Ole Christopher emigrated from Denmark in the 1880s and settled in California's Santa Clara Valley. In 1956, his grandson, Don Christopher, founded Christopher Ranch in Gilroy, Calif., with a commitment to excel in the agricultural business. Sixty years later, Christopher Ranch is an international company with over 500 employees, a harvesting crew of 1,200, and 4,000 acres of row crops.
As Christopher Ranch has grown and changed, it has remained a family business. Bill Christopher, Don's son, is in charge now, and Don's grandsons are also involved; Ken Christopher is in charge of sales strategy and fresh garlic production and Jason Christopher manages the facilities.
"Family-owned firms like ours are successful because of a legacy of accountability, trust, and the drive to continue to improve the company with every generation," said Ken Christopher.
"We want to continue to grow and thrive as a family-owned and operated agribusiness."
Like many other family-owned agribusinesses, Christopher Ranch is involved in its community, co-founding the Gilroy Garlic Festival. The festival, which celebrated its own 38th anniversary this July, was instrumental in promoting awareness of garlic in the 1980s, and today hosts live cooking competitions, flame-up shows by world-famous "Pyro Chefs," and free garlic ice cream.
Christopher Ranch supplies fresh garlic products to retail and foodservice companies, with 70 million pounds of garlic grown, packed, and shipped across the country in 2016. It's good news for garlic consumers, because last year's yields were less than expected. Meanwhile, the demand for organic garlic has only increased.
"One of our biggest long-term goals is to expand our organic program," said Ken Christopher. The company has been increasing its organic volume by 10% annually, but the supply has yet to meet or exceed demand.
"Organic is the direction that American consumers want to go, and we look forward to building our organic product line right alongside that demand," he said.
To celebrate its anniversary, the company had a special dinner for its management, which is still headquartered in Gilroy, where Christopher Ranch was founded. Patsy Ross, director of marketing, says there are no plans to move the company somewhere else.
"The Christopher Ranch family is proud to be headquartered in Gilroy," Ross said.
Sixty years of employing Gilroy citizens has certainly endeared the company to its community, with its family-owned legacy and devotion to giving back, Christopher Ranch certainly has something to be proud of.