California's Fruit Cocktail: A History of Industrial Food Production, the State, and the Environment of Northern California



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In the twentieth century, canned food became ubiquitous in the United States. As Americans moved to new environments, such as cities, food became more difficult to grow or catch, and people became dependant on food markets. Innovations in transportation, processing, and packaging met demands for a stable urban food supply, and regions specializing in food processing emerged. California became the fruit and salad bowl of the nation as its citizens committed farmland to produce, and food-processing facilities across the region dried, canned, and packed the state’s harvest. By the 1920s, the northern California fruit canning industry became the national leader of the canned fruit market. The history of northern California’s canned fruit industry reveals the growth of agro-industrial space and the degree to which industry, agriculture, and cities struggled to gain control over the rich resources in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and Central Valley as California became a dominant political and economic force in the United States. Regional production networks emerged that were essential in supporting the fruit canning industry that included grower organizations, canning organizations, suppliers, growers, and government agencies. The canneries were vital to the region’s economy and influenced the use of resources. Fruit canners supplied millions of jobs and contributed to the booster-created image of California as a source of vitality through their marketing campaigns.
Despite the canneries’ many supportive networks, northern California was a contested space in which other networks, which included those of miners, farmers, growers, environmentalists, the federal government, and urban developers, sought to use or market the region’s resources. Canneries were among the most important forces shaping the landscape as they influenced land-use choices, dumped enormous volumes of waste, and used prodigious amounts of water. Visions of resource use held by supporters of agriculture and canneries often conflicted with other groups in California.
The history of fruit canneries in California presents a view of industrialization not often found in narratives about the process in the East. It also reveals how food tied together consumers and a food producing regions, and how both sides influenced each other through that bond.



Fruit canneries, California, California agriculture, Associative state, Cannery waste, Fruit cocktail, California fruit canneries, California environment, Botulism, Cannery inspection board, Canners league of california, California Packing Corporation, Tri Valley Packing, Tri Valley Growers, Turlock Growers, Libby McNeill Libby, California delta