About Adams County

INTRODUCTION

Established in 1883, Adams County spans 1,925 square miles of southeastern Washington.  Adams County is best known as one of the state’s agricultural and livestock ranching focused regions. Wheat, corn, apples and potatoes (among several other crops) are grown annually here.

The area was well traveled by Native Americans, who traversed the county, ranging their horses. The first settlers began arriving in 1869. They found the area suitable to raising cattle, horses and sheep. Others followed, seeking land for ranching and farming.

The first railroad crossed the county in 1881 and by 1897 wheat farming was a successful venture. By 1909, Adams County described itself as the “bread basket of the world,” with Ritzville the largest inland wheat exporter in the world in the early 1900s. The first wheat crop was harvested near Ritzville in 1880, and other settlers followed suit.

Adams County dryland wheat farmers soon found that the region was so dry that they must let their fields lie fallow every other year to conserve enough moisture in the soil to raise profitable crops. Tilling disturbs the soil and encourages moisture loss, so leaving the fields cropless for a year is a method to retain moisture and regain some nutrients by leaving the ‘cap’ intact.

LOCAL ECONOMY

Today, Adams County is one of the largest wheat producers in the state. Eastern Adams County is mostly dryland crops – wheat, canola, camelina, sunflowers, etc. The western portion of the county, known as the ‘panhandle” is far more diverse agriculturally thanks to the presence of canal irrigation. Around Othello, a diverse selection of fruit and vegetable crops are raised.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Adams County, which is part of Foreign Trade Zone #203, is centrally located in Eastern Washington.
  • A wide variety of crops are grown in Adams County. Check out USDA's CropScape maps to see what our farmer's raise and where.
  • The county is considered a transportation hub with Interstate 90, U.S. 395, State Routes 17 and 26, Burlington Northern Sante Fe railway and Columbia Basin Railroad.
  • The Port of Othello manages the Bruce Industrial Park four miles east of Othello. The port operates the Bruce Water System, which has the ability to deliver 222,000,000 gallons of water to future users.
  • Served by Avista and Big Bend Electric Co-Op, Adams County enjoys some of the nation’s most economical electricity.