♪♪♪ An oasis in the middle of the Mojave: The China Ranch Date Farm is home for 1, 500 palm trees and for Brian Brown, the keeper of it all.
(Brian Brown) We grow these different kinds of cacti and century plants.
We also sell the starter date palms, so these are young female date palms.
If a person wants to have a producing date palm in their yard, we can get them started on that.
Brian moved here in 1979, but the farm dates back to the late 1800s when the 218-acre property belonged to a Chinese man named Ah Foo.
He was living here growing fruits and vegetables and chickens and pigs and selling them to a local mining camp so they called it the Chinaman's ranch.
At some point that gets changed to China Ranch.
-It's almost hard to remember that you're in a desert out here.
-Yes, it is, it's remarkable.
We're just a few miles from the border of Death Valley National Park which is the hottest, driest place in the western hemisphere.
-This is a life force right here for not only you but the entire area.
This is the reason China Ranch exists is because of this little running stream, and we've committedto taking good care of it.
We actually operate under a conservation easement agreement with the Nature Conservancy to assure that China Ranch will never be subdivided and it'll always ecologically remain healthy.
A major freshwater stream of the Amargosa River, Willow Creek is a vital resource for the farm and wildlife.
Brian monitors its condition closely.
How old are these trees? -These trees are about 20 years old.
We planted these from little ones, myself and my son under his protest when he was in high school.
Some of these are from our old grove, the clones that we took off.
Others are from other growers.
These here are an Iraqi variety called halawi.
I have some other ones from different places.
Date palm species from the Middle East all the way to California can be found across the farm.
Brian even makes his own hybrids.
During peak season, he can create over 15 types of dates with their own textures, colors and flavors.
You could have put up bananas.
Why dates? -The reality of farming in the Mojave Desert is it's extremely hot in the summer, it gets extremely cold, and the soil quality comparatively to other regions, say the Midwest, is not very good.
The water quality is fairly mineralized, and a lot of crops won't take those conditions.
Dates are a desert-adapted palm tree.
If you look around the base of them, you see the little clone trees? Those are genetic copies of the parent.
So that's a female halawi date.
If I cleave those and plant it, in about five years, those will give me halawi dates.
I know those are always a copy of the parent.
In a single season, the farm can harvest100, 000 pounds of dates.
Nick is actually pollinating here.
This is a female tree, and you can seeall the flowers up there.
He's taking a cotton ball full of pollen out of that bucket, and he's going to rub it around in there so they get exposure.
Then he's going to stick the cotton ball in the middle of that.
He'll bundle them all up and put a cotton ball in the middle so there will be a pollen source in that flower.
He'll take a little string and tie it around there and do a little slipknot to snug it up.
So those dates are pollinated, so that thing he's got in his hand will turn into a bundle of between 20 to 40 pounds of dates on that one bundle.
On average date trees live about 200 years, and they can produce up to 300 pounds of fruit a season.
Whoa, these are big! -These are the oldest date palms on the property.
These were planted from seeds in 1920 by my great aunt, my grandmother's younger sister, who lived here on the property at the time.
Those biggest ones are about 95 years old and they're 65 to 70 feet tall.
After the harvest the dates become jelly, jams, honey, bread, cookies and even milkshakes, all available at the gift shop.
You moved here in the 70s;have you ever looked back? -Oh, sure.
There's times in the middle of summer when I was the only person standing on this hill working on trees going, if this is such a great idea, why am I the only human being standing out here right now? -And what did you come up with? -Well, there are tradeoffs.
We have peace, serenity, safety and being in control of my life versus making a whole lot of money somewhere else.
But people who make lots of money pay a great deal of money to get the kind of things that we have already.
So there's a tradeoff.
Brian has dedicated a lifetime to the farm, and the main tradeoff is this beautiful patch of the Mojave thriving for generations to come.
Brian, I gotta tell you in all honesty, this is one of the best days I've had in a long time.
I've enjoyed it too.
Thanks for coming out.
If you'll excuse me now, I have some females to pollinate.
-Who would have ever thought that out here in the middle of the desert is this oasis, the likes of which I've never seen? It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to.
Look, if you need a date, make sure you make one with the China Ranch.