The success of the navel orange industry in California was well known the world over.
Places with similar climates wanted to replicate that success. One way to try and do so was to hire men who had knowledge of citrus growing to help in far-flung places around the world.
One such man was Raymond E. Nebelung.
Nebelung was born in Anaheim in 1891 and received a degree from the University of California’s College of Agriculture in 1914. After graduation, he returned to Anaheim, where public records indicate he engaged in farming before becoming an assistant farm adviser in Los Angeles County in 1917.
The following year, Nebelung became assistant farm adviser in Riverside County. Nebelung, a bachelor, moved into the Tetley Hotel in Riverside and began traveling all over Riverside County to provide support and advice to county farmers. The farm adviser and his assistant worked for Riverside County, but in close cooperation with the Riverside County Farm Bureau and Riverside County Cooperative Extension. Today, Riverside County is still served by the County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, the non-profit Riverside County Farm Bureau and the University of California Cooperative Extension, all of which still support agricultural production in the county, just as they did in 1918, when Nebelung became assistant farm adviser.
In January 1920, he was promoted to county farm adviser. Nebelung continued to visit and advise the 23 farm bureaus that had been established in Riverside County, as well as writing occasional articles on farm-related topics for local newspapers. He was apparently a well-liked individual, although he was much more likely to be mentioned in Riverside newspapers as farm adviser than for his personal life.
Then, in 1921, Nebelung was offered an opportunity and an adventure, all in one.
He accepted a position with the British Government in the Union of South Africa, where he would work in its agricultural department as a citrus specialist. Nebelung resigned his post as farm adviser in August 1921 and set sail from New York to South Africa on Oct. 4. He arrived in South Africa on Nov. 23, a sea journey of 50 days.
In February 1922, Nebelung wrote to the Riverside County Farm Bureau on what he had observed so far in South Africa. The letter was reproduced in full in the Riverside Enterprise. Nebelung said Cape Town was a pretty place and the Cape Peninsula, where it was located, had some of the best scenery in South Africa. After arriving in Cape Town, he had to travel 1,000 miles to the government center in Pretoria. The letter noted that farming was still carried out in South Africa by antiquated methods, such as plows pulled by oxen.
Nebelung also mentioned in his letter that “traveling is not very pleasant here.” Trains were slow and not very clean, he said. Food on the trains was always the same, with mutton, fish, and boiled potatoes and cabbage being the main menu items. Automobiles were almost nonexistent, as they were all imported from the United States and very expensive. In his short time in South Africa, Nebelung saw that area as being full of opportunity, with considerable natural resources that had not yet been exploited.
It appears Nebelung stayed in South Africa about a year. He came back to the United States by way of India and China, including stops in Kenya and Zanzibar (now part of the country of Tanzania). He returned to Riverside, where he was employed by the citrus committee of the Chamber of Commerce and became a popular speaker at local club meetings, telling of his time in South Africa.
In 1926, Nebelung was hired as a land appraiser for the Federal Land Bank, eventually relocating to its headquarters in Berkeley. The Federal Land Bank was and is a network of banks that provide long-term loans to farmers. He seems to have worked for that company for the rest of his career.
Nebelung married in 1931, but the marriage was brief and ended in divorce. He died in 1973 in Alameda County, having devoted his entire working life to assisting farmers.
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