INDIO, Calif. — From the sky, the palm orchard of Riverside County doesn’t look like the set of an erotic film. And from the ground, the dirt covered rows at Shields Date Garden don’t exactly scream passion, but up in the palm leaves, there’s a whole lot of womanizing going on here.
If anyone truly understands the phrase “sex sells" it's date farmer Floyd Shields. During the 1950s, dates were all the rage and the Coachella Valley was littered with Date Palm Orchards.
So, in an attempt to stand out, creative director Jessica Duenow said Mr. Shields made a provocatively named movie called “The Romance and Sex Life of the Date.”
“It made people wonder what was going on here. What is the Romance and Sex life of the Date?” Duenow said.
Including sex and romance in the movie title may have been racy back in the 1950s, but in all reality the film was just a slide show of how date trees were pollinated.
Shields has since passed on, but his film still plays everyday at the Shields Theater on Highway 111 in Indio, Calif.
Date palms are some of the oldest cultivated fruits on record. And it's also one of the most expensive to produce. That’s because it takes 15 years for a tree to mature. Then, to get a large crop of dates, the palm buds have to be pollinated by hand.
“There’s never been an organically growing date farm. It’s always required the assistance of man,” Duenow said.
Every March, human pollinators called “Palmeros” must climb the female tree and dust male pollen on her buds. The work doesn’t stop there, each date must be cleaned, and hand-sorted before it makes it the fruit stand.
Shields cultivated dozens of date varieties and even developed a thing called "date sugar" and "date flakes" -- a perfect snack if you decide to watch Shields' favorite movie.
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