Cannery Life, Del Monte in the Santa Clara Valley

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Mission brand yellow cling peaches label

View a database that includes artifacts, photographs, and documents in the History San José collection which relate to Del Monte Plant #3 in San José, California.

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In Their Own Words

Beatrice and Friends

Learn about Del Monte Plant #3 from the people who worked there.  See videos of former Del Monte employees sharing their memories.

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Decline of Industry

Remaining orchards surrounded by new development, c. 1960.Throughout the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s, the landscape of the Santa Clara Valley experienced a dramatic transformation.  Orchards were steadily replaced by business and research parks and housing developments.  The agricultural industry gave way to the high technology enterprises that earned Silicon Valley its name.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the valley lost over 50,000 acres of fruit and nut trees, most of it to the Central Valley and other regions of California.  

Del Monte initially responded to the changing landscape by building more storage facilities at Plant #3, to house product which was being transported from further and further away.  But transporting product over great distances cost more and could negatively impact quality.  High technology industries, especially semiconductor manufacturing, offered competitive year-round assembly-line jobs, cutting into Del Monte’s labor supply.  For years, canneries had dumped their waste water directly into the San Francisco Bay, but the burgeoning conservation movement of the 1960’s brought that to an end.  Clean water legislation required canners to invest in new waste treatment facilities.  Construction and maintenance of these facilities put another significant dent in profits. 

Del Monte Plant #3 was one of the very last full-scale canneries to operate in San José.  Del Monte Corporation continued production at the plant for almost a dozen years after the turnover to Silicon Valley was complete.  The corporation even invested in new machinery at the plant just 6 months before it closed.

Del Monte #3 Club at Bertha Lopez's house, c. 1990In December 1999 the last cans rolled off the Plant #3 assembly line.  The entire Plant #3 production was moved to a new plant in Modesto.  Employees were offered the opportunity to move with the plant.  Some took it and moved to the Central Valley; others chose to retire or leave the industry.  Some employees reported that they would have lost valuable seniority or pay bracket status had they moved to the Modesto plant.  For many of the workers, the plant’s closure signaled the closure of their working lives and the end of strong, enduring working relationships.  The huge plant, warehouses and other buildings on Auzerais stood vacant for seven years.

It makes me sad. I went by with my granddaughter and I go what are they doing? They’re knocking out my cannery! It was mine. And she goes “Oh yeah grandma like it’s yours.” Well yeah, all my life it was here and they just knock it down.  – Plant #3 worker, Elida Gutierrez