The Palouse, also known as the bread basket of the nation, began producing wheat in the nineteenth century. By 1910, the region was producing so much wheat that it had become Washington's most valuable commodity crop, making Whitman County the richest county (per capita) in the United States. Agriculture in the region became a big business, suing the best tools available. Mules or horses pulled reapers and combines and steam-powered threshing machines worked to bring in the crop. The annual harvest was the central event of the year, emplying an army of itinerant laborers. By the mid-1930s, mules and horses had become obsolete, replaced by gasoline powered machinery. In addition to wheat farming, fruit orchards have long played a notewothy role in the region and cattle ranching maintains its iconic status in the West.