pioneer agriculture

Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

"Harvest Heritage" authors Richard Scheuerman and Alex McGregor spotlight pioneering early farmers, farm families and researchers in their new book. McGregor, president of the McGregor Company, hopes to reach out to generations removed from their farming histories and look to the next days of agriculture.

COLFAX, Wash. — A new book honors the pioneer spirit of Pacific Northwest farmers and researchers.

Washington State University Press has just released “Harvest Heritage,” by Alex McGregor, president of the agricultural supply firm McGregor Company, and Richard Scheuerman, an associate professor at Seattle Pacific University. Photography is by John Clement.

The idea for the book came out of a presentation the two authors gave, “Remarkable People and a Remarkable Land,” for WSU’s E. Paul Catts Memorial Lecture.

“It was an opportunity for us to focus on some things near and dear to us — a sense of the heritage on this land, remarkable people and interest in the evolution of agricultural science,” McGregor said.

McGregor and Scheuerman grew up in the Palouse region of eastern Washington and come from farming families. They share a strong interest in their roots, both ancestral and agricultural, McGregor said.

The authors were interested in studying and understanding the Native Americans’ original farming techniques on the land before any white settlements in the area.

The authors also tracked down the oldest grain raised in the Pacific Northwest, white Lammas wheat, raised in the mid- to late 1800s.

“You see numerous references in pioneer diaries to what they’re nicknaming Hudson’s Bay wheat,” Scheuerman said. “It took us a lot of detective work to find out just what are they talking about here.”

Craft millers and brewers are considering producing the wheat again, Scheuerman said.

McGregor said the book also captures the achievements of researchers at WSU, then Washington Agricultural College and Washington State College, such as William Spillman and Orville Vogel. Their work influenced agricultural research across the nation, Scheuerman said.

“They were world-class figures; it was fortunate they happened to call Pullman their home for their real seminal work,” Scheuerman said. “The Inland Northwest (became) sort of a touchstone for these developments globally.”

To succeed in agriculture requires a love of the land and a passion for farming, McGregor said, calling it the last significant American business to be dominated by family enterprises.

He hopes to reach out to generations that are removed from their farming heritage, and emphasize the importance of sound science in agriculture in the years ahead.

“Even more exciting are the opportunities for young people,” he said, citing the challenge of doubling food production to meet growing worldwide demand. “They’ll do it using resources ever more efficiently. It’s an exciting time for young people to be coming on board.”

The book is available online, in regional bookstores and through the McGregor Company.

Online

WSU Press: http://wsupress.wsu.edu

McGregor Company: www.mcgregor.com



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