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wide demand for dried plums through trade promotion, consumer advertising, education and research. Both programs have operated continuously ever since. While plantings peaked in 1929 and continued to remain stable throughout the war, by 1951 crop acreage had dropped off. Gradual urbanization of Santa Clara Valley greatly impacted the local farmer whose livelihood depended on the harvest. “In 1950, we were at our peak in Santa Clara County, in terms of acres of prunes, and there were 50,000 acres at that time. And from there on it started to dwindle,” Benassi said. Proceeds from the harvest were the farmer’s entire yearly earnings, and the town’s well-being was equally dependent 62 on a successful harvest. “I came here in 1959, as a senior in high school, and we wanted to know when school was going to start, and they [the town] said, ‘when the prunes are up’,” Joe Filice recalled. “Back in those days, you could go grocery shopping and they [the grocers] would keep a tally of it, and you’d pay, when you got paid for the prunes. They worked with us to pay the bills,” Terry Kickham Wolfe said. Eventually the rise in labor costs prompted the industry to replace pre-war harvesting methods with more innovative practices and equipment. Work previously done by hand—shaking prunes from the trees with a shaking pole, picking the GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017 gmhtoday.com