The Fruit Industry
Folsom’s fruit packing industry has been gone for years so it is difficult to imagine that it was once a large part of the economy. Fruit orchards began in the Folsom area as early as the late 1860s and larger companies became involved in the industry starting with the Natomas Company in 1884. The Natomas Company utilized Folsom’s location next to a railroad and it was not long before other companies started doing the same including the Earl Fruit Packing Company, Digiorgio Fruit Packing (who later bought Earl Fruit Packing Company) and Pike and Kendell Prunes. For fans of B.N. Bugbey, do not worry! I did not forget about his ventures into the viticulture world, he will be getting his own blog in the future.
The fruit packing and drying sheds were located between Leidesdorff and Sutter Street, on Sutter Street and near the depot which is the modern day Folsom Chamber of Commerce. Natoma, which I have written about in a past blog, also had sheds for fruit drying and packing which were dedicated to the Natomas Company’s fruit business. Folsom was known to grow peaches, cherries, grapes, apricots, prunes, and berries which were shipped via the railroad all over the state. In the early days, it was not uncommon for a farmer to only break even with their fruit shipping, if the fruit spoiled on route to its destination, they were not paid. Refrigeration was introduced to railroad cars by insulating them and adding blocks of ice which worked for shorter distances. Advances to this technology were made throughout the years by several people including Edwin T. Earl, president of the Earl Fruit Packing Company who in the early 1890s began work on a combined ventilator and refrigeration railroad car.
The first manager of the Earl Fruit Packing Co. in Folsom was Fred Staunton, who installed Folsom’s second telephone line to connect his office in the fruit shed to his house. Not long after they opened, the company; with the assistance of their new refrigerated cars, began shipping crops for the Natomas Company and local farmers so their produce could reach further east. Every day various fruits were packed up and brought to the train tracks. At 11:00 PM the train from Placerville would stop and pick up the fruit cars and then continue on to Roseville, there 300 pound blocks of ice were packed into the cars for shipping.
Employment at the fruit packing sheds was seasonal and often times entire families would work for the fruit companies. Men were needed to assist in harvesting the fruit and shipping it while women and children worked inside the sheds separating out the bad fruit from the good and packing it up to be brought to the train yard. The fruit companies hired many people during the season which made the fruit industry a huge draw for Folsom’s Chinese and Japanese residents who were often excluded in other industries. However, the fruit companies took advantage of their need for work and paid them at a lower rate than their other employees.
The Earl Fruit Packing Co., who had lasted the longest in Folsom, closed their plant and packing shed on Sutter Street and they were torn down in the mid-1940s. Most of the lumber was saved and shipped to be reused in Marysville. Today, the only hint that Earl Fruit Packing Company was in Folsom can be found at 727 Traders Lane, where the old owner of Yaeger’s installed the bar floors using wood from the old fruit cars.