What do melons, Christmas crafts, and weddings all have in common? The Crane Melon Barn.
The historic redwood barn on Petaluma Hill Road in Santa Rosa was built in 1868 and is where the original Crane Melons have been sold for over 80 years by six generations of Cranes. Known affectionately as the “Melon Barn” by its many fans, it is where great grandson Rick and great great granddaughter Jennifer Crane have all carried on the family tradition of farming the Crane Melon and selling them at the Barn.
The Crane family has been in Sonoma County since 1868 and purchased the barn around 1900.
Jennifer is a sixth generation Sonoma County farmer. She said that her parents Richard and Cindy Crane have made the Crane Melon Barn the place that it is today. Jennifer, who was married on the property in 2015, said that the 12-acre property is one of a kind.
“The barn is kind of a chameleon,” Jennifer said. “It has many uses. In September and October the main use is to sell Crane Melons.”
The Crane Melon was invented by Jennifer’s Great-Great-Grandfather.
“People often use the term terroir to describe winegrapes,” Jennifer said. “I apply that same concept to the melons. They were invented a mile from the barn here on Crane Canyon Road and they are still grown there. That’s the secret.”
The Crane family has sold melons from the barn since 1920. Today, Jennifer’s father Richard grows and harvests 15-20 acres of Crane Melons in the very soil, weather, and farming style that they were invented to grow in, which is why they still thrive today.
“When customers come in during melon season and they are excited to be there, and they look forward to it every year it is great,” Jennifer said. “We are proud to continue providing a product that is unique to Sonoma County and that people enjoy.”
The Crane Melons, which are not as big as watermelon and weigh on average 5-7 lbs., are delivered fresh each day to the Barn.
“That’s what people appreciate about the melons,” Jennifer said. “They are vine ripened and picked the same day they are available to customers.”
“Along with the original Crane Melons, we sell Crane yellow-meated watermelons, heirloom tomatoes, Crane Melon Honey, Organic Sonoma County Walnuts, local art, Halloween and autumnal decorations, locally made olive oils, jams, and dried fruits,” Jennifer said.
Each year, the Crane Melon Barn is open September and October from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
“It’s a pretty busy season,” Jennifer said. “Especially with the 11-acre pinot noir vineyard next door.”
Jennifer planted the first vineyard block in 2002 and sells the fruit to wineries in the area.
Since the melons are only in season in September and October, the Barn acts in many other roles. It is home to the annual Crane Christmas Boutique, which opens the weekend after Thanksgiving and features Sonoma County vendors.
“When the barn closes for melons, we launch straight into the holiday boutique,” Jennifer said, “We have 16 vendors with everything from homemade craft items, Christmas decorations, antiques, and local food items. There really is something for everyone.”
This year the Crane Christmas Boutique opens on November 23rd.
In the spring and summer, the Barn also functions as a special events facility for weddings, birthday parties and much more.
Jennifer said that she appreciates the opportunity to work alongside her parents to continue her family’s farming legacy in Sonoma County.
“It’s fun to get to work with my parents,” Jennifer said. “We love what we do and are proud of it. Working in agriculture keeps you on your toes but we are glad to work together to keep the family tradition alive.”
Jennifer said that she loves the Farm Bureau and that her parents have been Sonoma County Farm bureau members since the 1970’s. Richard Crane was on the board of directors in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
“Not only are you such great advocates for agriculture, but you really do a great job of showcasing all the great things in agriculture,” Jennifer said.
She said that each month she looks forward to receiving the Sonoma-Marin Farm News in the mail.
“I love reading about people who are involved in agriculture, there are always great photos and info,” Jennifer said. “I think that’s important to educate people about agriculture by showcasing farmers and ranchers who are doing something really cool.”
Jennifer said that she and her parents are in it for the long haul.
“The melons have been going for 100 years, the Christmas Boutique has been going for three decades, and now we have the vineyard,” Jennifer said. “We will continue to work hard to keep it all going strong into the future.”
For more information about the Crane Melon Barn or the Crane Christmas Boutique please visit https://www.cranemelon.com/