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Harvest in North Dakota

10/27/2015:

An unusual harvest took place in Enderlin, North Dakota in 1938. It wasn’t a harvest of wheat, soybeans, or corn, it was a harvest of trees. That may bring logging to mind, but the Enderlin harvest was not for lumber. On this date in 1938, the United States Forest Service announced that in seventeen days, nearly two million trees had been dug up and transferred to various districts throughout the state for shelterbelt plantings in the spring.

In 1935, the state legislature had created a state planning board to look at new ways to take advantage of North Dakota’s vast natural resources. The ten member board included the head of the School of Forestry, and one of the strategies was to look for ways that trees could improve agriculture. Wind was a big problem when it came to conserving soil. The state had already endured extensive dust storms, with dry soil blowing away in huge clouds. Both federal and state governments encouraged farmers to plant long rows of native trees to block the wind, and farmers were paid by the government to plant the trees as crops.

The program had benefits far beyond conservation of the soil. In 1938, the country was in the depths of the Great Depression, and work was hard to come by. President Roosevelt’s New Deal Programs employed out-of-work Americans to do labor that would have broader benefits. The Fargo Forum noted that several new families had relocated to Enderlin because of the nursery. An outdoor recreational area next to the nursery also drew visitors from many states. The newspaper called the nursery a “balance wheel” in absorbing the local unemployed labor. It employed about seventy men. The Forest Service payroll was projected to reach $18,000 for a 12 month period. The workers spent nearly all of their pay locally, supporting the area economy. In addition, the Forest Service spent hundreds of dollars for materials and supplies.

Consequently, the nursery not only helped with soil conservation, it also helped the town of Enderlin weather the tough times of the depression.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher

Sources:

Fargo Forum. “Tree Harvest in N.D. Begun. 27 October, 2015.

Robinson, Elwyn B. History of North Dakota. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

Wessels Living History Farm. "http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/crops_12.html" http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/crops_12.html Accessed 19 September, 2015.