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Business and Industry

Business and Industry

Farming on the West Side
Editorial submitted by Burta Herger

The Rancho del Puerto land grant, which included the present town site of Patterson, was dry farmed with waves of golden wheat stretching as far as the eye could see. The town’s founder, T.W. Patterson, dreamed of a verdant oasis in the middle of the golden grain fields.

In order for his dream to come true, a revolutionary irrigation system was produced that would make water “run up hill.” The first successful lift irrigation system in the world was started in July 1910 and was completed 14 months later. It lifted water 70 feet to its uppermost destination from the San Joaquin River through the 3.5-mile main canal and several pumping stations. Water flowed from the 85 miles of laterals for delivery to the growing crops.

The early-day farmers were interested in cash crops instead of the orchards of walnuts, peaches, apricots and vineyards of grapes that T.W. envisioned. Acres of alfalfa and crops that cows and horses ate or could be sold at the end of the growing season prevailed in the early days. There were many small dairies scattered throughout the area, which then was the backbone of the economy.

Work in the beginning days was done with mules and horses. It was mules and the Fresno scraper that dug the main canal. The animals also pulled plows, cultivators and other farming equipment to work the ground, plant and harvest crops.


With the passing of time and the establishment of farms, T.W.’s dream came into fruition. All of the crops he dreamed of are now part of the agriculture scene in the area, plus many more. The animal power was replaced over the years with tractors and state-of-the-art machinery. With the mechanization and a good, steady labor supply, abundant diversified crops are the norm today. However, the trees, sod and row crops of tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, cantaloupes and herbs are all irrigated with the same irrigation system that T.W. had constructed over 100 years ago. In 1951 the Delta-Mendota Canal was completed near the foothills and gives additional security for irrigation water to the Patterson Irrigation District. The California Aqueduct built alongside the Delta-Mendota Canal furnishes no water to the local district.

The many small dairies have given way to two large dairies in the area. The fertile land and water produce crops in Rancho Del Puerto that blend in with the farms to the south in the Crows Landing area and to the north in the Westley-Grayson areas. All together these lands produce a sizable portion of the economy of Stanislaus county.

Patterson business are strategically located near several of California’s major markets and the Pacific Rim. The area is within 90 miles of the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, the Sierra Nevada Moutains and California’s central coast. Patterson is also about a 5-hour drive from Los Angeles. Two of California’s major north-south highways intersect the area: Interstate 5 and Highway 99. All of these advantages add up to equal an outstanding location for business. All commercial and industrial areas have access to rail transportation and truck transportation via Highway 33 and Interstate 5.

The growing commercial, industrial and service sectors provide a diversified base for the area’s labor force. However, agriculture and food processing industries have historically provided an important part of Patterson’s past, present and future economic success.

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