Timeline Tuesday: Celery Growing in Nebraska

William Keller and his family stand in their celery field west of Kearney, Nebraska, 1904.

 

Nebraska farmers have often experimented with new crops in their endeavor to obtain wealth from the land. The Kearney Daily Hub, on May 16, 1901, reported on the prospects of a promising new crop: celery.

“The celery industry in Kearney is growing. The pioneer in the industry is J. H. Black, who started in a small experimental way and found that the Platte valley was in every way suitable for it. For many years no other person went into it. Meantime Mr. Black’s sons had grown up and were taken into the business, and the firm of J. H. Black and sons was annually growing about fifty acres at the time of the death of Mr. Black about two years ago. The sons have continued the business, and during recent years others have gone into it, first on a small scale, but increasing gradually as they become familiar with the culture of the plant. This season not less than one hundred and seventy acres will be grown in this vicinity, there being about fifteen persons engaged in the industry.

“Five miles east of Kearney the Shreve brothers will have five acres and Mr. Licking the same. Two and a half miles east Mr. Christenson will cultivate four acres. One and a half miles east Mr. Mildyke will put in about two acres. Williams Bros. adjoining Mildyke, will have ten acres. Mr. McCutcheon, in the same locality, will have two acres. In the same locality Mr. Didrickson will have three acres. Adjoining the corporation on the east Wm. Schramm will put in twenty-seven acres. He started a few years ago in a small way, has been successful, and has put his profits each year into increasing his acreage. He will keep this up until he has forty or fifty acres . . . .

“West of Central Avenue Linn Stoddard will have this year twenty-five acres. He started a few years ago with a small acreage and has increased it steadily. Black Bros. will keep up their output of fifty acres. C. B. Channel and brother still cultivate six acres. Wallace Bierce, further west, made a small start last year and this season will put in four acres and increase as rapidly as possible. C. M. Hull is one of the oldest celery growers next to the Blacks and will have twenty acres this season. W. L. Keller started small and will try twelve acres this summer.

“The total of about one hundred and seventy acres seems small to those unacquainted with celery growing, but it represents an industry of considerable magnitude, gives employment to a great deal of labor during the summer, and puts many thousands of dollars in circulation from the sale of the product. There has been a considerable increase of celery acreage throughout the country of recent years, but it has not affected the sale of the Kearney product, which by reason of its superior quality and nutty flavor commands a much better price than any other western celery.

“One of the principal growers of this city tells the Hub that he has no fear of overproduction, either in this immediate locality or elsewhere. At any rate, because of the peculiarly favorable conditions prevailing here, he is confident that every bunch of Kearney celery that is properly handled will find a ready market. The field is an inviting one at present and pays a great deal better than general farming. Within ten years Kearney will doubtless be the celery center of the western country.”

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