- 1950 -
Cannery Waste & Urban Planning
in the Upper Central Valley



     Along the middle of the Central Valley run rivers of varying sizes.  Much of the land in the Central Valley is rural and small towns dot the region.  The largest cities are Stockton, Modesto, and Fresno.  The upper Central Valley is a major producer of peaches, among other fruits.  The lower Central Valley is famous for producing grapes and raisins.

      Two examples from the upper Central Valley illustrate the spectrum of choices canners in the region had for waste disposal.  In the mid-20th century, industries (including canning) and residents in Stockton and Modesto sent their waste to local city-owned sewage processing facilities. Facilities in both cities were eventually overwhelmed by the waste.  Both cities determined it was primarily industrial waste that was causing the majority of the problem. However, the two cities handled the waste situation differently.

      A large city located on the San Joaquin River, Stockton was a hub for a variety of industries. When the waste disposal issue became disruptive, the city government hired sanitation engineers and debated how to proceed.  The engineers pointed to industrial waste as the cause of the problems.  Consultants and city officials debated about what to do. Who should pay to increase the processing abilities of the plant?  Should city residents pay the price or only industrial users? 

      In the end, the city passed on the extra expense of processing sewage to industrial customers.  They also decided to go against the engineers’ advice and build the smaller version of waste facilities.   By 1970, Stockton was still struggling to keep up with the amount of sewage it received. 

      Modesto was a smaller city that depended primarily on agricultural industries, and it took a very different approach to waste disposal than Stockton.  Instead of passing the cost of waste disposal on to industrial users, they created a long-term plan that would separate residential and industrial waste.  The city worked directly with canners and other agricultural processors to develop a plan that would meet everyone’s needs.  In the end, they created a facility that would draw food processors and other manufacturing facilities to the city.  

     Modesto’s strategy worked.  Tri-Valley Growers built the largest cannery in the world in the 1960s.  They chose Modesto as the location for their giant canning facility because there was plenty room to build, local infrastructure, and a dependable sewage processing system. 

     Before the supercannery, the cooperatives’ canneries were spread out throughout the Bay-Delta.  Operation costs for the older canneries kept increasing.  In some cases, they ran out of room to expand production in existing canneries. 

     The supercannery's designers included the most modern canning technology in its construction.  TVG would be able to consolidate cannery production lines from several canneries allowing the cooperative to produce more food and close old urban canneries.  Operating in the industrial district in Modesto provided more room to build and easy access to shipping.  Newspapers reported that the cannery was also designed to be more environmentally friendly by spreading the used cannery water over nearby land to distribute nutrients.  

     Tri-valley’s move to the Central Valley was part of a larger trend in the fruit and cannery industries.  Starting in the 1960s, orchards and canneries were replaced with subdivisions and non-agricultural industries changing the culture and economy of areas that had long been strongholds of California agriculture.


 "Tri-Valley Goes Slow on Big Plant." The Modesto Bee. December 16, 1966.

 "Modesto to Get Tri-Valley Super Cannery." Lodi News-Sentinel. February 17, 1968.

 "Tri-Valley Will Build 'Super' Plant." Lodi News-Sentinel. February 17, 1968.

 "Approval of Sewer Bonds Clinched Tri-Valley Decision." Modesto Bee. January 27, 1969.

 "Tri-Valley Will Close San Jose Canneries after This Season." The Modesto Bee. August 8, 1969.

 Tri/Valley Growers: 50 Years of Survival and Growth, 1932-1982. S.l.: Tri/Valley Growers, 1982.

 Tri/Valley, Growers. Tri/Valley Growers Annual Report 1969. San Francisco, CA: Tri/Valley Growers, 1969.