Sunday, July 17, 2011

In Woodland Hills, The *Real* Grove Grows

The Militant took advantage of the free (M) Red and Orange line rides on CarmaChameleon Saturday to do some Militant exploration in the San Fernando Valley.

It wasn't a very long bike ride from the Orange Line Pierce College station, through the bike path, down Corbin Avenue and down a few blocks south of Ventura Boulevard to see it.

The Militant took a virtual trip back into time to pay a visit to Bothwell Ranch, the last commercial orange grove in The Valley.
 
As you may or may not know, around the same time Los Angeles hosted its first Olympic games, the San Fernando Valley was a huge agricultural area, boasting over 15,000 acres of commercially-farmed citrus groves. Now, almost 80 years later, all but 14 acres remain in a quiet, affluent part of Woodland Hills, just a few blocks east of Taft High School.

Located along Oakdale Avenue, Bothwell Ranch is home to some 2,000 Valencia orange trees, which are mostly cordoned off, although  premature green oranges can be found hanging outside the rusty wire fence. Most of the grove is visible along Collier Street, which runs along the southern end of the property (You'll also find this school across Collier from the grove, which will give you your LOL for the day).

As CalTrans workers hammered away at half of a concrete bridge less than six miles to the southeast, only the sound of birds, the breeze and occasional dogs can be heard here. Listen close, and the whoosh of light traffic along the nearby 101 can be heard, albeit faintly.

It's almost as if The Militant really did go back in time. Come to think of it, this sign on a telephone pole in front of the property (pictured left) not only contains a "Bell System" logo, but a local 213 number for The Valley.

Most of the orange trees have recently been harvested, as July is their harvest month, though a number of them towards the eastern end still bear fruit that will probably be picked soon. Valencia oranges are usually farmed for orange juice.

The agricultural era in the SFV ended mainly due to rising water costs (Oranges need lots of H2O) and poswar suburban development.

Although this is the last commercially-farmed orange grove in the SFV, there are other smaller groves in the area, mainly for educational and non-profit use: The city-owned Orcutt Ranch (12 acres), Cal State Northridge (8 acres) and Bishop Alemany High School (1.5 acres). The map below shows you where to find all of them:

View Remaining Orange Groves in the San Fernando Valley in a larger map

Bothwell Ranch is still family-run, headed by Ann Bothwell, the 93-year old family matriarch. Her late husband, Lindley, once owned a company that owned orange groves across Southern California. The grove is also home to Lindley's rare classic car collection, 75 in all, which includes a 1913 Peugeot race car. Her grandchildren maintain the trees and cars today.

When an operative who works in the area tipped off the location to The Militant a few months ago, he was overcome with delight. We are well familiar with vestiges of our local history being eaten away, but orange you glad that there are still some folks who preserve some of it for us today?

1 comment:

Valley Dude said...

Interesting - thanks!