1930: DiGiorgio Farms Packing shed
Largest of its kind in the world
"Dust Bowl Brings Labor Force to Area in '30s and '40s"
From Arvin Tiller/ Lamont Reporter
Supplement October 8, 1997:
The story of the building of DiGiorgio Fruit
Corporation could have come directly from the works of Horatio Alger
DiGiorgio’s story typifies the rag-to-riches dream that America has been know
Joseph A. DiGiorgio was born in 1874 at Cefalu, Sicily
near Palermo. When he was 14 he left home alone and came to New York City where
he went to work for $8 a week in the fruit selling business. At 19 he borrowed
$5,000 from a Baltimore bank and went into the fruit retailing business, within
a year the loan was repaid, his credit was established and he was ready for
bigger things. At 21 he was manager of the Monumental Trading Company and
director of a bank in Baltimore
At 25 he embarked on the business of importing bananas
and in a short time it took 29 ships to carry his produce to markets in the
U.S., Canada and Europe.
After demonstrating his ability in the distribution of
fruit, he next turned his attention to growing it. With the emphasis on fruit
grapes, and plums primarily in the San Joaquin Valley. In time, the DiGiorgio
Fruit Corporation became the largest of it's kind in the world. In 1937, his
acreage was 40,000 acres.
The national and international importance of Mr.
DiGiorgio was probably unimportant to most of the people who came to this
area seeking work. To them DiGiorgio was a man who owned a farm that held a
promise of jobs. For example, in 1943, the DiGiorgio Farms in Arvin and Lamont
employed 2,400 people. Of these 1,500 were Anglos and of these, about 90
percent were from the Midwest. He also had 200 natives of Mexican descent,
140 Mexican nationals, 30 Filipinos and 500 women (Anglo and Mexican) working in
the packing shed. There were 75 salaried employees.
Many people in this area got their start in California
by moving into one of DiGiorgio's camps as there were several. There were
family units and a bunkhouse for bachelors.
Mr. DiGiorgio's philanthropies were numerous as he
donated land and money to churches, schools and other organizations.
Trouble began to brew as workers pressed for greater
security and benefits. In 1947 a strike of major proportions hit DiGiorgio. Many
people in the area were deeply affected and friendships of many years were
ended. The strike eventually was broken, but the seeds were planted that were to
evolve to a better organized and larger scale when the United Farm Workers
organizing committee pressed DiGiorgio to become unionized, and a short time
later the DiGiorgio Farms sold its holding to S. A. Camp, who several years
later sold to Hollis Roberts.
Arvin Tiller/Lamont Reporter: P.O. Box
548, Lamont, CA 93241, (805) 845-3704