Tehama County Chinese Develop Truck Garden Companies

Oct 30, 2013

As It Was - Episode 2267

 Home gardens offer their bounty in September in Northern California and Southern Oregon. The hot summer days and mild evenings conspire to ripen everything at once, leading to more produce than an exhausted hobby gardener can possibly consume, preserve or give away.  It can be a moment some gardeners might decide switching to a market garden. In the 1860s, market gardens were often called truck gardens, but not because trucks were used.  The first commercial truck would not arrive in the United States until 1897.  The word referred to an older meaning of the word, which is “to exchange for profit,” so a “trucker” was someone who grew ‘truck’ or garden produce for market.  In California, some of the best gardens were in Tehama County, where they supplied vegetables to several thousand residents of Red Bluff.  Nearly all the growers were Chinese immigrants and innovators. While other market garden operations were basically larger home gardens, the Tehama Chinese expanded to fields ranging from 15 to 70 acres.  To handle the volume, the creative Chinese developed partnerships organized as companies.  By 1870 these companies controlled nearly all the vegetable production serving a wide region.    Sources: Chan, Sucheng. “This Bittersweet Soil: The Chinese in California Agriculture, 1860-1910.”  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986. Print;  Dilbeck, Perry, and Tom Rankin. “The Last Harvest: Truck Farmers in the Deep South.” Santa Fe, N.M: Center for American Places, 2006. Print.; “Autocar: A legacy of hard-working trucks since 1897." Autocar. Web. 16 Aug. 2013. <http://www.autocartruck.com/Files/Media/Autocar%20History%20story%202-17-09-1.pdf>.