FRUIT INDUSTRY. While fruits have been grown since earliest times to supply homes and comparatively local needs, fruit growing has become worthy of the status of an industry only within the past century. Prior to this period commerce in fruits was limited' almost wholly to dried fruits such as dates, figs, prunes, raisins and nuts, though oranges, lemons, coconuts, apples and a few other fresh fruits were successfully transported short distances and sold during the few weeks or months that they could be kept by the crude storage methods of those days. The main limiting factors of the fruit industry then were slow transporta tion, defective storage methods and the gen erally sufficient local supplies to meet the re stricted demand.
These conditions applied not alone to America, where they, however, were most strik ingly evident, but to the whole world. Not until sailing vessels gave place to steam and canals to railways did progress begin to be rapid. With the development of these im proved methods of transportation came count less other improvements, not alone in speed but in storage and marketing, canning and drying. By their reaction these factors have stimulated production until the fruit industry now plays a highly important role in the world's com merce. Whereas in the United States half a century ago the area devoted to fruits and the value of the fruit products were small fractions of the total area and value of all crops grown, the increase has been such that in 1909 when the last census was taken they were about 2 and 4 per cent respectively of the gross totals and values of all farm crops. Develop ment from that time forward continued to be rapid until the Great War placed a temporary check upon certain phases of planting, trans portation and manufacture. Lest the percent ages mentioned above should appear insignifi cant let it be noted that the area devoted to fruit growing in 1909 was upward of 10,000,000 acres and the value of the fresh fruits at point of production more than $215,000,000. Since that date millions of trees not then in bearing have added their quotas to the output, so both per centage and total value have been augmented.
Perhaps the most far-reaching effects of the improved transportation and storage have been the education of public taste and the consequent demand for fresh fruits in regions remote from points of production. Refrigerator cars, steam
ships and cold-storage warehouses have made it possible for growers a thousand to several thousand miles from market to grow fruits at living and often highly profitable prices, at the same time lengthening the season during which consumers may enjoy fruit. Steamship lines whose main business is the transportation of tropical fruits have been established between Mexican, Central American, West Indian and Mediterranean ports and those in the North, so the northern regions now secure abundance of these products. Similarly trainloads of fruits are shipped from the Pacific Coast States in refrigerator cars and forwarded on almost ex press schedule east of the Rocky Mountains. Still more striking is the instance of the straw berry which instead of being confined to the local period of production —about three weeks —may now be obtained in northern markets during six months, the earliest coming from Florida and Louisiana during January, the latest from northern New York during June. This period has recently been still further ex tended by the so-called "ever varieties which continue the local season in the North from July until October and even November. These varieties, however, have as yet scarcely attained commercial importance.
Again, thanks to the improved methods men tioned, the variety of products obtainable at any given season in the markets not only of the large cities but the small towns is no longer confined to the species locally produced before these methods came into play, but has been increased by countless kinds from distant points of produc tion. It is nowadays, no unusual thing to be able to choose among 25 or more fresh fruits offered' for sale at one time in such large city markets as New York, Boston, Chi cago or San Francisco. Dried, canned and preserved fruits and manufactured fruit prod ucts such as wine, cider, vinegar and juices have during the period in question become staple commercial commodities obtainable the year around. The net effect of these improved methods is such that the number of cultivated and even of the important wild fruits suited to human consumption not found in the world's markets in either the fresh or the manu factured state is steadily decreasing.