Califonia Bountiful

Crane Melon Barn

Home of Sonoma County's one-of-a-kind melon

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In Sonoma County, the last name of Crane is pretty much synonymous with the word melon. That's because the Crane family has been farming melons in the same part of the county for more than a century now.

It all started when Richard Crane was enticed to set down roots in the area because of the Gold Rush. But it was actually his son, Oliver Crane, who struck gold years later by breeding a melon that grew incredibly well in the unique clay soil and climate of Sonoma County, and without much irrigation. It was later named the Crane melon, but unfortunately, it didn't find much success outside the area because it was too fragile and thin-skinned to ship long distances. Thus, a local legend was born.

Today, it's Richard's great-grandson, Rick Crane, along with Rick's wife, Cindy, and their daughter, Jennifer, who continue to look after the small but popular farming operation in Santa Rosa that owes its success to this unique melon.

Crane melons are actually grown and harvested much the same way they have been for decades: They are vine ripened, harvested by hand and then taken in the family's pickup truck to the Crane Melon Barn—the family farm headquarters—less than a mile down the road. At the barn, travelers stop in for a bite or two of the produce the family is known for. But inevitably, the Cranes get the same question each harvest season: What exactly is a Crane melon?

"It's actually a cross between several heirloom varieties, most of which are unavailable in the market today," Jennifer explained. "A Crane melon is a combination of a Japanese melon, an ambrosia melon, a white melon and a Persian melon."

The family usually harvests around 700 to 800 pounds of melons each season on just under 30 acres of land. And while the seeds of change are all around them, the Cranes are determined to keep this agricultural tradition going for future generations to enjoy.

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