San Joaquin Valley (California, USA)
San Joaquin Valley, a 250-mile-long valley in central California, separated from the Pacific Ocean by the Coast Ranges, and extending some 70 miles wide eastward to the Sierra Nevada. It extends from the Tehachapi Mountains in the south to Stockton in the north. The river gets its water largely from the Sierra Nevada. The development of the valley began during the Gold Rush of the last century. One hundred years ago it was a barren, worthless desert. Today, through irrigation, it is one of the most productive, diversified, and richest farming areas in the nation.
A total of some 5,100 baptized members of five Mennonite conferences live in the valley, grouped into three major geographical areas: Bakersfield-Shafter in the southern end of the valley with 1,025 members [4 Mennonite Brethren (MB) congregations with 969 members, 2 in Shafter, one in Bakersfield, and one in Rosedale, and one General Conference Mennonite Church (GCM) in Shafter with 56]; the central area 70-100 miles to the north (from Dinuba to Fresno and Madera) with 3,323 members (7 MB congregations with 2,440, including 4 in Fresno with 585, Reedley with 1,436, Dinuba with 381, and Madera with 38, 2 GCM with 645, including Reedley with 593 and Fresno with 52, and one Krimmer Mennonite Brethren church (KMB) at Dinuba with 238); the northern area 60 miles north of Fresno with 627 members [2 Church of God in Christ, Mennonite (Holdeman) (CGC) with 433, including Winton with 143 and Livingston with 290, one (Old) Mennonite Church (MC) at Winton with 75, one GCM at Winton with 68, and one MB at Winton with 51]. There are also two small MB churches above Stockton at Lodi (114) and Victor (25). Thus there are in the valley by conferences: Mennonite Brethren 3,599, General Conference Mennonite 769, Church of God in Christ, Mennonite 433, Krimmer Mennonite Brethren 238, Mennonite Church 75, a total of 5,114.
In the Shafter-Wasco area near Bakersfield the potato and cotton industries are predominant. Mennonites have settled here since the beginning of the 20th century, and have established prosperous communities with churches at Shafter, Rosedale, and Bakersfield.
North of this area in the Reedley-Fresno area the Mennonites established themselves around the turn of the century. The first Mennonites came to Reedley in 1903. In 1905 the MB church was organized and by 1906 the GCM church. Some of the early settlers came from Kansas and Minnesota. At that time the land consisted mainly of grain fields as far as it was cultivated. New methods of cultivation and the problem of marketing their products caused many difficulties. Some Mennonites went into business. Irrigation was also a major problem. Gradually the grape and raisin industry was accepted also by Mennonites. They raise wine grapes, raisin grapes, table grapes, and sweet grapes, the table and raisin varieties being the most extensively grown. For raisins the Thompson and Muscat varieties are the most suitable. In 1950 the purchase price of a good bearing vineyard varied from $300 to $1,000 per acre including buildings and frequently some equipment. Ninety per cent of commercially grown grapes in the United States are grown in California, primarily in the San Joaquin Valley.
In the late 1950s, eighty-six per cent of the Mennonites of California lived in the valley, including almost a third of the MB membership in the United States.
Ewy, Arnold C. "The Grape and Raisin Industry." Mennonite Life 5 (October 1950): 4-9.
Goldschmidt, Walter. As You Sow. New York, 1947.
Neufeld, Vernon. "The Shafter-Wasco Community." Mennonite Life 7 (October 1952): 158-164.
Sitler, Arlene. "M.C.C.-San Joaquin Valley Project." Mennonite Life 6 (July 1951): 407.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 412-414. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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To cite this page:
MLA style: Krahn, Cornelius. "San Joaquin Valley (California, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 21 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/S2496.html.
APA style: Krahn, Cornelius. (1959). San Joaquin Valley (California, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/S2496.html.