Croatian Apple Farmers in Calfornia
The following appeared in the Register Pajaronian and concerns an
exhibit concerning apple farming in Pajaro, California. As noted,
Croatian immigrants played a big role in running the local apple farms.
Jan 27 2004 12:00AM By
By TARMO HANNULA
OF THE REGISTER-PAJARONIAN
Old apple boxes receive colorful stamps for agriculture exhibit
It's not easy to slap a label on history. And on Saturday, about 10
volunteers at the Ag History Project were busy doing just that -
carefully re-labeling old wood apple boxes with brilliant, colorful
The newly labeled apple boxes will be used as part of a new exhibit
being built inside the Codiga Center and Museum that will focus of the
growing, packing and shipping of Pajaro Valley apples, said John
Kegebein, chief volunteer for the Ag History Project.
Many of the handsomely labeled boxes will be stacked, just like the
early days, on two-horse drawn orchard wagons, known as the "fifth
Buak, Elk, Morning Star, Owl, Sun Flavor, J.M. Lukrich, Lake View and
Jensen - just to name a scant sampling of the nearly 100 company labels
(mostly from Watsonville) - all had dazzling, colorful apple labels that
boasted the company, the type of product and, in cases, amazing
The labels, which are high quality copies, represent a valuable slice of
Pajaro Valley History, Kegebein said.
"Some of the first apples were planted around 1865 here in Watsonville
on what was then Riverside Road," Kegebein said. "By the 1890s and up
through the 1950s, this region was one of the major apple growing areas
in the United States. We hope to preserve and share some of that
Indeed, the labels are striking with their radiant colors, high design
lettering, original artwork that shows landscape scenes, birds, fish,
night scenes and gorgeous women. All have a unique vibrancy that rarely
is used in modern-day packing and advertisements.
At one point during the height of the apple industry, there were 18
local companies with apple dryers, said Nita Gizdich, owner of Gizdich
Ranch. The dried apples were in high demand in Europe, especially in
France, Germany, Italy and England, she said.
As much as 50 percent of the early apple growers in the Pajaro Valley
were Croatian, while other ethnic groups included Irish, Italian and
Portuguese, Gizdich said.
The blossoming local apple industry changed substantially, however, with
the advent of controlled atmosphere storage, Gizdich said.
Growers once honed their skills and the timing of their harvest to
demand. In addition, controlled atmosphere storage companies could
bypass much of the state ordinances - especially with apples lasting as
long as two years in cold storage.