“Dehesa Doings”

“Dehesa Doings” was the name of a column that appeared regularly in the Poway Progress, a weekly that was published out of the Poway Valley from 1894 to 1897.

Each issue offered columns about news in various county communities, with titles like “Poway Points,” “San Diego Siftings” and “Lakeside Letters.”

Each column’s entries ranged from hard news to local gossip and points in between.

The correspondent for each column generally signed them with initials, a partial name or a nickname. It’s possible that they were all aliases for the paper’s editor, George W. Parnell.

“Dehesa Doings” for the issue of January 12, 1895 followed the usual formula, which offers readers today a snapshot of the economic and social life in the valley at that time.

“The rainfall last Saturday registered 1.25 inches, making a total to date of 4.85 inches,” the column began. “The click of pruning shears is heard throughout the valley.”

“J. S. Harbeson spent Saturday and Sunday at his bee ranch,” the column went on, mentioning the name of the man whose name is now affixed to the canyon the Dehesa Valley heads.

Locals were invited to an upcoming event at the local schoolhouse, “consisting of a literary and musical program, followed by a dance given by members of the athletic club.”

The “Dehesa Doings” correspondent was listed simply as “Olives.” That might tell you something about the Dehesa farm scene at the time, as borne out by another item: “Mr. Allen estimates his olive crop at 30 tons, making a yield of about three tons of fruit per acre, as he has ten acres bearing.”

Sources for this post included historic San Diego County newspapers and the book, San Diego County Place Names A to Z, by Leland Fetzer.

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County Fair Ag Exhibit

A visit to the San Diego County Fair is an annual routine for my household, as it is for many. If you go, I hope you’ll check out the agricultural exhibits, to see where a lot of your food comes from, and the role that agriculture still plays in our county.

The ag hall also includes a great historical section mounted by the Friends of Farming, a group of farmers and farm supporters formed to support the efforts of the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

The county farm bureau celebrated its 103rd birthday earlier this year.

It was early in 1914 that Congress passed an act creating a Cooperative Extension Service under the Department of Agriculture. This act offered to hire local advisors, working with agricultural colleges (like the then new UC Davis), to provide advice on up-to-date farming methods.

“A county farm bureau representing 20 percent of the farmers in a county had to be operating before a farm advisor could be appointed for the county,” according to one of the county fair exhibit placards.

San Diego farmers were soon flocking to the idea of setting up their own organization. Farmers in individual communities met to form local branch clubs which would then meet to form a countywide bureau.

On February 20, 1914 over 1,500 farmers, many with their families, showed up at the Spreckels Theater. In morning and afternoon sessions they elected bureau officers and heard 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 San Diego 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.”

And the Farm Bureau is still going strong. Check out their exhibit at the fair.

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