Because of the wealth of natural resources found in Grant County, agriculture, ranching, and timber industries naturally grew with and contributed to the development of the county. In the early days, sheep formed a large part of the agricultural base and the area boasted some of the largest sheep bands in the world, supplying a great volume of wool to, among others, the world-renown Pendleton Wool Works in Pendleton, OR. By the 1920 and 1930s, however, cattle ranching became—and continues to be—the dominant sector of the agricultural industry. Crop farming, dairy production and orchards operated on small scales during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but declined during World War II due to changing market and labor pressures. The commercial timber industry in Grant County grew rapidly in the 1920s, and again during and after World War II. Livestock raising and timber harvesting remain important sectors of Grant County’s economy.
Grant County is an arid to temperate region, with average annual precipitation in the valleys between 12 and 14 inches (360 mm), while the uplands or highlands of the county average between 16 and 24 inches (610 mm). Grant County averages between 40 and 60 days each year that see more than 0.10 inches (2.5 mm) of precipitation. A great deal of the county’s precipitation comes in the form of winter snow in the mountains. This snow pack is vital to recharge aquifers, resulting in spring run-off, and in-stream flows of water throughout the year.