Birth of California’s Date Industry in the Coachella Valley
In 1904, Bernard G. Johnson, established a UDSA experimental station near Mecca, California. Johnson studied the desert’s climate and date palms’ growth, keeping thorough records of the six varieties he cultivated from offshoots brought over by the USDA in the 1890’s obtained from Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq.
Three years later, a major flood formed the Salton Sea forcing Johnson to move his experimental garden just west of Indio. He imported Deglet Noor offshoots from Algeria and Iraq for this garden and continued nurturing the plants. His gardens flourished, proving the Coachella Valley’s potential for becoming a date growing region. Johnson today is regarded as the “father” of California’s Date industry.