Agriculture in Tehachapi has changed. The farming of apples, pears and sod has transitioned to vegetables, grapes and other crops over the past 30 years. But even though this change is happening, local farmers are still raising some of the same crops and providing residents a small town feel, even as large corporations have moved in.
In the city, Cummings Valley and in the greater Tehachapi area, agriculture is a great part of what makes Tehachapi home. Apple farms, peaches and others producing grains are still in the area. Brite Creek Farms, Tangleweed Farms, Dries Farms, Tehachapi Heritage Grain Project and apple orchards are giving residents options.
“Even though the number of acreage and places to sell them has declined, the interest locally is still there from Bakersfield, Palmdale, Santa Maria and Ridgecrest. People are coming up and spending a little bit of time and seeing what is here,” said John Pulford, owner of Pulford Appletree Orchard in Tehachapi. Pulford started farming apples more than 20 years ago and has seen the transition.
He added, “More and more people are coming back for the apples and to meet for socialization.”
Jim and Sally Arnold, owners of Triassic Vineyards, came to Tehachapi in 2014 and see why visitors enjoy the area. Jim Arnold said that people come from Bakersfield and the Antelope Valley and say that visitors were not aware of what the area offers.
“People that are interested in wine tasting will travel miles to taste good wines and they see all the good things in Tehachapi. They often stay longer and see other things in the area and this increases tourism, and the quality of life. It helps us as Tehachapi Wine Growers and it helps the entire community,” said Arnold.
Factors influencing the transition to other types of crops include the weather, selling of land and what is most sought after on the market.
“At the beginning it was just the apple orchards and then Duncan Farms, then Superior Sod came in and after that it all started with Grimmway Farms,” said Ralph Curiel, manager of the 220 acres of Valley Sod. He has been a farmer in Cummings Valley since 1985.
He added, “All of them had a lot of apples and pears and had a lot of bad years with cold weather in May and it was depleting the crops and the farmers were tired, so a lot of sod farms started to come in.”
Now, in Cummings Valley, a variety of spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, mustard, herbs, root vegetables and hay is grown year round.
Many corporations have since moved to Tehachapi, such as Grimmway Farms, Sun Select, Millennium Pacific Greenhouses, Bornt and Son’s Inc., Valley Sod and others. A new way of growing crops organically or only in water has emerged as well.
“Tehachapi and Cummings Valley offer favorable conditions to farm our vegetables during the summer season. This region remains cool during the day and night which makes it a good alternative to the high temperatures we experience in San Joaquin Valley,” said Valorie Sherman, communications and engagement manager for Grimmway Farms.
The formation of the Tehachapi Cummings-County Water District in 1965 also helped bring needed water for crops.
Del Troy, Tehachapi Heritage Museum librarian and a Tehachapi resident since 1958 said, “I went to the opening of Brite Lake and if it weren’t for that we would not have the agriculture today and many other things.”