Sunday, October 14, 2007

Next, a pineapple processing plant in Oregon


Here's what the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has to say about the Sunkist plant closure:

The plant's story began in 1926, when Ontario was selected as the location for the orange produce plant because it was the "ton-mile center," William E. Baier said in an oral history from 1978.

It was the shortest hauling distance from all other points, which included growers in the San Joaquin Valley, Ventura County and the Redlands area, Baier said.

The Exchange Orange Products Company in Ontario was able to turn losses into profits for growers just in time for the Great Depression.

Fruits that couldn't be sold on the fresh market could still make money. A popular early by-product was marmalade, but citrus was also processed into juice, oils, pectin, cattle feed, and citric acid, among other things.

A research facility was housed onsite at the Ontario plant as well, and scientists tested citrus parts, such as pectin, which makes jelly and was thought to be a blood extender during World War II.

In 1970, the old plant came down and a new facility designed to process 1 million tons of citrus products a year went up in its place on the 25-acre property.

Many citrus-based products were developed and marketed during this time, including Sunkist orange soda, Sunkist popsicles and Sunkist fruit gems candy.

In the past few decades, though, the demand for housing in the region has sent local growers - along with dairymen - north or out of state.

"The cost per acre makes it more profitable for farmers to sell their land than to grow their crops," said John Roe, sector superintendent for California Citrus State Historic Park in Riverside. "Riverside alone was 20,000 acres of citrus agriculture. Today, we're looking at 2,000 acres."...

The logic behind the move may be sound, but the Sunkist plant's departure from Ontario will still be a cultural loss.

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