Farmer's market: agribusiness and the agrarian imaginary in California and the far west.
Thirty years later, in the agricultural valleys of California, the meaning of farmer once again stood at the center of debate. Prompted by the published works of Carey McWilliams and John Steinbeck, Senator Robert La Follette initiated a round of congressional hearings that sought to explain the intensive type of agriculture emerging in the fields of the Golden State. The new farmer promoted by progressive reformers such as Butterfield decades earlier had taken unprecedented form in California and the Far West--one that stood in stark contrast to the Jeffersonian yeoman of America's agrarian imagination. For McWilliams and Steinbeck, those tending the fields were not the farmers of yesteryear but capitalist businessmen who had turned California's farms into "factories in the field." Senator La Follette's congressional committee echoed these concerns, lamenting how the "industry" of California agriculture was "rapidly eliminating the prosperous family farm." (2)
The conflicting notions of farmer promoted by progressive reformers and 1930s activists refract important light on the evolution of America's agrarian imaginary. Butterfield's depiction of the new farmer represented the modern criteria that progressives deemed necessary for rural America to participate successfully in the new century. The works of Steinbeck and McWilliams some thirty years later, on the other hand, embodied the rising apprehension toward this industrial agriculture and the death knell it seemed to sound for what they considered the "traditional" agrarian idyll. That such apprehension continues to reverberate across America seventy years later underscores how scholars and the general public still grapple with the realities of both industrial agriculture and conceptualizations of farmer. (3)
This article argues for a closer examination of California agribusiness and the agrarian imaginary of farmer that enveloped the industry's development during the first half of the twentieth century. Over the decades, scholarship on California agriculture has not ventured far outside the land-labor paradigm established by McWilliams in his seminal work, Factories in the Field. Scholars from Paul Gates, Donald Pisani, and Lawrence Jelinek to Ernesto Galarza, Cletus Daniels, and Steven Richard Street, among others, have put historical flesh on land concentration, corporate ownership, and exploited migratory labor that McWilliams ascribed to the state's agricultural industry. In more recent years, historians such as Victoria Woeste and David Vaught rightfully have sought to balance this predominant view by detailing the complexity of labor relations in the state and the smaller operations that not only existed but also prospered within the agricultural economy. To be sure, these works have greatly enriched our understanding of California's unique agricultural industry. Yet that understanding still largely remains confined within the land-labor paradigm, leaving unanswered many questions about agriculture's place within California's larger industrial-economic context, as well as its role in the evolution of America's agrarian imagination. (4)
Divided into two sections, the discussion that follows seeks to push beyond that of land and labor to examine more clearly industrial agriculture through a business lens and to explore how the agrarian imaginary of farmer was crafted politically by this industry and its critics during the first half of the twentieth century. David Vaught has correctly stressed the need for scholars to examine "[California] growers on their own terms." In the first section, the economic examination of California agriculture underscores that those growers' terms were, first and foremost, business. Well before progressive reformers like Butterfield promoted the new farmer, agriculture in the Golden State already rested in an ever-expanding industrial model. These agriculturalists, large and small, viewed themselves as businessmen, as did the corporate executives who maintained a myriad of investments in the industry. Against this economic backdrop, the second section traces the evolution of farmer and the dialectic between economic enterprise and cultural symbolism. Just as agribusiness and its corporate investors used the term farmer strategically to navigate public perception and influence state officials and government policy, critics of industrial agriculture also employed it to voice apprehension of a capitalist food system that was quickly erasing traditional agrarianism. Together, both sides nurtured the seeds of America's agrarian imaginary.
Few identities are rooted deeper in the nostalgic soils of Americana than that of farmer. And no agricultural region has proved more significant in both exploiting and recrafting that identity than California and the Far West. Not surprisingly, the struggle between agribusiness and the agrarian imaginary of farmer presaged much of the discussion that continues today on industrial food production. Perhaps fittingly, it first appeared in the capitalist countryside of the Far West.
A NEW INDUSTRIAL MODEL
At the turn of the century, California agriculture stood well entrenched within a burgeoning industrial model. Flush with capital and endowed with a benign Mediterranean climate, commercial agriculture flourished within the state's fertile, 450-mile-long Central Valley and its surrounding foothills. While monocropping was nothing new to American agriculture, California's climate and geography allowed for the production of an abundance of specialty crops in monocrop enclaves. Rice and grains dominated the northern valley, nuts and fruit orchards claimed both the northern and southern foothills, and high-value specialty crops ranging from grapes and cotton to vegetables covered the valley floors throughout the central and southern regions. The economic bounty of this enterprise grew apace the increasing crop variety and acreage that stretched across the state. Ranking as the state's dominant industry by 1900, agriculture reached a production value of $350 million in 1916 and supplied over two-thirds of the nation's fruit and vegetables by 1920. Within a decade, it would generate an output value three times that of the national average, and a few years after Senator La Follette ended his 1940 congressional investigation, it would lead the nation in both agricultural output and revenue. (5)
Industry was surely the best term to describe the state's agriculture, as it rested directly within a production model not seen anywhere else in the nation. From the earliest years of the twentieth century, California agriculture was imbued with the tenets of modern industry: capital intensive, highly organized, scientifically guided, professionally managed, technologically enhanced, and astutely marketed. Those operating within this agricultural economy--although in many respects as diverse as the crops they produced--were no less business oriented. While differing in size and crop specialization, these operations, whether large or small, corporate or cooperative, were all united by the same ethos of business, functioned within the same industrial model, and depended on the associated cluster of scientific and business knowledge guiding that model. Richard Walker has characterized California as "one of the purest cases of capitalist agriculture in the world." In more generalized terms, it could simply be said that California and the Far West became the home of industrial agriculture and created the original "farmer in a business suit." (6)
The Big Five
Organizing thousands of individual producers within the industrial model of agriculture represented one of the primary steps in the steady march of agribusiness--a term used here to denote both industrial agriculture and its corporate lineages, from investing and financing to research and development, petrochemicals, and transportation. In no place was this industrial organization and model more immediately discernible than in Hawaii. By the time of U.S. annexation in 1898, the burgeoning sugar industry dominated every aspect of the political and economic life of the future Island State, creating a landscape--spanned by individual producers large and small--where "cane was King." Yet by the early years of the twentieth century, the industrial model of Hawaii's sugar kingdom--from processing and distribution to marketing, scientific research, and financing--largely rested in the hands of five companies: Castle & Cooke, Alexander & Baldwin, C. Brewer & Company, Theo H. Davies & Company, and American Factors. The Big Five, as they were known, spearheaded the industrialization of sugar in the Far West, creating a business framework and relationship that would be replicated time and again in California. (7)
In 1905, the Big Five established the California and Hawaiian Sugar Company (C&H Sugar), a cooperative that handled all aspects of Hawaii's sugar exports. Although white planters on the islands had organized as early as 1850 to pool resources and effectively manage the importation of labor, the C&H cooperative represented the culmination of agriculture's industrial organization. The Big Five were not independent planters but multimillion-dollar corporations with interlocking directorates that harnessed the production of independent operators and controlled almost every aspect of sugar production, from field to market. From their corporate offices in Honolulu and San Francisco, the
companies managed not only the marketing of C&H sugar, but also its transportation through the Matson Navigation Company, which accounted for more than 90 percent of all island-mainland shipping and whose 74 percent majority of corporate stock was owned by four of the five companies. C&H's refinery, located on the northeastern shore of the San Francisco Bay, processed all of Hawaii's raw sugar exports from cane, as well as the majority of California sugar beets. By 1910, just one year after Butterfield and his fellow commissioners submitted their report, it reigned as the largest and most sophisticated operation in the world--a status that delineated the agrarians of America's hinterland and the businessmen of the Far West. (8)
Under the direction of the Big Five, the sugar industry in Hawaii also stood at the crossroads of modern science, or in the words of one journalist in 1911, "farming with brains." As early as 1895, the Big Five had established an experiment station on Honolulu dedicated to sugar production that employed a range of scientists in eleven principal departments, such as agricultural engineering, botany, chemistry, and genetics. Within a decade, the station served as the basis for the creation of a college of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts, later known as the University of Hawaii. From these scientific endeavors, sugar cane became standardized by 1922 with a genetically altered strand that, yielding 100 tons per acre, gave the Big Five--and its growers--control of the most superior breed of cane in the world. (9)
The Big Five supported and expanded this industrial agricultural model with a steady stream of investment and financing. Above all else, the companies' executives were businessmen. They sat on the boards of corporations in Hawaii and California, ranging from railroad and land corporations to water and gas companies. Most notably, their business ties included such financial institutions as Wells Fargo, the Bank of Hawaii, and Lewers & Cooke. Drawing on these extensive resources, the Big Five extended sugar's industrial model over the decades to specialty crops that became familiar brand names on American grocery shelves after mid-century: Dole Pineapple, Bumble Bee Seafoods, Royal Hawaiian Macadamia Nuts, and Cabana Bananas. (10)
The vertical and horizontal integration that underpinned the Big Five's successful effort to place Hawaiian agriculturists within an industrial model was replicated in a variety of forms throughout California. And as in the future Island State, the horizontal integration of California cooperatives represented the primary step in that steady progression toward industrial agriculture. Indeed, cooperatives were not unique to California and the Far West, as many associations covering a variety of staple crops, most notably grain, proliferated across the nation.
What differentiated those of the Far West as the most successful were specialty crops largely produced nowhere else in the country. Cooperatives placed California's bounty in planned economies, where associations largely eliminated competition among member growers, stabilized prices through controlled production, and maintained a united front in the market. Over the years, characterizations have abounded regarding these associations. While proponents often have politicized them as groups formed out of the heroic struggle of small growers, critics such as the economist Ira Cross have described them as nothing more than "mere profit-making associations." Economically speaking, these California cartels--numbering 197 statewide as early as 1915--organized agriculture to an unprecedented degree. They standardized production and helped usher in the latest innovations of modern science into even the smallest field and orchard. Moreover, they placed agriculturalists big and small in an industrial model. Thus, as Richard Walker has observed, the cooperatives of California were primarily "just good business." (11)
At the pinnacle of this organizational effort were Sun-Maid Raisin Growers of California and the California Fruit Growers Exchange, better known as Sunkist. Created in the 1890s, Sun-Maid and Sunkist boasted millions in annual sales and controlled over 90 and 75 percent of their respective crops within the first three decades of the twentieth century, securing their place as two of the largest and most successful cooperatives in the nation. The structure and orientation of such associations was not lost on business publications; Fortune magazine lauded the placement of agriculture within the "corporate model." Structured like a "pyramid," the Sunkist cooperative, for example, centralized the production of 13,500 citrus growers through a bureaucracy of 210 packing associations and twenty-six regional exchanges overseen by a board of twenty-six directors. Moreover, the cooperative operated fifty-seven district offices throughout the United States and Canada and touted annual expenditures of over $20 million in advertising and $120,000 in scientific research. Sun-Maid boasted similar achievements in the market. From its corporate offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the company coordinated production and distributed its brand on a national and international scale, ultimately maintaining foreign outposts in Toronto, London, and Shanghai. (12) True to this "corporate model," the executives of these cooperatives were just as much businessmen as they were agriculturalists. Sun-Maid's founder and president, M. Theo Kearney, was an entrepreneur who made a fortune from his land investments in the Fresno region of the Central Valley. The self-styled J. P. Morgan of the Valley appointed numerous bankers to Sun-Maid's board of directors, and after his death in 1906 his successors maintained similar business ties. Vice presidents Samuel P. Frisselle and A. Emory Wishon, for example, served on the California Chamber of Commerce and occupied executive positions in prominent California businesses such as Kern Oil and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. So, too, did the executives of Sunkist, whose business lineage included ten banks, the Irvine Company, and Union Oil. (13)
While California's cooperatives placed scores of crops within the industrial model, the independent agriculturalists operating within these structures were no less business oriented than the executives who served on the associations' boards of directors. George F. Johnston, one of southern California's first Anglo grape growers, began his operation in 1901 outside the small town of Etiwanda. Like many of the state's smaller agricultural operations, the George F. Johnston Company fit the mold of American business much more than that of farming. Johnston chose the area of Etiwanda for its accessibility to river and well irrigation and specialized in the muscat grape, which could be divided among the raisin, wine, and fresh table markets. Raisins and wine production offered independent growers like Johnston reliable markets through contracts with Sun-Maid and California vintners. Table grapes, on the other hand, were a much more volatile market. In hopes of capturing the early harvest sector of this lucrative market, Johnston extended his operations farther south and east in 1913, purchasing properties in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys. Like other businessmen, he continued to grow his enterprise over the next twenty years. He leased or purchased more land, shifted his southern crop to new grape varieties, employed an ever-expanding labor force of Japanese, Mexicans, and Italians, and conducted business with fruit merchants in over twenty-five cities across the United States and Canada. Johnston's average annual revenue never exceeded much over $200,000 (in today's currency), but the nature of his small operation was surely that of agri-business. (14)
Agriculture Gone Corporate
As cooperatives like Sunkist and Sun-Maid helped place thousands of agricultural businessmen like Johnston in the industrial model, enterprises such as Di Giorgio and the California Packing Corporation (CalPak) were the epitome of agriculture gone corporate. Indeed, corporate agriculture had many nineteenth-century precedents in California. By the late 1800s, for instance, the Miller and Lux Company had revolutionized the cattle and meatpacking industry in the West, securing its place as the only agricultural corporation to be listed among the nation's 200 largest industrial enterprises by century's end. The Natomas Company charted a similarly innovative path in agriculture. By the 1880s, the gold mining-turned-reclamation giant of the Sacramento Valley stood at the forefront of specialized horticulture in the state, maintaining impressive winery and nursery operations, as well as thousands of acres of cultivated land, which included the world's largest vineyard. Di Giorgio and CalPak built profoundly upon these corporate lineages. (15)
Incorporated in 1920, the Di Giorgio Fruit Corporation began as a merger of over forty different companies that founder and namesake Joseph Di Giorgio pieced together and operated during the previous decades. Like many in the state's agricultural community, Di Giorgio was a self-made businessman who came to California with an acute eye toward the region's untapped potential in fresh fruit production. In 1910, he purchased the Sacramento-based Earl Fruit Company from the Chicago meatpacking giant Armour, commencing an unprecedented expansion throughout the state that eventually brought some 20,000 acres within the company's fold. As did the Big Five and California's cooperatives, Di Giorgio placed these landholdings at the nexus of modern science and industrial management. The company's specialization in orchards and vineyards utilized the latest innovations in irrigation, genetic grafting, petrochemicals, and production processes. Moreover, from its corporate offices in San Francisco and New York, the corporation connected fruit production to a meticulously managed distribution network spanning the United States and Canada. As early as 1923, it not only boasted over $50 million in sales but also reigned as the largest merchant shipper-grower operation in the nation, successfully unifying the production and marketing of its products and those of smaller firms. (16)
Over the next two decades, Di Giorgio continued his industrious trajectory of growth. By the 1930s, his operations included agricultural lands in Central and South America, banana plantations in the West Indies, orchards in Washington, Idaho, and Georgia, and citrus groves in Florida. Besides extensive land and production facilities, the company also consolidated its stake in the fruit exchanges of Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh, as well as in a California winery. The winery's annual output of seven million gallons made Di Giorgio the second largest private distributor of wine in America. By 1946, with landholdings exceeding 40,000 acres, more than half of them in California, Fortune magazine heralded Di Giorgio as "the largest grape, plum, and pear grower in the world." Time simply labeled the Italian-born businessman the "Fruit King." (17)
Like Di Giorgio, CalPak established its own economic realm across California and the Far West's industrial agriculture kingdom. Its vertical integration, like that of the Big Five and Di Giorgio, allowed it to control every aspect of the production process, from seed to market. Yet, where Di Giorgio's corporate dominance in agriculture was based on multifunctions as grower, merchant, and shipper of fresh fruit, CalPak sowed new ground by focusing these areas on food processing. In many respects, it forged one of America's earliest industrial foodways.
Originally the California Fruit Canners Association, CalPak emerged in 1916 and enjoyed unhindered expansion, acquiring over a dozen packing corporations throughout the next three decades. By mid-century, it was the world's largest packer of foodstuff. From its San Francisco headquarters, it operated sixty-four processing plants in ten states, over 20,000 acres of agricultural production in California, and numerous farming operations in northern and Midwestern states, Hawaii, and the Philippines. Like cooperatives, CalPak ushered in the latest innovations of modern science and industry to more than 10,000 sharecroppers who farmed its landholdings and produced the fruits, vegetables, and other foodstuffs the company processed. Boasting sales of over $111 million by 1945, CalPak presented consumers a range of processed food products under its brand names Gold Bar, Glass Jar, Granny Goose, and Del Monte, which ultimately became the corporation's official name. (18)
Land has often stood at the center of discussions on capital and investment within the agricultural economy. Yet the shared financial interests and personnel from the corporate sectors of transportation, energy, and finance reveal a clear picture of both the business view of California's industrial agriculture and its place within the larger economy. (19)
No corporation shaped California more significantly than Southern Pacific Railroad, and certainly few things figured more prominently within the company's transportation monopoly than California agriculture. Through its subsidiary, the Pacific Fruit Express, Southern Pacific contracted with the whole of the agricultural industry, transporting the state's specialty crops to markets across the nation. Indeed, in the first half of the twentieth century, food arguably was just as important to the company as its passengers. Moreover, as one of the West's largest landowners, Southern Pacific became a leading proponent of scientific agriculture, working with agricultural programs at the University of California and Texas A&M to develop its western landholdings, which stretched from the West Coast to the Lone Star State. (20)
California's oil companies also viewed the state's agricultural industry as a prime area for business investment. Standard Oil of California, for example, collaborated with state researchers at the University of California in the scientific development of insecticide. By 1920, this research yielded the California Spray-Chemical Company, which within a decade became a sole subsidiary of Standard Oil. Investment most notably was forged between the state's oil companies and agricultural industry through the board of directors. Standard Oil maintained corporate ties with the Big Five in Hawaii and the Di Giorgio Fruit Corporation, while Union Oil shared executives with Sunkist, Di Giorgio, and two of the state's leading agricultural land companies, California Delta Farms and the Kern County Land Company. (21)
The two primary municipal gas and electric corporations, Southern California Edison and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), also built strong bonds of business with agriculture. Along with gas and electricity, both companies supplied water for agricultural and municipal purposes. Southern California Edison's board of directors created business links with the Big Five, Di Giorgio, CalPak, and California Delta Farms. PG&E, the West's largest gas and electric company, maintained ties with Sunkist, the Big Five, CalPak, and the Kern County Land Company. (22)
More than any corporation, Bank of America proved the most significant investor in the development of California's agricultural industry. When in 1904, Amadeo Pietro Giannini founded the Bank of Italy, the original financial seed that would grow into Bank of America, the state's agricultural industry was at the forefront of his mind--a focus reflected in the bank's board of directors. By 1920, five directors held prominent positions in one or more of California's agricultural sectors. Over the decades, such ties increased as the bank shared executives with the Big Five, Di Giorgio Fruit Corporation, and CalPak, among others. Yet Bank of America's investment in agriculture was also much more direct. By the 1940s, it not only held one in every ten farm mortgages and financed substantial portions of specialty crops such as cotton, grapes, and citrus, but also continued to foster scientific innovation through the agricultural research center it established at UC Berkeley in 1928--a center that still bears Giannini's name. The bank even maintained direct investments in agriculture through such subsidiaries as California Lands Inc., which placed hundreds of thousands of acres of foreclosed farmland under the bank's ownership. As longtime vice president Earl Coke recalled, "The bank is firmly convinced of the necessity of providing funds for economic sections ... that produce wealth. Agriculture is the main one that actually produces wealth." (23)
MEN OF THE SOIL
How the development of industrial agriculture in California and the Far West was advanced during the first half of the twentieth century by California businessmen and politicians--and how it was received by the general public--centered more on the cultural symbol of farmer than on the miraculous progress of industry. Ultimately, the discourse and struggle that enveloped the march of agribusiness in the Far West during these decades played a significant role in nurturing America's agrarian imaginary. (24)
From Thomas Jefferson to Frederick Jackson Turner, an agrarian model of the West settled into the national consciousness. That California's industrial agriculture fit neither this Jeffersonian idyll nor that of the new farmer touted by progressive reformers was not lost on the business community. As early as 1910, economists lauded California cooperatives as "profit-making associations" and noted how little they differed from "the ordinary business corporation." Such praise echoed for decades as scientific methods made the Central Valley the "most valuable farm lands in the world" and placed agriculture under the management of "businessmen on an intensely business-like basis." California agribusiness even garnered international attention during these decades: The Economist printed numerous articles, from the Hawaii-California "Sugar Trust" to Sunkist and the citrus industry, whose soils were "too valuable for ordinary farming." (25)
The region's agriculturalists, above all, upheld the distinction between traditional farming and their businesslike operations. They did not refer to themselves as farmers but often preferred the more specialized titles of grower, rancher, orchardist, nurseryman, horticulturalist, and vineyardist. A survey of agricultural news reports published in California's rural newspapers between 1900 and 1950 demonstrates the pervasiveness of these preferences, underscoring the industry's professionalization. (26)
Contrary to such preferences, however, the use of farmer by agro-businessmen represented a vital strategy in navigating the political inroads of the state and federal governments, as well as in influencing the general public. On one hand, the term surely resonated culturally with the self-made status of agriculturalists and their investors, such as George Johnston, Joseph Di Giorgio, and Bank of America's A. P. Giannini. On the other hand, it stood as a potent public relations strategy. Instead of distinguishing themselves from ordinary farmers, agriculturalists often found it advantageous to stand beneath the national trope, forging in the process one of the earliest dialectics between cultural symbols and economic enterprise.
Currents of Change
Between the two World Wars, businessmen and policy makers crafted farmer in expedient ways to fit the currents of change. The Great War presented the first opportunity to employ this strategy, spurring both an increased demand for food production and a perceived labor shortage in California fields. The state's agricultural industry spearheaded contract negotiations between the United States and Mexico, securing the importation of thousands of Mexican workers for the 1918 harvest. Yet, the conversation about the binational labor program did not depict a workforce of foreigners filing into the corporate models of Di Giorgio or Sunkist. Instead, reports invoked a patriot farmer, with "Mexican labor" coming to the aid of "California farmers" and their effort to "harvest the crops needed to win the war." As the Boston Globe proclaimed, "the American farmer did not wait to be conscripted--he enlisted in this war work at the beginning." (27)
Indeed, the image of the patriot farmer strummed a nationalist chord of significance, especially one of whiteness--a characteristic that fit more closely the agricultural operations of America's heartland than its Far West industrial counterparts. California's and Hawaii's specialty crops had long relied on an army of cheap, racialized labor largely composed of immigrant workers from China, Japan, Mexico, and the Philippines. During the Great War, agro-businessmen attempted to refashion the image of their operations to match that of the white majority. George Johnston, for example, displayed only his Italian employees--most likely supervisors--on the company's label rather than his workforce of Japanese immigrants. Similarly, promotional materials distributed by the Chambers of Commerce in the Central Valley offered bucolic scenes that absented the valley's racialized labor system, such as a 1915 Tulare County pamphlet featuring a white farmwife leisurely knitting amid the vista of the family's citrus orchard. (28)
The image of the patriot farmer gained new significance during the peacetime decade of the 1920s. Nationalism replaced the war effort, underpinning debates over tariffs and foreign imports that erupted in the halls of Congress. At the center of this ongoing debate was sugar and the proposal to lower tariffs applied to foreign producers such as Cuba. Hawaii's Big Five led the charge against reduced tariffs, banning together with mainland sugar beet producers to promote one of the earliest "buy American" campaigns. Here the patriot farmer stood as the bulwark against foreign encroachment: "American farmers," in the words of the Wall Street Journal, were fighting for survival against the "producers and sugar interests of Cuba." Throughout the decade, the Big Five and its Domestic Sugar Producers' Association continued to lobby successfully for maintaining the sugar tariff, promoting themselves as "American farmers ... entitled to all reasonable application of the protective tariff." (29)
As the Big Five proved adept at invoking the image of the patriot farmer to obtain a protective tariff from the federal government, so, too, did they adroitly fashion the portrayal of the yeoman farmer amid the Great Depression to benefit from New Deal policies like the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). Sugar production in Hawaii had been the subject of international attention for decades prior to the 1930s, earning praise from The Economist as "one of the largest" and "most important sugar producing areas in the world." In his 1924 comparative report on sugar production in Hawaii and Formosa, Japanese chemist Shoyai Yogi noted Hawaii's impressive business structure and how its industry was run "scientifically ... on a large scale ... [with] the sugar lands held by corporations." A decade after Yogi's research, the Big Five achieved federal subsidies under the AAA as sugar was placed within the list of "basic agricultural commodities" alongside pigs, corn, and beans, and help was afforded, in the words of Congress, to the "Hawaiian farmer"--a title not mentioned in the report of the Japanese chemist. (30)
California's agricultural industry invoked the same image in its effort to garner federal funding for the Central Valley Project. Proposed in 1933, the water program was not originally pitched within the tones of agrarianism. Yet the following year, California's Chamber of Commerce sent letters to President Franklin Roosevelt and congressional delegates pleading for federal assistance, characterizing the water project as "vital to all California farmers." Among the signatories was Sun-Maid Raisin vice president Samuel P. Frisselle, Sunkist president Charles C. Teague, and CalPak president Leonard Wood. As federal funding remained hamstrung by the Depression and overextended expenditures, the state's congressional delegation expanded upon yeoman imagery and placed Golden State agriculturalists among the Dust Bowl migrants of the Midwest. "Every high wind that blows from the East," one delegate warned, "carries with it millions of tons of our dry and thirsty soil," forcing thousands of "California farmers to leave their homes." In September 1935, President Roosevelt approved an appropriation of $20 million for the Central Valley Project--one of the largest state-federal water projects in American history--that ultimately funded the construction of forty dams and eleven canals at a federal price tag exceeding $2 billion. (31)
The Labor Movement
Outside of tariffs, subsidies, and federal funding, labor represented the main battleground for California's agro-businessmen. The decade of the 1930s witnessed an outbreak of over 140 strikes, as America's labor movement emerged in full force throughout the fields and orchards of the Golden State. Similar to the organizing attempts of the International Workers of the World in the years before World War I, the strikes of the 1930s--led by the Congress of Industrial Organizations--focused on improving wages and working conditions. Within this contested landscape, the imagery of the patriot farmer and Jeffersonian yeoman intertwined to project an arresting symbol of California farmers protecting the family farms against the onslaught of communist unions. The nation's newspapers painted a vivid portrait: "farmers ... arming themselves"
against "communist agitators"; "California farmers under attack"; "Red strike leaders" attempt to incite "revolt against society"; and strikes on "California farms ... merely camouflage" for "Communist overthrow of the American government." (32)
At the forefront of opposition toward "communist" unions stood the newly created organization of California agriculturalists, the Associated Farmers. Formed in 1933, the AF represented not only a bulwark against the "red threat," but also an important promoter of farmer on behalf of the region's agricultural industry--a label included in the organization's name, according to Sun-Maid vice president S. P. Frisselle, since it would "carry more weight with the public." The company characterized itself as an organization "formed to gain for the farmers the benefits of unified strength in defense" and pledged to "aggressively" combat "communistic agitation in the state's agricultural centers." While the AF fashioned itself within the niche of western vigilantism, newspaper headlines continued to weave the imagery of the patriotic yeoman: "Farmers Form Benefit Group"; "Dirt Farmers Organize"; and "Farmers to Combat Reds." Even Business Week, whose counterparts in financial reporting had long distinguished between traditional farming and the industrial agriculture of the Far West, ran headlines trumpeting agrarian tones: "Farmers Join to Smash Strikes"; "Farmers Break Strike"; and "Anti-Union Farmers Spread Out." Indeed, it was imagery well crafted. As one AF publication touted, the group was organized "by farmers, run by farmers, [and] ... financed by farmers," or as AF President William Garrison preferred, "men of the soil." (33)
Contrary to such rhetoric, the genesis of the AF did not emerge in the farmhouses of California's Central Valley, but rather took shape in a meeting of the state Chamber of Commerce. In much of the nation, agricultural associations such as the Grange and Farm Bureau stood as the institutional voice of farmers. In California and the Far West, however, those associations were secondary to the Chamber of Commerce, whose directorate mirrored the business relations of the region's industrial agriculture. Members of the chamber's directorate included Sun-Maid vice president Samuel P. Frisselle, Sunkist president Charles Teague, A. Emory Wishon of PG&E and SunMaid Raisin, CalPak president Leonard Wood, and vice-presidents of Bank of America, PG&E, Southern California Edison, and Standard Oil. And while the Chamber continued to issue pamphlets promoting the agrarian imagery of California's Central Valley, it also constructed a vast apparatus to fund the AF. Donations rolled in from financial houses such as Bank of America, Bank of California, and Crocker First National Bank; transportation companies such as Southern Pacific; energy corporations such as PG&E, Southern California Edison, Standard Oil, and Union Oil; and the Big Five through C&H Sugar and Honolulu Oil. Ultimately, between 1934 and 1939, the AF received almost $200,000 (some $3.3 million in today's currency) in donations. (34)
To ensure the persistence of favorable public relations, the AF established a publicity fund headed by the Fruit King himself, Joseph Di Giorgio. Working diligently, Di Giorgio collected thousands of dollars from California's business community aimed at promoting "the farmer's side" of the ongoing conflict in the state's agricultural fields. Indeed, Di Giorgio was no stranger to the art of employing the farmer identity. In 1937, the Chamber of Commerce hosted an honorary dinner for him and his company, Di Giorgio Farms. While Di Giorgio often referred to his multi-thousand-acre estate in Kern County as Di Giorgio Farms, he also blurred the use of the name with reference to his business, which clearly had a more bucolic tone than Di Giorgio Fruit Corporation. Di Giorgio had dissolved Di Giorgio Farms in 1923, absorbing it within the larger parent corporation. Yet he continued to use the company's name effectively throughout the decades. The odd fit of farmer and Di Giorgio was not lost on the Los Angeles Times, which, months after the dinner, quipped to readers in a long panegyric on the businessman, "Call Mr. Di Giorgio a farmer; he likes it." (35)
Although Far West agro-businessmen successfully employed the farmer label to navigate political and governmental inroads during the first few decades of the twentieth century, the labor strikes of the 1930s brought the term under significant scrutiny. Indeed, the depiction in the nation's newspapers of picket lines and labor violence spreading across California's Central Valley seemed to most readers something more akin to industry than agriculture. While public opinion of the strikes is difficult to gage, the labor conflict did seem to etch out one result on the national psyche: a distinction between California agriculture and the American family farm. In many respects, this distinction harkened back to discussions that arose in California as early as 1915. Just as the region's agro-businessmen and corporate investors had long viewed the agricultural enterprises of the Far West vastly different from those in the nation's heartland, so too did California reformers, who initiated the Commission on Land Colonization and Rural Credits to conduct an intensive study of the state's large landholdings, agricultural production, and labor relations. At the heart of the commission's report was the dwindling number--if not absence--of the family farm, which it defined as "that unit of farm business which can be handled by the average family to produce the sum accepted as necessary to cover the various expenditures." Although the commission's policies to facilitate the reemergence of the family farm in the Golden State proved unsuccessful, they did help to create one of the earliest dichotomies between traditional farming and the state's industrial agriculture, which the labor unrest of the 1930s brought to the national level. (36)
The Ideal "Agrarian Other"
Indeed, the struggle between farm workers and California's agro-businessmen highlighted the distinctiveness of the region's agricultural industry and opened the door for critique. Yet in a dichotomy, critiquing one side necessitates the implicit referencing to the other. Fleshing out and creating this ideal "agrarian other" rested not so much in the hands of labor as it did in the perspectives of social critics--most notably Dorothea Lange, Paul Taylor, John Steinbeck, and Carey McWilliams--who rallied to labor's side of the conflict. Through their work, America's agrarian imaginary substantially deepened its roots in the Far West.
More than anyone, the photographer Dorothea Lange helped put a face to this ideal agrarian other. Working for Roosevelt's Resettlement Administration--later the Farm Security Administration--between 1935 and 1939, Lange and husband Paul Taylor traveled throughout the South and Midwest documenting the effects of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression on the nation's rural families and their western migration to California. Lange's vivid photographs, distributed free to newspapers around the country, connected a Depression-ridden nation and highlighted an agrarianism lost. From the foreclosed farms and barren, drought-ravaged landscapes of Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas to the migrant farm worker camps and picket lines of California, Lange's photographs detailed the travails of the white family farm and the industrial agriculture that welcomed these itinerants as laborers. By 1939, Lange and Taylor's work for the FSA culminated in American Exodus, a book of photos and text that, in the words of the historian Linda Gordon, promoted the "family-farm ideology." In the years that followed, Taylor, for his part, would build experientially on the family farm promotion of his and Lange's collective work, becoming one of the most outspoken critics of California's industrial agriculture and its usurpation of the 160-acre limit on federally subsidized irrigation water. (37)
Where Lange and Taylor depicted the agrarian other in the emerging industrial-traditional farming dichotomy, writers John Steinbeck and Carey McWilliams further built upon the family-farm ideology. As early as 1936, labor battles pushed Steinbeck to step out of the novel and into journalism. Writing in The Nation, he attempted to inform readers about "the complete revolution [that] has taken place in California agriculture," detailing an industry dominated by "large-scale farms ... incorporated farms ... and a large number of bank farms." This industrial, business-managed agricultural environment, according to Steinbeck, is "what the emigrants from the dust bowl find when they arrive in California." Over the years, Steinbeck continued to critique industrial agriculture from the purview of the family farm, publishing Their Blood Is Strong (1938), which used a number of Lange's photographs to document the stories of Dust Bowl migrants-turned-farm workers in California, and the prize-winning The Grapes of Wrath (1939).
In the latter, Steinbeck's promotion of the agrarian ideal to distinguish California agriculture is unmistakable, juxtaposing the Joad "farmers" with the industrial operations of the Gregorio rancher and Bank of the West--thinly veiled caricatures for Joseph Di Giorgio and Bank of America. (38)
Carey McWilliams's Factories in the Field appeared months after The Grapes of Wrath hit America's bookshelves. Like Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (1906), McWilliams's work sought not only to disclose and highlight the plight of labor but also to grapple with the industrialization of food, which centered on the definition of farmer and its use by California's agro-businessmen. Since World War I, the state's agriculturalists had adroitly fashioned the farmer image to garner legislative gains. In the years prior to Factories in the Field, they again used the image to obtain exclusion from labor bills such as the National Labor Relations Act, Social Security Act, and Fair Labor Standards Act. McWilliams struggled throughout the book to distinguish between his ideal of traditional farming (the family farm) and the reality of industrial agriculture. "In no other state has farming so quickly lost its traditional character"; "Farms have become factories"; "It is no longer agriculture in the formerly understood sense of the term"; California agriculture is now "monopolistic ... highly organized ... [and] corporately owned"; it is an industry that "continues to masquerade behind ... the farm." As he would write months later in The Nation, "A sharp distinction must be made between the traditional working farmer-owner of America and the ... industrial farming of California." (39)
By December 1939, the struggle found its way into the halls of Congress, where Senator Robert La Follette and his Committee on Civil Liberties initiated one of the most intensive investigations to date of California's agricultural industry. Indeed, the influence of McWilliams, Steinbeck, and other critics was evident. In its twenty-eight days of public hearings, the La Follette Committee interrogated executives from Bank of America, Sunkist, and the Di Giorgio Fruit Corporation and subpoenaed scores of documents on labor relations, landholdings, and business investments. Yet the agrarian imaginary that the critics had helped develop was just as influential. Even as the committee maintained that California agriculture stood unjustly exempt from labor legislation, it also lamented how this "agricultural industry" was "rapidly eliminating the prosperous family farm." As in previous decades, such agrarian idealism did not permeate the business press: As Fortune magazine fittingly pointed out months earlier, "California agriculture is not 'farming' ... it is industry as much as lumbering and oil are industries." (40)
SHADOW AND REFLECTION
The struggle over farmer and the agrarian ideal continued to churn in the decades after the final hit of the gavel by La Follette's committee. By 1955, Harvard business professor John H. Davis coined the term that would finally describe the industrial model of agriculture that had resided in the crosshairs of critics such as McWilliams and Steinbeck: agribusiness. Two years later, he introduced this term to the nation in his aptly titled book Farmer in a Business Suit. Like Kenyon Butterfield and the authors of the 1909 Country Life Commission report, Davis encouraged farmers to better integrate their operations into the ever-expanding industrial economy of postwar America. And just as Butterfield had promoted his new farmer concept, the agricultural industry of the Far West was already spearheading this march of progress. In many respects, agriculture offers a reversal of narrative winds for twentieth century American history. Instead of moving west, agriculture spread east. (41)
In the decades that followed, the industrial model of Far West agriculture not only grew to new heights, but also migrated east. Castle & Cooke of Hawaii's Big Five expanded internationally under its subsidiary the Dole Company, while smaller business operations like that of George F. Johnston largely gave way to corporate entities such as Di Giorgio, R. J. Reynolds, and Tenneco. Similarly, a number of corporations joined the likes of Bank of America and PG&E within the investor ranks. After mid-century, California agribusiness forged new relationships, from Kaiser Industries and General Electric to Dow Chemical and Sears, Roebuck and Company. Moving east, the industrial agriculture model once again established modern business enterprises in the fields of the South and Midwest, turning farmers into the very businessmen advocated by John H. Davis. As in the Far West, operations large and small were brought into the industrial model through contracts with corporations such as H. J. Heinz, Green Giant, and Monsanto and shared the economic stage with industry giants such as Cargill and General Foods. (42)
Accompanying agribusiness's eastward migration was the contentious struggle over farmer and the agrarian imaginary that had become both shadow and reflection. Agro-businessmen of all stripes continued to draw on the well-developed dialectic between cultural symbolism and economic enterprise and employ the label of farmer to navigate the inroads of government and public relations. Critics echoed the calls of Steinbeck and McWilliams by invoking the agrarian ideal of the traditional family farm--calls that reached fever pitch amid the Midwest farm crisis of the 1980s. (43)
Today, the battle between agribusiness and the agrarian imaginary still occupies an important place within America's public and scholarly discourse. Both have expanded in ways that many could not have envisioned during the first half of the twentieth century. Just as industrial agriculture has come to envelop every aspect of the nation's food system, the employment of the agrarian imaginary has become as diversified as the industrial crops and production it was intended to critique, from organic agriculture and community gardens to "buy local" campaigns and "slow food" movements. That this psychic and corporeal struggle continues in the twenty-first century may indeed say more about the nation's anxiety over industrial food production than agribusiness itself. At the very least, it underscores how impenetrable the field of agrarianism proved for leftist critiques and solutions. Because California and the Far West was, in fact, the seedbed for these developments, the agricultural history of the region must be revisited with fresh eyes that investigate beyond critiques of land, labor, and business production. In short, scholars of all stripes should explore more thoroughly the farmers of America's capitalist countryside. (44)
The author would like to thank John Mack Faragher, James C. Scott, K. Sivaramakrishnan, Gabriel Rosenberg, Victoria Woeste, and Rachel Winslow for their helpful suggestions and comments on earlier versions of this article. He would also like to especially thank Janet Fireman, the editorial staff, and anonymous reviewers at California History.
(1) Travis A. Koch, "Farmers and the Federal Government: Progressive-Era Rural Reform and the Origins of Modern Agriculture in America," seminar paper, April 2012, 18-21 (in author's possession). I am extremely grateful to the generosity of Travis Koch for sharing his work and helping reshape my thinking on early agricultural reform. Report of the Commission on Country Life, 23 January 1909, 19, University of California Digital Library, http://archive.org/ details/reportofcommissi00unitiala; Kenyon Leech Butterfield, Chapters in Rural Progress (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1908), 53, 59.
(2) "Inquiry To Open On Farm Labor," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 6, 1939, 5; John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath (New York: The Viking Press, 1939); Carey McWilliams, Factories in the Field: The Story of Migratory Farm Labor in California (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1939). U.S. Congress, Senate, Subcommittee of the Committee on Education and Labor, Hearings, 74th Cong. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1940), 61 (hereafter cited as La Follette).
(3) Stemming from the works of Jacques Lacan, scholars over the decades have used the term "imaginary" in a variety of ways to explore the confluence of memory, perception, and materiality. In this essay, the agrarian imaginary builds upon Richard Hofstadter's "agrarian myth" to denote the romanticized and nostalgic view of America's yeoman family farm that was increasingly displaced by industrial agriculture. Although changing over time, it is often characterized by small landholdings, family ownership, and varying levels of self-sufficiency and sustainability. My view of the agrarian imaginary has significantly been informed by Julie Guthman; Guthman, Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004). See also Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform: From Bryant to FDR (New York: Vintage Books, 1955), chapter 1.
(4) For the land and labor paradigm, see McWilliams, Factories; Walter Goldschmidt, As You Sow (New York: Glencoe, 1947); Paul Gates, Land and Law in California: Essays on Land Policies (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1991); Gates, "Public Land Disposal in California," Agricultural History 49 (1975): 158-78; Ellen Liebman, California Farmland: A History of Large Agricultural Landholdings (Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Allanheld, 1983); Donald J. Pisani, From Family Farm to Agribusiness: The Irrigation Crusade in California and the West, 1850-1931 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984); Lawrence Jelinek, Harvest Empire: A History of California Agriculture (San Francisco: Boyd & Fraser Publishing Company, 1982); Ernesto Galarza, Farm Workers and Agri-business in California, 1947-1960 (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977); Cletus Daniels, Bitter Harvest: A History of California Farmworkers, 1870-1941 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Linda Majka and Theo Majka, Farm Workers, Agribusiness, and the State (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982); Devra Weber, Dark Sweat, White Gold: California Farm Workers, Cotton, and the New Deal (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994); Matt Garcia, A World of its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Richard Steven Street, Beasts of the Field: A Narrative History of California Farm Workers, 1769-1913 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004). For important critiques of McWilliams's land and labor thesis, see Victoria Woeste, The Farmer's Benevolent Trust: Law and Agricultural Cooperation in Industrial America, 1865-1945 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998); David Vaught, Cultivating California: Growers, Specialty Crops, and Labor, 1875-1920 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999). Also see Richard Walker, The Conquest of Bread: 150 Years of Agribusiness in California (New York: The New Press, 2004). Another vein of scholarship on California agriculture that rests outside the scope of this essay is a focus on cultural production and the mastering nature. See Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985); Steven Stoll, The Fruits of Natural Advantage: Making the Industrial Countryside in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998); Douglas Cazaux Sackman, Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).
(5) Stoll, The Fruits of Natural Advantage, 1-5. Only 2 percent of the world has a Mediterranean climate. Walker, Conquest of Bread, 1; Daniels, Bitter Harvest, 43; Felice A. Bonadio, A. P. Giannini: Banker of America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 60, 42.
(6) Christopher Henke, Cultivating Science, Harvesting Power: Science and Industrial Agriculture in California (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2008); Susanne Freidberg, Fresh: A Perishable History (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009); Walker, Conquest of Bread. Historians of California agriculture are deeply indebted to Walker's excellent synthesis. Quoted in Walker, Conquest of Bread, 13; John H. Davis and Kenneth Hinshaw, Farmer in a Business Suit (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957).
(7) John Whitehead, "Hawai'i: The First and Last Far West?" Western Historical Quarterly 23, no. 2 (May 1992): 153-77; Victoria Wyatt, "Alaska and Hawai'i" in The Oxford History of the American West, ed. Clyde Milner and Carol A. O'Connor (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). Whitehead and Wyatt do not mention Hawai'i in relation to agribusiness, yet their works are groundbreaking in bringing the Pacific into the fold of western history. See also David Igler, "Diseased Goods: Global Exchanges in the Eastern Pacific Basin, 1770-1850, American Historical Review 109 (June 2004): 693-719. Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (HSAP), Sugar in Hawaii (Honolulu: HSAP, 1949), 35-40, 68-69; Whitehead, "Hawai'i," 172. The Big Five replaced the original sugar king Claus Spreckles when they took over his company, Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company, in the 1890s.
(8) John Vandercook, King Cane: The Story of Sugar in Hawaii (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1939), 53-63; HSAP, Sugar in Hawaii, 35; "Hawaiian Trade in Hands of Few," Wall Street Journal, Nov.22 1932; "New Sugar Refinery," San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 6, 1910; California and Hawaiian Sugar Refining Co.," San Francisco Chronicle, July 18, 1910; Walker's Manual of California Securities and Directory of Directors, 1920 (San Francisco: H. D. Walker, 1920), 373, Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT) (hereafter cited as Walker Manual with applicable date). The importance of the sugar industry in the West can be seen in that by 1911 sugar corporations were given their own section in the Walker manuals. For the interlocking directorates of both the Big Five and the Hawaiian sugar industry, see the names Cooke, Castle, Baldwin, Alexander, Atherton, Waterhouse, Dillingham, and Lowrey in Walker Manual 1911, 238-56; Walker Manual 1920, 370-88; Walker Manual 1930, 836-57; Walker Manual 1940, 1009-33.
(9) Vandercook, King Cane, 53-63; Ray S. Baker, "Wonderful Hawaii," American Magazine (Nov. 1911), 30; Vandercook, King Cane, 129-30; L.A. Henke, "Cane Varieties in Hawaii," Facts about Sugar 15 (July-Dec. 1922), 320.
(10) George Cooper and Gavan Daws, Land and Power in Hawaii: The Democratic Years (Honolulu: Benchmark Books, 1985) 3; Walker Manual, 1911, 351, 367, 372-73; Walker Manual 1920, 490, 507; Walker Manual 1925, 736, 738, 753, 832; "Wells Fargo Bank Control Has Changed," San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 7, 1921. For the later industrial models and products, see Castle & Cooke Corporation in Walker Manual 1960, 684-85; Walker Manual 1965, 777-78; Cooper and Daws, Land and Power, 210. Castle & Cooke used its financial ties in both Hawaii and California to withhold bank loans to James Dole, allowing C&C to take control of Dole's Hawaiian Pineapple in 1932. James Dole was then sent on a vacation, only to return and find his office relegated to a storeroom. In a stroke of irony, C&C renamed its subsidiary the Dole Co. in 1960.
(11) Historians of California agriculture owe a great debt to Victoria Woeste's magnificent work on cooperatives. See Woeste, The Farmer's Benevolent Trust. Walker, Conquest of Bread, 205-11; Stoll, Natural Advantage, 77. Quoted in Walker, Conquest of Bread, 205, 212. For more on the less successful existence of cooperatives in the South and Midwest, see Charles Postel, The Populist Vision (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); R. Douglas Hurt, Problems of Plenty: The American Farmer in the Twentieth Century (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2002), chapter 4; Deborah Fitzgerald, Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 110-14.
(12) Hurt, Problems of Plenty, 52; "Cooperation at a Profit," Fortune 14 (July 1936), 47-48; Charles C. Teague, Fifty Years a Rancher: The Recollections of Half a Century Devoted to the Citrus and Walnut Industries of California (Los Angeles: n.p., 1944), 93-95, 431; Walker Manual 1925, 559; Walker Manual 1930, 754-55; Walker Manual 1935, 910-11.
(13) Woeste, The Farmer's Benevolent Trust, 81-82; Walker Manual 1920, 632; Walker Manual 1925, 431, 599, 559, 768. For Sunkist, see Directorate of Chamber of Commerce and Affiliated Companies," La Follette, 18054-55; Walker Manual 1915, 470-71 (A. P. and O. T. Johnson); Walker Manual 1920, 525 (P. J. Dreher); Walker Manual 1925, 411, 431, 826 (Teague), 765 (Chas. Eygabroad), 773 (W. M. Griswold), 794 (H. A. Lynn), 797 (O. W. Maulsby), 798 (H. B. McClure), 823 (W. E. Sprott).
(14) My research on George Johnston was greatly supplemented by Gabriel Winant's work in the Johnston Papers at Yale. Gabriel Winant, "Green Pastures of Plenty, Dry Desert Ground: Labor, Production, and Geography in Southern California Viticulture, 1900-1935," unpublished manuscript, in possession of author. Johnston to P. L. Cuccia, July 8, 1914, Box 6, Folder 117; Johnston to Ruperto Martinez, Nov. 3, 1914, Box 7, Folder 139; H. T. Jones to Johnston, July 29, 1914, Box 10, Folder 190; Johnston to E. H. Morton, Dec. 29, 1921, Box 8, Folder 162; Johnston to Morton, Dec. 1, 1922, Box 10, Folder 200; Shipping Log 1916, Folder 263, Box 15; Shipping Log 1925, Folder 457, Box 38; Dennis, Kimball, & Pope Merchants, Folders 76-80, Box 5; Sgobel & Day Merchants, Folders 127-29, Box 7; Hancock Brothers Fruit Merchants, Folders 99-100, Box 5; Monthly Time Book 1929-1940, Folder 383, Box 23; Bank Statements 1917-1925, Folder 414, Box 25; Bank Statements 1926-1927, Folder 421, Box 26; Bank Statements 1932-1934, Folder 459, Box 38, George F. Johnston Papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
(15) David Igler, Industrial Cowboys: Miller & Lux and the Transformation of the Far West, 1850-1920 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); Natomas Company Background, Application 6975, 25 January 1922, Public Utility Commission, F3725:7099, Earl Warren Papers, California State Archives, Sacramento, California.
(16) Ruthe Teiser, "The Di Giorgios: From Fruit Merchants to Corporate Innovators," oral history transcript, 1983, 4-11, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; "30 Fruit Companies Merged," Washington Post, June 13, 1921; "Business News," Los Angeles Times, Apr. 26, 1924; Walker Manual 1925, 415.
(17) "Di Giorgio Fruit Corporation Unharmed," Los Angeles Times, Sept. 8, 1935; Walker Manual 1930, 475; Walker Manual 1935, 557-62. The two subsidiaries were Earl Fruit Company and International Fruit Corporation. "Serious Break Among Growers," Los Angeles Times, Sept. 23, 1927; Jelinek, Harvest Empire, 64; Walker Manual 1940, 511-13; Walker Manual 1945, 424-26; Walker Manual 1950, 533-35; "I Work; You Work; the Land Works," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 15, 1937; "Joseph Di Giorgio," Fortune (Aug. 1946), 97; "Fruit King," Time, Mar. 11, 1946.
(18) Walker Manual 1910, 68; Walker Manual 1935, 485-88; Walker Manual 1940, 458-61; "CalPak: The Adventures of Del Monte Brand," Fortune (Nov. 1938): 76-83; Walker, Conquest of Bread, 220-22, 245; Cooper, Power, 210; Walker Manual 1945, 375-78.
(19) Large landholdings and land companies have often represented the crux of the land labor paradigm presented by Carey McWilliams and further discussions on capital concentration in California agriculture. For a good overview of land concentration, see Liebman, California Farmland. By looking at the corporate investment from the sectors of transportation, energy, and finance, the article is attempting to place agriculture in a clearer economic context.
(20) Richard J. Orsi, Sunset Limited: The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850-1930 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 6-7, 73, 282-83; Walker Manual 1940, 299-302; Walker, Conquest of Bread, 99-100; Hearings Report of Subcommittee of Labor and Public Welfare, United States Senate (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1972), Appendix A- Profile of Agribusiness, 3112 (hereafter cited as Profile-Ag Report). For more on Southern Pacific, see Richard White, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2011).
(21) Sackman, Orange Empire, 66; "Insects and Institutions: University Science and the Fruit Business of California," Agricultural History 69, no. 2 (Spring 1995), 222, 239; Walker Manual 1935, 1067-72. For directorate links, see Walker Manual 1920, 581, 613; Walker Manual 1940, 511, 1092, 1108; Walker Manual 1955, 555, 612; Profile-Ag Report, 3069, 3115.
(22) Walker Manual 1911, 127-28, 352; Walker Manual 1915, 57-58; Walker Manual 1920, 29, 533, 230, 489, 621; Walker Manual 1940, 288, 511, 216, 485, 1015, 1017, 1024; Profile-Ag Report, 3101, 3111.
(23) Felice A. Bonadio, A. P. Giannini: Banker of America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 9, 18, 116; Walker Manual, 1910, 21-29; Walker Manual 1920, 78-79. 525 (P. J. Dreher), 535 (M.T. Freitas), 543 (Secondo Guasti), 566 (John Lagomarsino), 581 (Joseph Migliavacca); Walker Manual 1935, 930-35; Walker Manual 1940, 885-90, 585-86; Profile-Ag Report, 3063; Walker, Conquest of Bread, 260-65; see also Marquis James and Bessie R. James, Biography of a Bank: The Story of Bank of America NT & SA, 1904-1953 (San Francisco: Bank of America, 1982), 89, 115, 255, 406; Moira Johnston, Roller Coaster: The Bank of America and the Future of American Banking (New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1990), 30, 60-65, 134. The Great Depression witnessed a massive spike in foreclosures, numbering 45,000 in 1933 to 15,700 in 1939. Bank of America and other large landowners like Di Giorgio were on the receiving end of the real estate crisis. Bank of America's California Lands Inc. claimed 531,000 acres by 1936. Worster, Rivers of Empire, 234-35; Liebman, California Farmland, 95-97; J. Earl Coke, "Reminiscences on People and Change in California Agriculture, 1900-1975: Oral History Transcript (1976), 172, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
(24) Agribusiness is often discussed within the agricultural input and commodity processing chains that took hold nationally after World War II. My use of the term in this article relies on Richard Walker's broader definition, highlighting both industrial agriculture and its corporate lineages. Such lineages include: investors and boards of directorates, financiers like Bank of America, research and development centers like UC Berkeley, the petrochemical subsidiaries of Standard Oil, and the transportation networks of Southern Pacific. Walker, Conquest of Bread, 12-13. For great studies on cultural production and capital concentration in nineteenth and early-twentieth-century California, see George Henderson, California and the Fictions of Capital (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) and Sackman, Orange Empire.
(25) Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, in The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Adrienne Koch and William Peden (New York: Random House, 1944), 280; Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950), 123-33; Fredrick Jackson Turner, "the Significance of the Frontier in American History," in Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner, ed. John Mack Faragher (New York: Henry Holt, 1994), 32, 39. 43; Fred Wilbur Powell, "Co-Operative Marketing of California Fresh Fruit," The Quarterly Journal of Economics 2, no. 2 (Feb. 1910): 393-418; Ira B. Cross, "Co-operation in California," The American Economic Review 1, no. 3 (Sept. 1911): 535-44; Victor W. Killick, "Most Valuable Farm Lands in the World," Technical World Magazine 22, no. 1 (Sept. 1914), 68-70; Paul Holden, "Agricultural Standardization on the Pacific Coast," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 137 (May 1928), 107-8; "Sugar in California," The Economist (Dec. 24, 1910), 1292-93; "United States," The Economist (Jan. 28, 1911), 167; "The Boom in California," The Economist (Feb. 16, 1924), 287; "The Growth of Los Angeles," The Economist (Feb. 28, 1925), 390.
(26) Results in the "Access Newspaper Archive" of rural California newspapers from 1900 to 1950: farmer 86,370, grower 47,489, rancher 41,051, orchardist 3,560, nurserymen 3,242, vineyardist 1,319, agriculturalist 683, horticulturalist 73, viticulturist 42.
(27) "Seek Workers from Mexico: California Farmers Turn to Foreign Sources," Los Angeles Times, May 18, 1918; "Mexico to Supply Labor," New York Times, June 17, 1918; "Items of Interest to Busy Farmers," San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 4, 1918; "Warns of Shortage of Labor on Farms," Boston Daily Globe, Aug. 23, 1918.
(28) For good surveys of the racialized labor in California and Hawaii, see Street, Beast in the Fields, Cooper and Daws, Land and Power in Hawaii, Evelyn Glenn, Unequal Freedom: How Race and Gender Shaped American Citizenship and Labor (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002); Dionicio Valdes, Organized Agriculture and the Labor Movement before the UFW: Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and California (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011). For further discussion on the imagery of California agriculture, see Douglas Sackman's inspiring analysis of the citrus industry's box labels and other promotional products; Sackman, Orange Empire.
(29) "Resume Hearing on Sugar Tariff," Wall Street Journal, Jan. 22, 1924; "Will Start Campaign for Domestic Sugar," New York Times, May 14, 1928; "Sugar in the Senate," Wall Street Journal, Jan. 11, 1930.
(30) "The Position of Sugar," The Economist (Nov. 15, 1913), 1065; "Cane Sugar Economics," The Economist (May 19, 1928), 1039; "Hawaiian Sugar Crops," Los Angeles Times, Jan. 13, 1924; "President's Message on Sugar Relief," New York Times, Feb. 9, 1934; "AAA Considers Molasses Order to Aid Farmer," Washington Post, Nov. 28, 1934. In California, the AAA proved a boon for large producers as 2 percent of the state's agriculturalists received 44 percent of federal subsidies in 1938. See Jelinek, Harvest Empire, 75.
(31) "Both Sides of Central Valley Water Project," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 15, 1933; "Chamber Plea Sent President," Los Angeles Times, Jan. 20, 1934; "Directorate of Chamber of Commerce and Affiliated Companies," La Follette, 18054-55; "State Gets Huge Fund," Los Angeles Times, Sept. 13, 1935; Worster, Rivers of Empire, 240. See Paul S. Taylor, Essays on Land, Water, and Law in California (New York: Arno Press, 1979).
(32) Jerold Auerbach, Labor and Liberty: The La Follette Committee & the New Deal (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966), 177. "Eleven Seized in Farm Riot," Los Angeles Times, Sept. 9, 1933; "Strike War Flares Up," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 9, 1933; "4 Killed, 2 Dying in Coast Strikes," New York Times, Oct. 11, 1933; "Needed: A Swift Kick," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 28, 1933; "Reds Linked to Strife," Los Angeles Times, June 9, 1934. For more on farm labor organization in California during the 1930s, see Daniels, Bitter Harvest; Devra Weber, Dark Sweat, White Gold: California Farm Workers, Cotton, and the New Deal (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).
(33) Clarke A. Chambers, California Farm Organizations: A Historical Study of the Grange, the Farm Bureau and the Associated Farmers, 1929-1941 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1952), 39-52; "Farmers Form Benefit Group," Los Angeles Times, Sept. 20, 1933; "Cold Terror in California," Nation, July 24, 1935; "Red Ouster Move Urged," Los Angeles Times, Apr. 26, 1934; "Farmers to Combat Reds," Los Angeles Times, May 10, 1934; "Communists Pick California as World Uprising Center," Washington Post, June 29, 1934; Frederick Jackson Turner, "The West and American Ideals," in Faragher, Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner, 152; Farmers Form Benefit Group," Los Angeles Times, Sept. 20, 1933; "Dirt Farmers Organize," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 15, 1933; "Farmers to Combat Reds," Los Angeles Times, May 10, 1934; "Riverside Farm Group to Fight Red Agitators," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 4, 1934, 11; "Farmers Join to Smash Strikes," Business Week (May 22, 1937), 37; "Farmers Break Strike," Business Week (July 17, 1937), 37; "Anti-Union Farmers Spread Out," Business Week (Dec. 4, 1937), 46; La Follette, 24603.
(34) Samuel P. Frisselle testimony, La Follette, 17909-13; "Directorate of Chamber of Commerce and Affiliated Companies," La Follette, 18054-55, 17917-27, 17941-43; "Industrial Farming," The Nation (Jan. 1940), 97; Chambers, California Farm Organizations, 9-30. The membership numbers of both the Grange and Farm Bureau were exceptionally low until after 1940, and only the Farm Bureau grew in numbers of significance.
(35) La Follette, 17644-52 ; "Governor Merriam to Attend Di Giorgio Dinner," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 2, 1937; "Decree of Dissolution," Apr. 9, 1923, Di Giorgio Farms Company, California Articles of Incorporation 89435, California State Archives, Sacramento, California; "I Work; You Work; the Land Works," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 15, 1937. Di Giorgio used "Di Giorgio Farms" in particular when the corporation again became ensnarled in labor strife during the 1940s. See, for example, "A Community Aroused," Associated Farmers Publication, 1947, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; "Joseph Di Giorgio to Governor Earl Warren," Jan. 10, 1948; "Joe Lewis of Farm Research To Warren," June 18, 1948, Earl Warren Papers, California State Archives, Sacramento, California F3640:2372 (hereafter cited as EWP). For more on the 1947-50 Di Giorgio Strike, see Ernesto Galarza, Spiders in the House and Workers in the Fields (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 1970).
(36) Report of the Commission on Land Colonization and Rural Credits, State of California (Nov. 29, 1916), 7-8, 90, University of California Digital Library, http://archive.org/ details/reportofcommissi00caliiala. For a good overview of reformers and California agriculture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, see Daniels, Bitter Harvest, chapters 1-3.
(37) Linda Gordon, "Dorothea Lange: The Photographer as Agricultural Sociologist," Journal of American History (Dec. 2006): 698-727, quote 701; Gordon, Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009); Jess Gilbert, "Eastern Urban Liberals and Midwestern Agrarian Intellectuals: Two Portraits of Progressives in the New Deal Department of Agriculture," Agricultural History (Spring 2000): 162-80; Anne Whiston Spirn, Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange's Photographs and Reports from the Field (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008); Richard Steven Street, "Lange's Antecedents: The Emergence of Social Documentary Photography of California's Farmworkers," Pacific Historical Review 75, no. 3 (2006): 385-428; Paul S. Taylor and Dorothea Lange, An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939); Paul Taylor, "The Excess Land Law: Execution of a Public Policy," Yale Law Journal (Feb. 1955): 477-514. For a detailed look at Taylor's discussion of the law over the decades, see Taylor, Essays on Land, Water, and the Law in California (New York: Arno Press, 1979). The Excess Land Law statute of the 1902 Reclamation Act limited federally subsidized water to landholdings of 160 acres or less.
(38) John Steinbeck, "Dubious Battle in California," Nation (Sept. 12, 1936), 302-4; Steinbeck, "The Harvest Gypsies," San Francisco News, Oct. 5-12, 1936; Steinbeck, Their Blood Is Strong (San Francisco: Simon J. Lubin Society of California, 1938); Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (New York: The Viking Press, 1939); Susan Ferriss and Ricardo Sandoval, The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers' Movement (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997), 127; Bonadio, A. P. Giannini, 249.
(39) Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1906); Robert Wagner (May 15, 16, 1935), Congressional Record, 74th Cong., 1st sess., 7565, 7649; Daniels, Bitter Harvest, 259; National Labor Relations Act (Feb. 21, 1935), Congressional Record, 74th Cong., 1st sess., 2368; "Social Security," Wall Street Journal, Aug. 26, 1935; "Andrews Suggests Changes," New York Times, Feb. 12, 1935; "Votes to Separate FERA and AGE Fund," New York Times, Feb. 15, 1935; Elbert Thomas (June 14, 1938), Congressional Record, 75th Cong., 3rd sess., 9176, 9161; Bonadio, A. P. Giannini, 42; "Excerpted Wage Bill Draft," Washington Post, June 13, 1938; Hiram Johnson (June 14, 1938), Congressional Record, 75th Cong., 3rd sess., 9162-63; McWilliams, Factories, 48, 266.
(40) Auerbach, Labor and Liberty, 184, 190; "La Follette Committee Finishes Work Here," San Francisco News, Jan. 30, 1940, EWP F3640:297; Daniels, Bitter Harvest, 284; "I Wonder Where We Go Now," Fortune (Apr. 1939), 91.
(41) John H. Davis, "From Agriculture to Agribusiness," Harvard Business Review 34 (Jan. 1956): 107-15; John H. Davis and Ray Allan Goldberg, A Concept of Agribusiness (Boston: Harvard University, 1957); John H. Davis and Kenneth Hinshaw, Farmer in a Business Suit (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957); Alan Fusonie, "John H. Davis: Architect of the Agribusiness Concept Revisited," Agricultural History (Spring 1995): 326-48.
(42) Walker Manual 1965, 777-78, 811-12; Walker Manual 1967, 941; Walker Manual 1980, 402-4; Profile-Ag Report, 3063, 3073, 3075, 3077, 3101, 3092, 3109, 3088-89, 3082; Peter Pringle, Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto--The Promises and Perils of the Biotech Harvest (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003); Mary Hendrickson and William Heffernan, "Concentration of Agricultural Markets," Feb. 2002, Department of Rural Sociology, University of Missouri, http:// www.foodcircles.missouri.edu/CRJanuary02.pdf; Wayne Broehl, Cargill: Going Global (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1998).
(43) Linda Lobao and Katherine Meyer, "The Great Agricultural Transition: Crisis, Change, and Social Consequences of Twentieth Century U.S. Farming," Annual Review of Sociology (2001): 103-24; Peggy Barlett, American Dreams, Rural Realities: Family Farms in Crisis (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993); Darrin Qualman, The Farm Crisis and Corporate Power (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2001); Kathryn Marie Dudley, Debt and Dispossession: Farm Loss in America's Heartland (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). A survey of national newspapers during the 1980s reveals the term "family farm" skyrocketing when compared to the decades both before and after.
(44) For a great discussion on the agrarian imaginary and organic agriculture, see Guthman, Agrarian Dreams; Christy Getz, Sandy Brown, and Aimee Shreck, "Class Politics and Agricultural Exceptionalism in California's Organic Agriculture Movement," Politics and Society (Dec. 2008): 478-507.
TODD HOLMES is a PhD candidate in the History Department and the program coordinator for the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University. He has written extensively on California political, business, and agricultural history and is currently finishing a dissertation and book manuscript on the corporate West and the rise of Reaganism. In fall 2013, he joins the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University as a postdoctoral fellow.
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