gmhTODAY 12 gmhToday Jan Feb 2017 - Page 60

Santa Clara Valley … Once Known of as the “Prune Capital of the World” Where Have All the Prunes Gone Written By Kimberly Ewertz The men quoted in this article were at one time involved in prune farming — Ernie Belleza who, with his two brothers, farmed prunes from early 40s through the mid 50s; Angelo Benassi’s family farmed for decades; and Joe Filice’s grandfather learned prune farming as a young man in Italy. His father and uncle farmed prunes from 1945 to the late 60s; and Terry Kickham Wolfe had 25 acres, known as the Kickham Ranch. A lthough prune farming is a rare commodity in Gilroy today, the history of the sweet stone fruit grown almost exclusively in Santa Clara Valley dates back to the 1800’s. French vineyardis Louis Pellier, who hailed from a country famous for its Pruneaux d’Ente, moved to California in the mid 1850s and purchased a tract of land near Mission San José. He named it Pellier’s Gardens. It was on this land that Pellier, with the help of his brother Pierre, grafted cuttings of the Le petit prune d’Agen root- stock, which grew in the Agen area of his French homeland, with local wild plum trees. This cultivation experiment resulted in the birth of the California dried plum. 60 Gilroy resident Richard Perino grew up working his family’s prune farm along with his brothe