Crane Family: 165 Years of Farming in Santa Rosa

Written By: Rachel LaFranchi
Published: November 1, 2017

Jennifer Crane is part of the sixth generation farming on family property in Santa Rosa. Many know the family’s historic barn that they drive by on Petaluma Hill Road where they can purchase Crane Melons at the end of the summer and shop for Christmas gifts in the winter.

Jennifer’s great-great-great-grandfather Richard Crane came to California in 1849 as a gold miner before settling on the family’s property in 1852. Their iconic barn was built 16 years later out of redwood and the property was home to a prune orchard. Consistent with the times, the family was very diversified, raising livestock and growing hay and grain.

Richard’s son Oliver Crane started farming the melons in the 1920’s looking for one that would grow in their clay soil. He developed the Crane Melon by crossing multiple varieties including several heirloom varieties that were common back then.

The Crane Melon has been grown on the family property for nearly 100 years and known by locals for its flavor and quality. Melons can only be purchased on the family’s property when they’re in season (September and October) and their melons are always selling out.

The Cranes see many people who can go to the supermarket and get whatever produce want at any time of the year, but they said they always encourage everyone to eat seasonally. They work with local RCDs to bring school kids to their ranch, teaching them the concept of eating seasonally and where their food comes from.

Like they were in the 1800’s, the family has remained diversified. The melons only grow on approximately 30 of their 142 acres. Eleven acres were planted with Pinot Noir in 2002, and the family still grows hay. They also grow yellow watermelons.

Jennifer said the property’s soil influences both the grapes and melons, and the family feels their dry farming practices help bring out the flavors. When they planted the vineyard 15 years ago, Jennifer said they enjoyed learning about the concept of terroir. She said they see terroir through both the grapes and the melons.

As for the future of the property, the family has two easements with the Open Space District so the property can’t be developed. The Cranes said it’s nice to know that their land is protected and it will remain in the state it is now forever.

“We’re proud of the product we produce, and there’s nothing better than seeing the customers that have been coming here for years,” said Jennifer. “At the end of the day, we all just enjoy what we do.”

For the last thirty years, the Cranes have also held a seasonal Christmas market in their barn for the holidays. They have gifts ranging from antiques to local food items, and the family says there is something for everyone. The Crane Melon Barn located at 4935 Petaluma Hill Road in Santa Rosa is open for the 2017 holiday season starting November 24. It is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday through December 17th.

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