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MailTribune.com
  • Seeds that still bear fruit

  • By 1911, Rogue Valley farmers and orchardists were firmly established alongside some of the finest commercial agricultural producers in the nation, but troubles were growing.
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  • By 1911, Rogue Valley farmers and orchardists were firmly established alongside some of the finest commercial agricultural producers in the nation, but troubles were growing.
    Insects and disease were increasingly attacking their fruit crops, reducing yields, producing inferior quality and threatening heavy financial losses to individual producers and the entire local economy.
    "With its great horticultural interests," wrote Mail Tribune Editor George Putnam in an editorial, "the Rogue River Valley, more than any section in the state, needs an experimental station to assist the farmer and cooperate with the orchardist."
    That year, perhaps the two most important events in Rogue Valley commercial agriculture would bring that assistance and cooperation — and also a promise of hope.
    In February, the Oregon Legislature approved an agricultural experiment station for Southern Oregon as a branch of the established station at the Oregon Agricultural College in Corvallis, today's Oregon State University. The station would receive $5,000 for its annual maintenance and support.
    In July, the OAC regents hired Dr. Frank C. Reimer to lead the Southern Oregon Station.
    Born and raised on a fruit farm in Central Michigan, the 29-year-old possessed an outstanding technical education in the field and a long and practical personal knowledge of fruit growing.
    He graduated from the Michigan Agricultural College in 1903, followed by two years of work as an assistant horticulturist and botanist at a Florida experiment station. He received his master's in horticulture from the University of Florida in 1905 and then joined the staff of the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, where he had become head of the horticulture department by the time he was hired for Southern Oregon.
    While construction was still underway at its Talent location, the experiment station received a donation of 3,000 tomato plants. Reimer and volunteer students from Corvallis were already planting a variety of other vegetables and fruit trees for future study on the 20 acres provided for the station by Jackson County.
    Although the station was allowed to study animals and other aspects of agriculture, Reimer determined to concentrate on the diseases and insects affecting the valley's plant life.
    "Every phase of fruit growing will be taken up; and as much work on vegetables will be done as our time and money will permit," Reimer wrote in a 1912 article published in the Mail Tribune. "As soon as results are secured from our experiments they will be published."
    True to his word, Reimer dedicated his life to improving Southern Oregon agriculture. He brought rootstock back from the Far East for experiments that would lead to stronger and healthier pear orchards.
    He directed studies in fertilizer and irrigation.
    He and his staff battled against codling moth and pear blight and conducted experiments in every aspect affecting the quality of local agriculture, and at each step of the way, Reimer published advice in the Mail Tribune based on the latest findings.
    Reimer retired as superintendent of the experiment station in 1947, but continued as a trusted adviser.
    The fruit of his efforts continue today with continued research aimed at improved pear and other fruit crops. Tomatoes have seen notable improvement based on studies begun in 1958.
    How valuable is someone who can save a crop, a tree, or perhaps an entire industry? The answer, of course, is priceless.
    Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.
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