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Farming in the Tehachapi Valley

Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi

 

August 3, 2019

Jon Hammond

I arrived in Tehachapi on the last day of December, 1940 and moved into a home purchased from my brother Rolf at 412 East F St. on New Year's Day. On the day that I moved here, the whole area was covered with snow. This soon melted, though, and the valley and surrounding mountains were covered with beautiful green grass, very spectacular. Tehachapi Valley had about 30,000 acres of good farm land together with many thousands of acres of grazing land. It is part of a pass through the Tehachapi Mountains which completely surround this very productive valley. The valley floor averages 4,000 feet in elevation with tree-covered mountains that soar to almost 8,000 feet. There were lots of apple orchards and several hundred acres of Bartlett pears and peaches. The fruit grown at this elevation is some of the best I have ever eaten and brings top prices. Late spring frosts can be a serious hazard to fruit and the crops are sometimes lost at blossom time. The west end of the valley is still covered with Blue Oak, especially in the Old Town area.

By 1942 we were under full steam ahead, growing 400 to 500 acres of potatoes each year in Tehachapi Valley and the Sand Canyon area where we had purchased 500 acres of land, about 240 acres of it was excellent potato ground. About half of our production each year was certified seed potatoes with a big market for them in the San Joaquin Valley.

Also, all during the years of World War II, we supplied many of the huge military bases in the Southwest with potatoes directly from our Tehachapi fields. I was called up for the draft, but during the war effort the draft board ordered me to stay on the farm and help produce much needed food. However, I was sworn into the California State Guard, becoming a drill sergeant. We were issued uniforms and all, but that only lasted for two to three months. Potatoes remained our big crop in Tehachapi until the late 1940s, when we began to raise seed for sugar beets, alfalfa and red clover. We later grew Merion bluegrass and eventually turf grass.

- J.C. "Jake" Jacobsen

Jake Jacobsen was a pioneering farmer in the Tehachapi area, along with his brother Rolf. Jake was a very giving, civic-minded individual who helped start the Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District, served as Tehachapi mayor and was president of the Tehachapi Unified School District Board. His portrait is painted on the mural on the side of the Apple Shed – a building he had constructed for cleaning seed, which was later used as a fruit packing shed.

 
 

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