Produce Legends 2012: Andy D'Arrigo - The Packer

Produce Legends 2012: Andy D'Arrigo

09/28/2012 01:46:00 PM
Mike Hornick

He took over West Coast operations for D’Arrigo Bros. Co. when his father, Stefano D’Arrigo, died in 1951 at age 57. Andy D’Arrigo was two years out of college. He’d grown up working in fields in summer or tagging along as far as Idaho on produce buying trips.

“My father was the first one to put broccoli in interstate commerce,” he said. “He started with the broccoli and prickly pears that Italians knew. He was in the pea and tomato business too. Fresh peas were the green item on the plate before they had frozen peas.”

His father and his uncle, Andrea D’Arrigo, had emigrated to the U.S. from Italy and served in the army during World War I. On July 27, 1920, they signed a partnership agreement on a single typescript page that marks D’Arrigo Bros. Co. origins as a Boston and California operation.

“Their idea was so simple,” Andy D’Arrigo said. “You produce it here in California — I don’t see it anywhere else — ship it to Boston and sell it there. You’ve got vertical integration all the way through.”

Andrea D’Arrigo, based in Boston, succeeded Stefano as president, and in turn Andy D’Arrigo succeeded Andrea. Shortly after World War II, the company expanded into New York.

“When (Stefano) died, he had celery in Lodi, broccoli in Castroville, lettuce in Salinas, grapes in Reedley, and broccoli and mustard greens in the Imperial Valley,” D’Arrigo said. “And in Eloy, Ariz., a mix of vegetables and everything from cotton to cattle.”

“I find a great deal of satisfaction in looking at where my father and uncle started,” he said. “That I’ve been able to take it from that point to this, and that my son John is taking it from this point forward, is deeply gratifying. It is a family business.”

Beyond business, D’Arrigo and his wife, Phyllis, made a mark in Salinas by supporting such organizations as Natividad Medical Center, whose patients include farmworkers, and Kinship Center, which backs adoptions. They were themselves adoptive parents.

“Andy is one of the more knowledgeable men in the business, and his integrity and character are beyond reproach,” said Don Smith, co-owner of Turlock Fruit Co. and a friend of 60 years. “Now you have marketing people or Farmer Joes, but he’s a well-rounded produce man who understands the farming as well as processing and distribution.”

“The D’Arrigos are real innovators and leaders,” said Dennis Donohue, Salinas mayor and president of Royal Rose LLC. “Everything about that group is first class — how they’ve integrated their community and marketing work, their product and people, and their generosity.”

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