“The Back Country”

It seems that in San Diego newspapers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, everything north of Old Town was considered “the back country.”

Here’s some proof from the February 7, 1914 San Diego Union. It reported a planned mass meeting later that month of representatives to create a county farm bureau.

In response to a new law creating a cooperative extension service under the Department of Agriculture, counties who organized farm bureaus would get local advisors, working with agricultural colleges (like the then new UC Davis), to provide advice on up-to-date farming methods.

“Ranchers and fruit growers of Lemon Grove organized last night as a branch of the County Farm Bureau, which will co-operate with the promised farm advisor in the development of the back country,” began the article.

A week later, the Union was reporting that the idea for a farm bureau was “leaping like wildfire from center to center all through the county…”

Individual communities were to elect officers to section clubs which were to gather February 20 at the Spreckels Theater to form a countywide organization. Since the project’s initiation, reported the Union, “club after club, numbering ten or more members and each having a president, secretary and treasurer, has been formed by the ranchers of the back country.”

Then it listed all those new clubs in the “back country:”

“Oceanside, Lemon Grove, Fallbrook, Vista, Escondido, El Cajon, Ramona, Julian, Spring Valley and Alpine have all been organized and last night Nestor and Jamacha were added to the number. Organization meetings have been planned for tonight at Chula Vista and Dehesa, and for Wednesday at Lakeside, through the Chamber of Commerce here. The San Ysidro people have organized by themselves. Each of these will elect representatives to the county farm bureau meeting before Friday.”

On February 19 the Union reported that “in order to accommodate the throng of farmers coming in from the back country to attend” the meeting “a special train will be run on the San Diego and Southeastern Railroad.”

On February 20 over 1,500 farmers, many with their families, showed up for morning and afternoon sessions to elect bureau officers and hear speakers such as two deans from the University of California’s Agriculture Program, Thomas Hunt and H.E. Van Norman (the latter also a president of the National Dairy Association), and B. H. Crocheron, state leader of the new agricultural extension program.

“This is beyond comparison the biggest piece of agricultural business that has ever been put through in San Diego County,” reported the Union on February 21. “It means that the farmers scattered over miles of territory have at last united under one banner, that the farming industry has taken unto itself a backbone, and that from now on the progress of one will in a large measure mean the progress of all.”

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