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Raisin Capital of the World: From the 'Home of the Peach' to the 'Raisin Capital'

Raisin Capital of the World: From the 'Home of the Peach' to the 'Raisin Capital'

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In 1893, George B. Otis opened up a packinghouse on the south end of Selma where peaches were dried.  In 1911, Libby, McNeill and Libby established a cannery, which helped the self-proclaimed status of “Home of the Peach.”  Further consideration was the fact that the Peak Peach was the major varietal advancement of the peach by John H. Peak when in 1913 he planted an orchard of Phillip peach trees on his Bethel property.

A native of Delaware County, N.Y. he had been a Selman since 1890 when he arrived with his wife, baby and $51. In 1916, when Peak was inspecting his first peach crop, he discovered that peaches on one tree were bigger and ripened faster than the other trees.  Samples of the fruit was sent to horticulturalist Luther Burbank who confirmed the significant discovery of a new variety.  Millions of the new Peak Peach were planted in California.  The California Association of Nurserymen with its first merit award honored John H. Peak in 1937.  (On a personal note, John H. Peak was the great grandfather of my wife Mary and her brothers Walter and Roy Peak).

Selma was the home to many different crops during the years, vegetables, and many varieties of fruit thrived in the light Selma soil.

In the late 1960s, Fresno farms were being lost to urban development and with that development Fresno was losing its claim to raisin production.  However, with the construction of the Sun Maid Raisin Plant between Selma and Kingsburg, Selma could rightly claim the “Raisin Capital of the World” title.  Ninety percent of the nation’s raisins were being produced within eight miles of Selma. The City of Selma had three raisin plants; the largest was west Coast Grower and Packers, which in 1954 took over the original Sun-Maid Plant.  The “Raisin Capital” slogan came into popular use after Enterprise publisher Roy Brock suggested it in 1961.  In 1970, “Raisin Capital of the World” officially replaced the “Home of the Peach” name.

Thanks to Randall McFarland for providing this part of Selma History in his Book, Centennial Selma- Biography of a California Community’s First 100 Years.

Bob Allen is the Executive Director of the Selma Chamber of Commerce.

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