Saturday, November 8, 2008

Innovation in Carmel Valley

(Photo: Edward Berwick's farm in Carmel Valley in 1909, now in the public domain.)

California farmers and ranchers are famous for their willingness to innovate - as in, for instance, their recent advances in organic farming. Some of the roots of this taste for experiment can be found in Carmel Valley, in the 19th century, in the person of Edward Berwick, one of the key agriculturalists in the history of the state. London-born, Berwick arrived in the valley in the late 1860s, at a time when wildcats still prowled and the occasional grizzly bear passed through. He bought a 120-acre tract for $500 and launched experimental farming endeavors, including the resurrection of the Winter Nelis pear, a forgotten varietal from the mission era. The Berwick Orchard became "world famous," writes historian Augusta Fink, and Berwick's pears were coveted by the crowned heads of Europe. His success attracted other innovative growers to the valley, as well as the state.

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