Jennifer Crane was born in 1978, becoming the sixth generation of the Crane family in Sonoma County, and today she continues the family tradition of growing Crane melons on the family’s historic ranch between Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa.
Her great-great-great-grandfather, Richard Crane, came west with the Gold Rush from Hannibal, Mo. While life as a 49er didn’t pan out, he found a different kind of gold in the dirt of Sonoma County when he settled here in 1852. His son, Oliver Crane, perfected a sweet and juicy melon that thrived in the soil and climate of the Santa Rosa Plain, and Jennifer still grows Crane melons and sells them each fall from the family barn on Petaluma Hill Road.
“A few years ago I found some of my old school work that my Mom had saved,” Jennifer says. “It was a questionnaire I filled out when I was 7 years old. Question 1: Hobbies. I wrote, ‘Cats.’ Question 2: What do you want to do when you grow up? I wrote, ‘Work at the Crane Melon Barn.’ After all these years nothing has changed, I still love cats and I work at the Crane Melon Barn!”
She was born at Hillcrest Hospital in Petaluma. The building is no longer a hospital, but Jennifer still treasures a couple of souvenirs.
“After I was born and was ready to head home, my parents realized that my out t had been mistakenly left at home. So Hill- crest Hospital provided me with my first out t – a white t-shirt stamped Hillcrest Hospital and a cloth pumpkin that the women’s auxiliary had made (I was born in October). We still have them!”
Jennifer grew up on the family farm and attended Penngrove Elementary, Petaluma Junior High and Petaluma High schools, and then went o to college at the University of Redlands and the University of Bristol, England. But her roots eventually pulled her back to the rich soil of Sonoma County. She returned home to take classes in viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College, and now grows pinot noir along with Crane melons and runs the family business with her parents, Cindy and Richard Crane.