Alice Parker Thinks Grant County is the Best

Posted on Aug 01, 2016

Alice ParkerWhen Alice Parker and her husband, Ike, left Colorado in 1965 for the Royal Slope, they came with very little. They had started dryland farming in 1954, but a couple of drought years convinced them to take a chance on coming to Grant County.

One of the first families to farm Royal Slope, they broke the ground from sagebrush and cheat grass, dug the irrigation ditches, even helped survey the land. "We came in on the ground floor," Parker says with a smile. They arrived in January and "there was a lot of snow that year." They had no place to live until they were able to buy a used trailer. They lived in that trailer with three children until they built their house. They had one tractor but it didn't have power steering so it was difficult to maneuver in small fields.

It was hard in the beginning. The water would "dissolve" the dirt and Parker and her husband would have to dig corrugations, the ditches between the rows of crops, every day, and sometimes twice a day. "It was a real challenge," she says. When they first planted, they had five different neighbors' equipment on the land helping them. "You start out with nothing," she adds, "no equipment or buildings or anything."

Ike and Alice grew "a little bit of everything," Parker says, including sugar beets for the plant in Moses Lake, corn, wheat, sweet pea, and dried beans. They had trouble growing hay because, Parker says, they couldn't get the dew.

Her husband died in 2002 and Parker is still involved in the financial side of the farm that a neighbor works. "It gets in your blood," she says, "and you can't get it out." She adds that "it's very, very important" to farm because farming is "the best profession you can be in." She asks what other profession "do you help so many people?" And she adds, "I think farming is a real honorable profession to be in."

Parker, who has been on the Grant County Economic Development Council Board of Directors since 2013, joined the board at the encouragement of Dale Pomeroy to represent the concerns of agriculture. "When I see the changes since 1965, I keep reminding them that the reason they are able to bring in businesses is because of the water and the agriculture."

Parker has represented agriculture in Grant County in many ways over the years. She testified in front of the U.S. Senate. Senator Dale Bumpers of Arkansas questioned the need for more water in the Columbia Basin, and he asked why couldn't they just go out and get more land. Parker told him that with six inches of rain a year, that wasn't an option. She said Senator Jim McClure from Idaho was silently cheering her on as she told Bumpers about what it is like in the West. "Bumpers just didn't understand the West," Parker explains.

Parker was also involved with Women in Farm Economy (WIFE), an organization started in 1977. She was the national president of WIFE in 88-89. "I think back and think 'How did that happen?'" she says. But "nobody told me 'no'" she says, so she just did what needed to be done.

She has been involved with the Columbia Basin Development League since 1992 when she became its executive director. Parker was involved with 4-H when her children were in it, and she and her husband both were 4-H leaders. "I really have to give the 4-H kudos for what they taught me," including leadership.

And Parker is involved with the Royal City Methodist Church. While Parker was involved in various organizations, her husband would rather be plowing a field. "He loved to farm," Parker says, but "he was the force behind all I did."

"I support it because as farmers, we need other things: goods and services," Parker says of the EDC. "If we're diversified, it makes the economy more stable." And she adds of the companies that come here, "their employees need to eat so that's a market for our commodities."

"One of the wisest things they did," Parker continues about the EDC, "was to go out and do the five year plan for steady income," referring to the Building Prosperity program. That way, she says, they aren't spending all their time trying to fundraise.

"One thing that's irritated me," Parker says, "is Royal City people saying the EDC doesn't do anything for Royal City. But that's not true. They help the whole county and the Columbia Basin."

The biggest change Parker has seen since coming to Grant County in 1965 is the growth. "It's unbelievable what's happened here," she says, for instance the growth in Moses Lake. And the growth of the grape growing for wine in the area, she adds. Parker would like to see more agricultural processing in Grant County to serve the growers. Apples grown in the area are mostly shipped to Wenatchee or Yakima, she points out, and she'd like to see them processed locally. She'd also like to see more housing in Royal City "so we can entice people to come." Then she adds, "It just takes time to get that all done."

Parker's kids and grandkids keep her occupied these days. She has grandchildren in Spokane and she will go to their sporting events.

Parker enjoys the people of Grant County. "Most are so friendly and nice," she says. She says she can go to Quincy or Moses Lake and run into people she knows. With WIFE she has traveled around the country and has "absolutely not" found a better place than Grant County with the climate, the water, the inexpensive electricity "we have everything here we need. This is the best place to be."