What is the most important natural resource to a farmer? Probably water - a commodity that we just can't do without. Most of our water supply in the Rio Grande Valley comes from the Rio Grande River or as it is called in Mexico - the Rio Bravo del Norte - the brave, wild river of the North.
The Rio Grande bends and twists like a snake which impedes the quick drainage of water into the Gulf of Mexico. Heavy rains generally occur twice a year - once in the Spring or early summer and again in the Fall. Before the dams were built to help store this excess water, the Rio Grande would overflow its banks.
Since the land in the Rio Grande Valley gently slopes towards the South and East, the slowly moving flood waters left deposits of rich silt in areas that produced a sandy loam soil. Some areas though, would have water standing and the soil would leach out causing other areas to become clay and even some to be considered as salty. So, we cannot say that the entire Rio Grande Valley was rich sandy loam soil, but we can say that water helped to develop the rich sandy loam that we do have.
But good soil without water will not produce the lush landscape and the bountiful crops that we have. We must have water. Our area is considered as arid. Without water, we could not exist. In the early l 900's, ingenious settlers realized that the Rio Grande River could serve to irrigate their crops and help them through the long periods of heat, wind and drought that plague our area. Irrigation Districts were designated, farmers were taxed to help support the Irrigation Districts, and water was allotted by what is called an acre foot. Water that had helped to produce the rich soil was now being used to aid in the production of crops. This system is still being used.
These ingenious farmers who initiated the irrigation system were soon producing so much sugar cane, vegetables and citrus that a market had to be found to purchase the produce. Fortunately, the railroad had come to the Valley and the produce could be moved to market - but not without ice to keep the produce fresh.
Again, water was needed to produce the ice that was so important in moving the produce to market. By the time the train cars reached Kingsville the ice had to be replenished. Today, the refrigerator trucks and train cars carrying produce do not have to be replenished with ice. A remnant from this period of history is in the old icehouse in Kingsville - now housing the Henrietta Memorial Museum. If you want to see the original icehouse, visit the Henrietta Memorial Museum or go on the King Ranch Tour that includes the museum. Besides the King Ranch hunting car, the saddles and guns on exhibit in the museum, you will probably see salt residue on the mortar in the brick walls as salt was used in the preparation of ice.
WATER - it truly is a necessity; it is our life blood. The Rio Grande Valley is a delta, a flood plain. This becomes all too evident when we have the Spring and Fall heavy rains. Almost every city in the Rio Grande Valley suffered from too much water in the aftermath of Hurricane Beulah in 1967.
We should learn to appreciate and respect water. Even so, we will continue to have torrential rains that might not drain off fast enough. But I would not want to live anywhere else. I love my Valley home!