Coachella Date Trees a Hundred Years Ago

date tree
Source: Farm Journal (April, 1919)

When I hear the word “Coachella” I think of the annual music festival at Indio, California, so I was surprised when I recently came across an article in the April, 1919 issue of Farm Journal about Coachella – but it wasn’t about the music festival. Instead it described how the Coachella Valley in California was the perfect spot for raising dates. Here are a few excerpts.

Now, thanks to our wise Government, it is possible to obtain home-grown dates. Our agricultural experimenters found a bit of real Sahara Desert in Southwestern California, the Coachella Valley, only eight miles wide and twenty miles long. This strange little valley is 250 feet below sea-level.

The Algerian tree was dug up and carried to the newly established agricultural station named Mecca, and of course, it felt itself quite at home there. In 1904 it was fifteen feet high; now it is thirty feet high and each year bears great quantities of splendid fruit. It has become the parent tree of a great date colony of 500 acres. The trees are flourishing, thanks to the irrigation system that supplies an abundance of water to their roots.

Four hundred pounds of fruit to a tree is possible each year, and the trees live to be 200 years old.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is still doing research in Coachella. The Agricultural Research Service is conducting research on how to improve the productivity of “old” date trees in the valley. I don’t know whether any of these old trees are from the original Algerian date tree described in hundred-year-old Farm Journal article – but somehow I want to believe they are.

date orchard
Source: USDA ARS Online Magazine. Caption under the photo: Cover crops are being evaluated as an alternative to conventional tillage practices as a means to improve production of older orchards.

27 thoughts on “Coachella Date Trees a Hundred Years Ago

  1. I’ve been to Indio on vacation [not for the festival] and seeing those date trees was interesting. I didn’t know about their history, but like you I want to believe that at least one of the trees I saw was an original Algerian one.

  2. The music festival was the first thing that came to my mind, too. I had no idea how it got its name, and never was interested enough to find out. Now I know.

    1. Similarly to you, the music festival isn’t quite my cup of tea – but see Coachella mentioned in a hundred-year-old Farm Journal article, and I’m suddenly interested in learning more about the area. 🙂

  3. I’m like you Coachella never was more to my mind than the music festival. The date trees being there and their history is really interesting. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  4. I never heard of either the music festival or the trees. I hope there are some of the original trees. If they live 200 years, they have a hundred to go!

  5. This is truly a great story of a tree’s gift to people of the world and not so far fetched to see a current grove that might be the offspring of the one in your 100 year old article.

    1. I never thought about it in quite this way until right now, but it’s interesting to think about how trees and other plants connect across generations.

    1. I also liked the old photo. Somehow the photo makes me think of people having taking photos with their phones today. Back in the days of cameras with film that needed to be developed, it would have been a bit more difficult to capture the spontaneity.

  6. Interesting article,I know palm trees were hardy,but didn’t realize how much fruit they could bear. By the way… you didn’t photoshop that photo to put you swinging on that tree did you?!😂

    1. I also thought that she looked like she was having fun. Today everyone’s always trying to take cool photos for Facebook or Instagram. This photo was a wonderful reminder that people also enjoyed posing for fun photos back in the days before digital photography.

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