The Last of the Prune Pickers – Preface

Not long before silicon reigned in the Santa Clara Valley of California, the Valley was largely covered with orchards.  There were orchards of pears, apricots, cherries, walnuts, and the king of them all: prunes.  Thousands of the orchard farms were small family operations.  This is the story of what preceded those farms, how they came into being, and how they thrived.   It is also the story of one of the last of those farms, of the farmer, and of some of the young boys and girls who had the privilege of working for him.

The book is written in two parts.  Part One is a well researched, yet engaging, general history of the area.  The emphasis is on agriculture, particularly on the rise and decline of the orchard farms.   Incorporated into it are many important pieces of the historical picture that are lacking in many, if not most, historical accounts.  I have tried to present the “how” and “why” behind the events that took place.  The history is well documented with references and notes at the back of the book.  Many of the notes are interesting stories in themselves.

Part Two narrows the story down to one farm, which was typical of many of the Santa Clara Valley orchard farms.  It gives some of the history of that farm and of the people who lived and worked on it.  

In both parts, I endeavored to present many lesser-known matters of importance: the applied physics, chemistry, and life science behind the early industries, some of the key principles involved in farm practice, and a look into the mindset of a farmer.

Throughout the book, I have also attempted to point out some things of lasting value.  I hope you find this refreshing.