At one time, Silicon Valley was known more for fruits and vegetables than chips and web sites, and produce stands, not car dealerships and burger joints, lined El Camino Real.

One of the last links to those pre-computer days is CJ Olson Cherries, a family business that’s been doling out its product since 1899.

On the cherry tour. (Photo: Nina Thorsen, KQED)

Tonight on The California Report Magazine on KQED Radio, we’ll profile the company. Last weekend I was able to follow fourth-generation grower Deborah Olson as she led one of her occasional orchard tours and cherry tastings; the final tour this season is Saturday at 10:30 AM.

One of the more interesting parts of the tour was Deborah Olson’s recollections of her grandmother, Rosie, who immigrated from Lebanon to Mexico and then to the U.S. in 1929.

“She was really the engine of the family,” Olson said, describing how Rosie Olson set up and ran the family’s fruit stand, then used the proceeds to buy more farmland. Rosie was also responsible for recruiting an unusual mix of farmworkers from Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

Here’s an article on the company from the California Farm Bureau Federation:

CJ Olson Cherries: A Link to Pre-Computer Silicon Valley 17 June,2011Nina Thorsen


Nina Thorsen

Nina Thorsen is a KQED radio producer and director, and frequently reports on sports, food and culture.  

She co-created and produced KQED's Pacific Time,  a weekly radio program on Asian and Asian American issues that aired from 2000 to 2007. Before coming to KQED, Thorsen was the deputy foreign editor for Marketplace.  In her home state of Minnesota, she worked for A Prairie Home Companion and for Public Radio International.  

Nina was honored by the Radio-TV News Directors Association of Northern California in 2012 for a series of stories on the Oakland A's stadium.  She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in speech-communication. 

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