California date volume should exceed 50 million pounds this season. Bearing acreage over the past five years has averaged 7,700 acres, while date production volume for that time frame averaged 47.5 million pounds.
Dates are harvested in September and October from California’s desert regions. The Coachella Valley is the main production area, though dates are also grown in the desert region of Bard Valley, which straddles the California-Arizona border, and there is limited pickings near Las Vegas.
Dates are grown on a date palm tree that typically grows about 20 feet high. It is a labor-intensive crop that requires much more care than the average tree fruit. Pickers have to be at eye-level with the date bunches seven different times in a five-month-period. From artificial pollination to harvest, in California workers are typically raised to the top of the tree in some type of mechanical device.
Dates are sold from cold storage or the freezer throughout the year as they have an extended shelf life. Demand has been increasing and creating a year-round market, but holiday sales – particularly Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah are most popular. Lesser holidays popular with dates are Easter and Passover in the spring. There is also a very big demand during the monthlong Muslim Ramadan celebration. Ramadan is a lunar calendar holiday that moves 10-14 days earlier each year. It began in mid-June in 2015 and will have a start date of early June in 2016.
SunDate LLC, headquartered in Coachella, CA. SunDate is a partnership between the date growing operations of Anthony Vineyards and Chuchian Ranch.
Two major date shippers are Atlas Produce & Distribution Inc., in Bakersfield, CA, and Hadley Date Gardens in Thermal, CA.
Southern California citrus and vegetables – grossing about $4200 to Chicago.