COACHELLA VALLEY, United States: California’s Coachella Valley feels like the Middle East, with the same climate, soil and date palms as far as the eye can see.
Originally brought over from the Arab world, the valley produces 35 tons of dates annually - 90% of the dates in the United States.
“Basically we have perfect weather for dates,” said Linda Beal, a volunteer archivist at the Coachella Valley History Museum.
“They’re able to put the bags over them and the nets over them to keep the bugs and birds out and then they put the bags over because we do get some monsoonal rains like they do in the Gulf countries too I think. So they’re protected then from the rains, from molding.”
The exchange of farming and culture between Arabs and Californians is chronicled in the Coachella Valley History Museum’s Date Museum, going all the way back to its origins in the early 1900s when the Department of Agriculture made contact with date farmers in the Middle East.
“Other places (in the US) were considered for dates being brought over, but we had water. We have lots of land. It was really opening up here, the railroad of course came just before the turn of the century so we had transportation.”
Beal added: “A lot of people came down here for their health and what healthier thing than growing these wonderful dates, which is a gift from the Gulf countries really to us.”
The secret to the Coachella Valley date farmers’ success is the abundance of water in caves underneath the desert allowing the original date palm saplings brought over from the Middle East to flourish.
“They did have some blights and problems so you have the mother trees and you get all these offshoots,” Beal said. “Hopefully we can send them back over there and get the other date gardens going over there.”