We Grow Good Dates!
We’ve seen the homemade sandwich-signs with arrows every weekend from late October through late April, since last year, on Ramon Road and Dillon Road advertising Sam Cobb Dates. Today, we finally meet Sam himself and buy some Medjool and Safari Dates.
Located in Sky Valley off Dillon Road, tucked between 22nd Avenue and Henry Road, lies a paradise of date palm trees.
We pull up to an unassuming farm stand…
…and meet Sam and his wife Maxine…
Sam’s date farms, established in 2002, are family owned with ranches in central and eastern Riverside County (Sky Valley and Blythe). They grow and sell 7 varieties of fresh dates:
- Black Gold
You can also schedule a walking tour with Sam himself and learn firsthand how dates are grown, their sustainability in desert environments, how new varieties are developed, and even sample dates right from the tree. (samcobbfarms.com)
Sam Cobb’s story is quite interesting:
“I was three years old when I saw my first tractor from my parents’ porch in Fresno, CA. From that moment on, I wanted to be a farmer.” (from Profile Author, Sally Hedberg, on samcobbfarms.com)
Sally’s article continues…
He started by earning two agricultural degrees at Fresno State University in the 1980s. During this time he met and fell in love with Maxine. He only had one prerequisite for marriage. “Would she be willing to be a farmer’s wife?”
Her answer was yes, and they began farming vegetables in Fresno. But times were tough for farmers then, so when Sam was offered a job in 1989 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he took it.
By 1996 he moved his family to La Quinta. Through his job in Soil Conservation, Sam visited many date farms and started doing research on the process of cultivating dates.
When the opportunity came to buy 5 acres in Sky Valley, Sam and Maxine invested in their own date farm and began planting date trees. Realizing the process would take years, Maxine and Sam kept their day jobs, he with the USDA and she as a fifth grade teacher in Indio.
Sam’s education, research, years of experience, business skills, and careful long term planning made his dream possible.
As Sam walked me through the 300 trees, consisting of seven different varieties, he spoke passionately about his dates.
Here’s what I learned:
- Date trees grow from suckers and seeds. There are female trees which must be pollinated by the male trees. Sam’s farm has a ratio of 30 females to 1 male. If a sucker is planted then he knows for sure what variety of dates will be produced. It’s like cloning. If grown from a seed, no one is sure who’s the daddy and therefore one can’t be sure what variety will be produced.
- The dates must be covered with bags while maturing to keep away the birds.
- Date trees take 15 years to mature but can live for more than 100 years.
- A healthy tree never stops producing. It’s a generational crop, and Cobb hopes his kids and their kids will continue the tradition of date farming.
I sampled each one of his seven varieties, three of which have Sam’s trademark. They are Black Gold, Safari, and Candi. These aren’t available elsewhere in the world and have distinct flavors. Safari chews like a cookie and has a mild nutty taste. Candi has a caramel aspect, and Black Gold has two textures and at least three amazing flavors… caramel, chocolate, cherry, a hint of vanilla and maybe more. Sam quipped, “I don’t grow anything I don’t like.”
All Cobb’s dates are fresh and grown pesticide free.
And I really love the dates from his farm!