1930: DiGiorgio Farms Packing shed
Largest of its kind in the world
"Dust Bowl Brings
Labor Force to Area in '30s and '40s"
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 to stimulate.
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