How to Get Electricity from Strawberries

The irony of using modern technology to research and write a history project is not lost on us, and it’s no surprise that researching and writing the Heritage Food Project is heavily dependent on using technology. While we do spend a lot of time looking through good old fashioned archives, the majority of time working on the project is done on our computers. Thinking so much about the past as we progress with the project helps keeps things in perspective, but for the most part we all go about our days taking basic things like electricity for granted. It wasn’t too long ago, however, that electricity was new to the Pajaro Valley, and we can thank one of our foods featured the Heritage Food Project for bringing it here: strawberries.

In the late 1800s strawberry cultivation was starting to increase but it was held up by an important factor: not enough readily available water. Just as homes didn’t yet have running tap water, farms did not yet have irrigation. The Corralitos Water Works was started in 1878 to bring water down a flume from the Corralitos Reservoir into the city of Watsonville to irrigate strawberries. About a decade later, a Pelton wheel was installed at the Water Works, generating electricity for Watsonville. Clearly the city would have ended up getting electricity eventually even if had strawberries not been there to push Watsonville ahead of the pack, but it’s still fun to think that we have strawberries to thank as we work away on the project with the help of our modern conveniences.

Corralitos Water Works
Corralitos Water Works

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