Agriculture, especially the orchard industry, has been a mainstay of the Solano County economy for more than one hundred and fifty years. From the 1870s through the 1940s, orchards dominated the landscape. A combination of rich soils and a variety of microclimates allowed farmers to grow a wide range of fruit trees: apricots, peaches, pears, cherries, and plums. For many decades, East Coast consumers regularly anticipated the bountiful early harvest from Vacaville and its environs.
Since the end of World War II, many factors have contributed to the decline of the orchard industry. Soil erosion, growing costs, urbanization, and an increase in foreign competition have made it exceedingly difficult for growers to compete in domestic and international markets.
In 1995, the project Solano's Gold, The People and Their Orchards was envisioned as a tribute to this rich agricultural region. Words and photographs would provide the foundation for a book and exhibition. As a result of this effort, an extensive pictorial collection, and transcripts of interviews recorded in the field, are now a part of the permanent collection of the Vacaville Museum.
Major agricultural losses continue to be recorded throughout the County. The closure of the De Monte processing plant and the Tri Valley Growers Cooperative had a critical impact on the farming community. Census figures show that the number of full-time farmers has dropped significantly during the last decade.
The Vacaville Fruit Company closed its dry yard at the end of 2001. The Company no longer markets local fruit. Its incredibly sweet, dried, slab apricots are now but a cherished memory.
Upper Lagoon Valley, Bucktown, and the Pleasants Valley Road area, historic cradles of the orchard industry, are destined for development.
Philip Adam's photographs poignantly capture a way of life that is swiftly becoming a part of our past.
Portfolios of Solano's Gold, The People and Their Orchards were created in 2002.