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Sunday, October 4, 2009

EARLY FRUIT ORCHARDS IN TOLUCA / LANKERSHIM

2009 - The Year of Valley History

When the wheat crops failed on the historic Lankershim Ranch, the foremen looked for substitutes. Since the early days of the Franciscan missionaries, the ability of a semi-arid San Fernando Valley to sustain orchards was well known. The padres had brought grape cuttings, the seeds of olives and fruits and a variety of nuts.
Among the most successful orchard crops were cling peaches (so named because the meat held tightly to the fruit even when ripe).

Mules used in Lankershim Orchards - Photograph gift to The Museum of the San Fernando Valley from David High - July 2009

While waiting for a speech at Moorpark College, Caesar Chavez, who was using my office the campus center, and I talked about picking fruit (both his and my families did the back breaking work.) We discussed how in the early days of American farming in California, that East Indians were brought under English contracts to plant the orchards.
My mother told her children about a song the little children in Live Oak, California sang about the orchard planters: "Hindu, Hindu, does the best he ken do, and when it rains, he makes his skin do." Actually, the East Indian laborers were not Hindus, but Sikhs. When their planting was done, some of the American contractors put them on boxcars and sent them to the border of British Columbia (sending them back to British territory, in that case Canada, fulfilled their bargain).

Lankershim Peach Orchards - Photograph gift to The Museum of the San Fernando Valley from David High - July 2009
Peaches seem to have originated in China about 3000 years ago, but very early cultivation of the fruit was conducted in ancient Persia. Roman merchants brought the highly desirable fruit to the western world, and aptly named it Persica. The English renamed the fruit Peche from which we get the word peach. Dried peaches and their pits arrived with the Spanish in California.

Lankershim Peach Orchards - Photograph gift to The Museum of the San Fernando Valley from David High - July 2009

The early pioneer American farms in the San Fernando Valley experimented with a variety of fruit trees, including oranges.
Lankershim Orange Orchards - Photograph gift to The Museum of the San Fernando Valley from David High - July 2009

The San Fernando Valley, in the heart of the Creative Center of the World, deserves a great Museum of history and culture.
Interested in agricultural history? Call 1 (818) 347-9665 and become part of your Museum Community.

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