Unbuckling the history of the Prune Belt of Sonoma County

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In the early 1900s, the area that extends from Santa Rosa to Cloverdale was known as the Prune Belt of Sonoma County.

The agricultural crop became popular when Warren Dutton sought the assistance of Luther Burbank to plant more than 19,500 French prune trees on his west Santa Rosa ranch.

The crop did well in the warmer climate of northern Sonoma County. By 1936, Healdsburg was labeled the “Buckle of the Prune Belt,” with plums planted on more than 24,000 acres.

Prunes were big business in the early days, celebrated with an annual Prune Blossom Festival. The start of the school year was often delayed so Sonoma County schoolchildren could assist in the prune harvest.

But prunes began to suffer an image problem after World War II, when the nutritious fruit known for its laxative powers became associated with old people in a society that favored youth.

By the 1970s and 1980s most local farmers moved to wine grapes, the county’s top agricultural crop to this day.

Click through our gallery above to catch a glimpse of the prune industry in Sonoma County way back when.

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