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Garlic legend and philanthropist Don Christopher dies at 88

Don Christopher, the legendary Gilroy farmer who turned Christopher Ranch into the nation’s largest garlic processor and helped put the Garlic Capital of the World on the map, has passed away.

The 88-year-old was surrounded by family when he died Monday, the company said Wednesday.

1978, Christopher Ranch, Gilroy, showing Don Christopher, third generation farmer and first generation garlic farmer. (Photo credit: Christopher Lunch)

Christopher Ranch executive vice president and son Ken Christopher said, “He made Garlic Capital of the world truly special and has made a difference in countless lives through his philanthropic work. There is no doubt that his legacy will endure through generations to come.”The statement: “His love for his employees, community and family is evident every day, and his unwavering commitment to making Gilroy a better place will be remembered.” I guess.”

Debbie Flores, Superintendent of Gilroy Unified School District and one of the beneficiaries of his grace, said:

Christopher was born in San Jose in 1934 to a prune farm. According to Mercury’s news archives, his grandfather, Ole Christopher, immigrated from Denmark and in 1896 south of San Jose he purchased 15 acres of land and planted his first tree. The orchard grew to hundreds of acres over the decades, and the family sold the wooded lot to his IBM for the facility in the 1950s.

According to Christopher High School of the same name, Don attended Oak Grove Grammar School, Live Oak High School and San Jose State University.

In 1956, he received a donation of land to form the Christopher Ranch Company. He planted lima beans, sugar beets, and just 10 acres of garlic. But stinking roses became his future. Christopher Ranch has grown to be the nation’s largest garlic company and remains Gilroy’s largest private employer.

The journey was not without its challenges. For years, Christopher battled cheap garlic imported from China and watched farmland prices skyrocket.

The popularity of garlic is no different.

In 1979, well before the legacy, a handful of volunteers, including Rudy Melone, Val Philis and Christopher, decided to hold a modest festival celebrating garlic to raise money for charity. They figured that about 5,000 people from the surrounding communities would show up to taste the garlic dishes.

They greatly underestimated its appeal. About 15,000 people attended the first Gilroy Garlic Festival.

“We said, ‘Oh my God!'” Christopher recalled in a 2012 Mercury News interview. “We didn’t have enough food.”

They didn’t have enough tickets for the two-day event. So volunteers recycled stumps and raced from San Jose to Monterey to buy everything from squid to French bread.

The festival was held over three days and attracted garlic lovers from all over the world. It was held annually from 1979 to 2019.

Over the decades, Christopher’s name has become synonymous not only with garlic, but also with local philanthropy. He and his wife made large donations to Gilroy High School for a variety of purposes, and gave the district an equal amount to install security systems on the middle and high school campuses. provided.

Additionally, “The Christopher family provides scholarships to dozens of GUSD seniors each year to help them pursue their dreams after high school.”

Christopher Ranch now grows garlic across California (100 million pounds a year), but all bulbs are shipped to Gilroy for processing. The company is family owned and has been passed down to Don’s next two generations.

In a family statement, Rob Christopher, the company’s general counsel, said: “My father had a better character than the real thing, but he did what he preached better than any man I’ve ever met. “He valued hard work, valued his family, admitted his mistakes, and dealt with everyone honestly.”

The vice president’s grandson, Jason Christopher, said simply, “The best compliment I’ve ever received is that it reminded me of my grandpa.”

The memorial plan is undecided.

This is a developing story. Please check the latest information.

https://www.ocregister.com/2022/12/14/gilroy-garlic-legend-philanthropist-don-christopher-dies-at-88/ Garlic legend and philanthropist Don Christopher dies at 88

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