The new century brought dawning realization that the Agricultural Experiment Station needed to address more than the concerns of growers in western Oregon. East of the Cascade Mountains was a high, dry landscape unsuited to the kind of agriculture that flourished in the Willamette Valley. In 1901, AES established its first branch experiment station at Union in northeast Oregon.
The Weekly Eastern Oregon Republican newspaper described the new station and its serendipitous location “on the tract of 620 acres of land that was purchased by the state for a branch insane asylum. Failing to secure the branch insane asylum it was turned over to the state … to be used as a branch experiment station.”
However, the Union branch station was built on a flood plain. For the first 20 years, much of the work centered on figuring out how to drain the land so it could be used for farming. Then followed research to improve production of cattle, sheep, swine, and draft horses with better forages and more effective methods to drain the sometimes soggy valleys of eastern Oregon.