The Organization

By Christopher Zoukis

The next year, 1909, while attending the state fruit growers convention in Watsonville, California, J.P. Dargitz became so disgusted with his farming brethren’s indecisiveness that he decided it was time for them to hear a hell-fire and damnation sermon on the topic.  So he rose to his feet and gave them the gospel according to J.P. Dargitz.  He blasted them, telling them they’d better wake up to the reality of the situation. 

He finished his sermon by telling them that “as long as the imported almonds are the largest portion of the almond supply, the imported nuts will fix the price, which will be the price of foreign almonds, including the duty, less freight from California to New York.  This will determine the price of California almonds.  If the crop is small, then the fixed price means little profit, because we don’t get the fixed price.  For the buyers put the price to us as much below the fixed price as possible.  The goal of the buyers is not to buy low and sell high.  It’s not that simple.  The ultimate goal of the buyers is to undersell the competing buyers when they sell to the jobbers.  Image courtesy www.mark-heringer.com

“The only way to defeat the process is for us to work together.  Then and only then we won’t lose money.  As it stands right now, the local associations of growers are actually conspiring against themselves, because they’re trying to undersell each other.  That’s just what the buyers want.  For it means that everybody loses money, except the buyers.

“Local associations do the best they can and they are a starting point.  But the real need is for a central marketing organization.”

J.P. Dargitz sat down and looked around.  All his brethren were nodding in agreement, but none of them were ready to take the next step.  It was as if they were paralyzed.  J.P. Dargitz snorted in disgust. 

On his way back home, J.P. realized that he had finally found a challenge big enough for him focus all his energy on.  If Moses could lead the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt to the promised land, then he could lead the hostage growers of California into financial freedom.  By the time he reached Acampo, he had made up his mind to keep preaching his message.  Every where he went, to each grower he met, J.P. Dargitz exhorted his listeners.  Chaos in the industry, along with low prices they were receiving for their crops opened the ears of his fellow growers.  The gospel message of J.P. Dargitz made many proselytes. 

In the spring of 1910, J.P. Dargitz made his altar call.  It was time for all true believers to come forward.  He invited representatives from four local growers associations to meet with him.  On March 18, they gathered at the Hotel Sacramento to “consider the advisability of urging a thorough organization of the almond growers in the state of California.”

The ten men sat around a large table.  All ten were wealthy and powerful, owning hundreds or thousands of acres of land.  J.W. Jeffry addressed the group, citing the advantages associated with organizing.  Then he added a note of caution.  The process of organizing must be done correctly and responsibly.  If it wasn’t, failure was certain to follow. 

Each of the ten men glanced around the table, gauging the response of their nine counterparts.   They hadn’t come here to listen to pessimistic talk of failure.  They were here to talk about implementing success.  What they wanted to hear was plan of action they could all get behind. 

J.P. Dargitz rose.  “The objective of this meeting is the formation of a state organization of almond growers.  Such an organization will provide its members with access to information and, more importantly, a single unified voice.  A voice that will be able to effectively bargain for and ensure the best possible price for almond production.  Which means not just survival, but profitability.  If we do not organize, we will fail.  If we organize, we will succeed.”  He looked around the table.  “As for me, I choose success.  There is no other choice.”

Nine heads nodded in unison. 

Dargitz went on to explain he had written hundreds of letters to individual growers throughout the state of California.  In each instance, without a single exception, he had received replies to his letters.  Each reply clamored for help.  The growers realized that if they did not band together, they would be at the mercy of the jobbers and the ebb and flow of the marketplace.  Pausing dramatically, Dargitz concluded, saying, “To a man, with nary a dissenting voice, the almond growers of California desire an organization to look out for their collective interest.  The time is now!”

A bubble of imminence enveloped the occupants seated around the table.

A strong voice broke the silence.  “I move that this group take steps to recommend a permanent organization of almond growers.”[1]

“I second the motion.”

Looking around the room, B.G. Walton said, “All in favor, say aye.”

“Aye,” rang out through the room.

“The motion passes,” stated Walton.

With the formality over, the group discussed the best way to give birth to their concept.  After hours of brainstorming, the group came up with the following recommendation:  the local associations should combine and incorporate themselves into a central Exchange or marketing agency.  The local associations and the Exchange should be stipulated as non-profit and cooperative.  All operations of the Exchange should be performed at cost and all profits belonged to and should be returned to the individual growers who used the Exchange to handle their almonds.

After they completed their recommendation, the ten men realized that someone would have to spearhead its implementation.  A ramrod was needed to bring the concept to fruition.  Without hesitation, they looked to J.P. Dargitz, who agreed to take on the task. 

The meeting adjourned.

 


[1] Allen, Gary.  The Almond People, published by Blue Diamond Growers, 2000, pg. 11.