The unique nature of commercial apple culture in the Spearfish Valley of the Black Hills of western South Dakota between 1882 and 1914 adds regional depth to the larger historical narratives of irrigated industrial orchard production in the Intermountain West and Pacific Coast and on the Great Plains. Successful apple growing in this relatively small, ecologically and economically distinct region faced many geo-specific obstacles. Although the Black Hills provided shelter from winter winds, moderated temperatures, and provided enough water—at least compared to the surrounding northern plains—the Spearfish Valley would always be on the environmental margins of marketable apple cultivation. Commercial apple orchards survived during this period in precarious balance with humans and nature. Spearfish orchardists—for a time, at least—were able to overcome environmental constraints to forge a profitable regional marketing regime centered on the production of fall apples that operated within the larger seasonal ebb and flow of the great Western and Northwestern orchard districts.

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