Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Martha's Garden Date Farm

Four of us ladies from Antigua Street took the riding tour of the Martha's Garden Date Farm yesterday.
Martha's Garden is located 10 miles east of downtown Yuma, tucked away within the city limits but perched on the edge of town.
140 Acres of mature trees and 40 Acres of leased state land with new trees planted on it and miles and miles of plastic water lines and individual bubbler drip irragators make up this wonderful stand of Medjool Date Palms. The water is supplied from 5 natural wells on the property. I was amazed a the facts that were shared with us about the process and the product. All of the work from planting to pollenating to harvesting the dates is done by hand. They are for the most part an Organic Fruit, having no artificial fertilizers or chemicals used on them. Dates have more antioxidents than Blueberries or Pomegranites, but they are high in natural sugar and Carbohydrates. The resident rattle snakes are respected as they take care of the rodents and prairie dogs who chew the water lines and the roots of the trees.
There are male trees and female trees and each fruit stem is thinned and pollenated annually. This growing season is just beggining and won't get really busy until about May. They use sacks around the fruit when it starts to grow to protect it from birds and weather.
The farm employs about 80 people at the peak of harvest...and only the hearty survive that job, which is done in September and October during some of the hottest days of the year. The rinsing,sorting and processing takes place right there in the middle of the farm, and Dates can be frozen and refrozen with no ill effect.
They have a 300 Sq. ft. freezer. Their largest export customer is Australia, and they follow all legal and ethical procedures to export to them. The original tree starts came from Tripoli in the middle east and the only place in the U.S. that has the correct climate to grow these dates are this desert area and across the border of California in the Imperial Valley. During the riding tour it was interesting to learn a few facts about the farm ground that lines Hwy 95 Some of the prime farm ground in the area is family owned and rented out for lettuce, onions and other produce.
When it's available some of this prime ground would most likely sell for as much as $68,000 per acre! It was a beautiful afternoon and we topped off the informative tour with a Date Shake in their gift shop..... I also learned we have about two weeks til the snakes come out...and then KayCee's romps in the desert will cease.

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