[The Remembering Agriculture marker is composed of seven panels.]
Creation itself seemed to plan a garden where you now stand. This place came to be called "Valley of Heart's Delight" because of its mild climate, rich soil, and abundant orchards nurtured by the work of many hands.
San Jose was born from agriculture in 1777 when Spanish soldiers and padres picked the site to grow food. Cattle raised on the large ranchos were the first important product. Grain became dominant after the U.S. takeover in the 1850s. After the 1870s came the bountiful years of fruits, nuts, and grapes that made the valley famous.
San Jose, the "Garden City," was the center of one of the few regions in the U.S. where farms became smaller instead of larger. A family could make a living on less that 20 acres, so the large old landholdings were broken down. By 1925 almost 7,000 families cultivated over 130,000 acres of orchards.
Louis Pellier introduced "La petite prune d'Agen" from his native France in 1856. By the 1890s this valley was the world's largest prune producer, turning out 10,000 tons a year. Apricots, cherries, apples, pears, walnuts, grapes and peaches also brightened the view with blossom and vine. An old cherry tree can bear a ton of cherries each season; the Gold Rush never created such wealth.
Agriculture spurred an entire local economy. By the 1920s, the canning industry alone employed 20,000 in 85 factories in Santa Clara County. Thousands more worked for processors, packers and equipment companies. Valley-grown food was shipped all over the world.
The Valley of Heart's Delight was a garden of ethnic diversity, too. People came from all over the world bringing special skills from native lands; China, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Portugal, Scandinavia, and Yugoslavia among others.
Look east, look west - dream miles of blossoms. Know that the mountains, once called "Walls of the Garden", sheltered over 200 square miles of orchard and vineyard. By the 1980s, only a dozen square miles of orchard remained, the deep alluvial soil and its memories yielding to a new era of computers and chips, asphalt and concrete.