They Paved Paradise

Urban Sprawl Devours Another Date Garden /June 2006

There will be far fewer honey and empress dates on the market this year. The largest stand of these rare varieties was sold to developers who plan to expand on an elementary school where the grove once stood. The main date producing area in the US, the Coachella valley, is currently exploding with the construction of new housing, in particular, the prime date growing area of Indio and Coachella, CA. New tile roof homes and golf courses are replacing date gardens and other agricultural fields at an alarming rate. Between the loss of groves to developers and the sale of date palms to other new construction sites, there may be a shortage of dates in coming years. At least until new plantings can catch up with the ever growing demand. Soon, gone will be the days of the beautiful 50, 60, or 70 foot tall date gardens. With the going rate of $1500.00 paid to the farmer for a small date palm, they are usually sold before reaching full production at the height of 20 feet. When we bought our property and planted offshoots, we made sure it was far from urban sprawl.

Now, we are told our water rights have been sold to rapidly growing areas in San Diego county. Within 20 years, they say, much of our agriculturally rich Imperial Valley may return to the non-irrigated desert from which it arose some 100 years ago. Urban sprawl is a reoccurring problem throughout the world and especially in the United States. Towns spring up in the best farming areas. Soon the towns becomes cities and push farms out into more marginal lands to grow our food. Food is one thing we still produce in this country from the ground up. We would be wise to discourage laying concrete on viable farmland and build, if we must, where agriculture is not being done.