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It can be said California citrus as an industry started in 1841 with the first commercial planting of two acres. (We will return to this subject later.) Placing this success story on fast forward, from 1920 to 2007 California citrus as a total generated a momentous cash flow of $29,780,494,000. These funds flowed back into the California citrus bearing communities inducing further waves of investments.
If this total or sum of California citrus was converted into current dollars, it would be even more consequential. We are looking at a duration of 87 years of empirical data and it becomes very distorted due to inflation. To give you a perspective regarding inflation, just look to the left at the minimum wages for California:
The introduction of the orange into California was through the coming of the padres in 1769. The laud of developing the first California orange orchard of any size goes to the San Gabriel Mission. In approximately 1804 they planted 400 seedling trees on six acres. It’s success was most important for it proved the climate and soil conditions of Southern California were suitable for citrus.
As mentioned earlier, in 1841 the first commercial venture in establishing the California citrus industry was undertaken by William Wolfskill. He secured the citrus trees from the San Gabriel Mission and planted two acres. His grove grew to seventy acres in Los Angeles between San Pedro and Alameda and extending from Third to Sixth Streets. In 1853 across from Wolfskill’s grove on Alameda, Matthew Keller planted a citrus orchard on part of his 70 acres, and another grove of citrus was planted by D. H. Bliss on Alameda facing Wolfskill’s property and north of Keller’s property. So from the devoted care given the 400 seedlings on the grounds of the mission, evolved over time, a majority coalition of California cooperative citrus growers who had accumulated by the season of 1945 – 46 a total of 312,600 bearing acres of all citrus varieties; and this amalgamation as a group made up the California citrus industry. This was the apex in California citrus acreage.
At a glance of the map taken from “The Citrus Industry”, Vol I by H. Webber and L. Batchelor (1946, p.74) one can view the small citrus growing areas within California. What stands out are the vast areas which are not suitable to citriculture. From this observation one can really appreciate the aforementioned huge acreage of California citrus and the sizable, significant sum of $29,780,494,000 directly derived from the growing of citrus (even before the multiplier effect).
For more statistics to support this compelling story, please view the California Citrus Acreage, California Citrus Production, and [dollar] Value of all California Citrus from 1920 to 2007 report at “Citrus Summaries”.
View Report (PDF)