“It is highly probable that your successful farming future lies in one of the new farming areas of Oregon,” says this booklet published by the Great Northern Railway’s Department of Agricultural and Mineral Development. Designed to encourage men returning from World War II to move to Oregon, this booklet focuses on four areas that are on the Great Northern, Spokane, Portland & Seattle, Oregon Trunk, or Oregon Electric lines while ignoring farmable lands elsewhere in the state.
The booklet notes that, based on the 1940 census, 51 percent of the state’s 1.1 million people lived in rural areas. Today it is just 19 percent, but the state’s population has grown to 4.0 million people, so the rural population has grown from about 555,000 to 760,000. That’s still less than 8 people per square mile.
The booklet also says that 18 million of the state’s 62 million acres is farmland. What it doesn’t say is that over half the state is federal land, only a small portion of which was open for homesteading. Today, there are about 6 million acres of private farmland (including crop lands, pastures, and conservation reserves). Urban development covers less than a million acres, so most of the rest of that 19 million must still be in federal ownership.