While we were attending a Heartland rally in Pahrump Nevada in October. On one of our “non-event” days, we decided to take a day trip out to Tecopa, California to visit the China Ranch Date Farm.
It was just across the Nevada/California state line amidst the Mojave Desert. It was only about 40 miles from our RV park. As you are driving on California Highway 127 from Pahrump you come to Death Valley.
This part of California has had recorded atmospheric temperatures as high as 134 degrees. This is the hottest ever recorded on the earth. Tecopa California is only a 1-hour drive from Death Valley. Now you are asking yourself, how can a farm exist in these climates, much less thrive! After research, it was clear this is actually the perfect environment for this type of crop.
This ranch has quite a bit of History. The historic Tonopah & Tidewater railroad Tonopah Tidewater Railroad which was a subsidiary of the Pacific Coast Borax Company and the Old Spanish Trail Old Spanish Historic Trail which was a historic trade route from northern New Mexico and California, are both within walking distance to the ranch. The railroad became inactive in 1939 but is still intact, as a result, that section of the ranch is now for hiking only.
There are abandoned Gypsum mines to see and lots of relaxing trails to explore, which makes the area just full of great history.
Records show that a Chinese man named Ah Foo came to the canyon after working in the Death Valley borax mines. He supplied fruits, vegetables and meat for the areas mining camps. It was then called Chinaman’s Ranch. Ah Foo lost his ranch in 1900 to a gunslinger named Morrison who eventually sold it. It has been bought and sold many times and has not always been a date ranch. For a while, it was a fig farm and a cattle ranch, but finally, it was bought by the children of state Senator Charles Brown in 1970 and it is still in that family today.
Dates are a native crop to North Africa and Arabia so they love the dry, hot climate. Because of this, they are a product of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) and yields about 60 million or so pounds of fruit annually.
They are sodium, fat, and cholesterol-free, and a good source of fiber. These are important in reducing the risk of both heart disease and cancer. One date is 23 calories and about a 1/4 cup of chopped dates or 5-6 is what the National Cancer Institue considers one serving.
You need a male tree to pollinate 40-50 female trees. When the fruit is green they are draped in cloth to protect them from birds and weather until they are ripe.
Harvest is from September to December as the fruit from the trees ripen. Each adult tree can produce 200-300 pounds of fruit each season. That’s a lot of dates.
We sampled all the different varieties in the store and even tried the famous date shake. Yummy!! Some dates are good for recipes and others are good for just a sweet treat anytime. The gift shop had some great antiques, beautiful clothes and lots of gift packs of date.
After we went to the store we wandered around on the ranch among the trees (suggested by the employees). It is quite a beautiful ranch with date palms as far as the eye could see. Once the plants are mature they need to make sure they are receiving enough water and some pruning. That’s when the action starts.
If you are going to be in the Pahrump, Nevada it is a well worth drive out to the ranch. It truly is something to see. Check out our video to see more.