A Brief History of Villa Park
In the fall of 1912, forty-eight Villa Park growers united to organize the Villa Park Orchards Association (VPOA) for the purpose of harvesting, packing and marketing oranges, temporarily utilizing the Elephant Orchards label. The new Association was affiliated with the California Fruit Growers Exchange and commenced packing in a produce shed. With a crop of tremendous proportions predicted for the 1912 – 1913 season, the new association immediately acquired two parcels of land and began construction of a packinghouse and basement.
By mid-March, Elephant Brand Navels packed at Villa Park topped the New York Market at $4.10 per box. Averaging two carloads per day, the VPOA annual report recorded a total of 106 carloads by October 1913. In celebration of the year’s prosperity, VPOA directors purchased a new Buick roadster for the manager’s use. With its packinghouse completed in April 1914, the Association packed fruit during their second season under VPOA brands: Alphabetical (select), Tick Tock and Arden Villa. By November 1914 VPOA membership exceeded 100 growers representing approximately one thousand acres of citrus.
The initial decades of VPOA history were a time of extraordinary growth in the citrus industry. The Exchange, always a front-runner in modern advertising, began a highly successful national advertising campaign in 1916. The public was admonished to “Drink an Orange” marking the first promotion of orange juice. As a result, the orange, no longer a luxury item, became a staple of the American diet. Lithographed labels affixed at the ends of the wooden packing crates enhanced marketing of the product worldwide.
Over the years, Villa Park has been able to partnership with several entities. These partnerships have made the cooperative what it is today. The following is a summary of those affiliations:
Santiago – A house in Downtown Orange purchased by Villa Park in 1967 and operated through 2005.
Bradford Brothers – Joined Villa Park in 1978.
Ventura County Fruit Growers – The packinghouse in Fillmore was acquired by Villa Park in 1995.
Ojai-Tapo – Villa Park acquired many growers from Ojai Tapo in 1994 and 1995.
Santa Paula Orange – Villa Park merged with Santa Paula Orange in late 2003.
Strathmore – Villa Park merged with Strathmore Packinghouse Company Park in 2005.
Riverside– Purchased the assets of California Citrus Co-op in 2018