Mayor 1975: Robert Di Giorgio
source for article:

Robert DiGiorgio had first been to Borrego in 1939. He, like Burnand, was scouting areas for early grape production. In 1944, DiGiorgio founder Joseph DiGiorgio, Robert DiGiorgio and Burnand all traveled from Delano to Borrego. The DiGiorgio's ended up buying 1200 acres of land from Burnand and that became the first holdings for the company in the Valley. Table grapes were the crop DiGiorgio grew in the Valley (others grew tomatoes, alfalfa, cotton and variety of other fruits and vegetables). The grapes were shipped around the country - primarily to the New York market. Farming in the Valley was hard and after a dozen years of trying to make it work, the DiGiorgio Company decided it was time to stop virtually overnight. The success of Cesar Chavez in unionizing farm workers would also play a key role to the end of DiGiorgio's farming. When a strike was called against DiGiorgio's Borrego vineyards, the pumps, necessary to irrigate the vines, were shut off.

"One of the first results of the strike was the decision to abandon farming in Borrego. We had farmed Borrego for a number of years, and of all of those years--thirteen or fourteen years, and the first three or four years were development years to bring the crops up to production--and during all of those years, my recollection is that only one year did the operation show an operating profit . All the other years it showed operating losses. Basically due to the unfriendliness of the weather to the development of the grape crop. Too much heat, too much rain, too much wind with dust. Just a number of things. Low production yields. We just never could cut the buck. When we got the unionization in Borrego on top of all the other problems, the decision was made that it's inadvisable to keep on farming there, particularly since we no longer have any obligation to give those people a job (the farm workers). They're on their own. Mr. Chavez can take care of them. So the decision was a very easy one to reach." 4
In 1962, Robert DiGiorgio became President of the DiGiorgio Fruit Corporation and began taking the company out of farm production, and into development. Under his leadership the company was renamed the DiGiorgio Corporation the "Fruit" being dropped as the company diversified. The first development project was de Anza Country Club in 1955, with DiGiorgio providing the major financial backing. Its success would set the stage for additional Valley projects including: Borrego Springs Shopping Center (1965); Roadrunner Club Golf Course and Mobile Home Park (1966); Rams Hill Country Club (1981) and Indian Head Ranch (1980's). [In 1975 "Bob" DiGiorgio served as Honorary Mayor of Borrego Springs.]  Robert DiGiorgio stepped down as president of the DiGiorgio Fruit Corporation in 1982. The last of the Borrego holdings were sold by DiGiorgio Development Company in 1988.

4. Robert DiGiorgio. Oral History, Robert DiGiorgio and J.A. DiGiorgio The DiGiorgio's: From Fruit Merchants to Corporate Innovators, 1983, University of California, Berkley California.

Photo Credit:  Borrego Sun
see NY Times obituary










Robert Di Giorgio Ex-Chief Executive And Chairman, 79

Published: February 15, 1991

Robert Di Giorgio, former head of the Di Giorgio Corporation, a billion-dollar family-owned concern with interests in food, drug, building materials and real estate businesses, died on Wednesday in San Francisco. He was 79 years old and lived in San Francisco.

He died of complications from surgery performed in 1988, his family said, and had been in nursing homes for more than a year.

Mr. Di Giorgio joined the Di Giorgio Fruit Company, from which the corporation grew, in 1937. The business was founded in the San Joaquin Valley of California in 1920 by Joseph Di Giorgio, who built it into the country's largest grower of produce.

Robert Di Giorgio became president of the company in 1962. Three years later, in the midst of a bitter struggle by farm workers led by Cesar Chavez to organize for collective bargaining with grape growers, Mr. Di Giorgio broke ranks with his fellow employers to declare that the workers should be represented by a union.

He favored the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, but that union largely lost out to a coalition formed by the A.F.L.-C.I.O. that included the Chavez forces. Mr. Di Giorgio agreed to a contract with the union and other employers followed.

Mr. Di Giorgio, a native New Yorker, was a graduate of the Lawrenceville School and Yale University, and held a law degree from Fordham University. He spent most of his working life with the family concern, which grew to more than 30 divisions around the world. He became chairman and chief executive in 1971 and retired in 1982.

One of Mr. Di Giorgio's principal divisions was the White Rose Food Company, the largest independent wholesaler of groceries in the New York metropolitan area. White Rose was sold last year.

He is survived by his wife, the former Patricia Kuhrts; four daughters, Ann Costigan of San Francisco, Barbara Di Giorgio of Danville, Calif., Christine Timmerman of Atherton, Calif., and Dorothy Moore of Menlo Park, Calif.; a sister, Dorothy Gretsch of Jupiter, Fla., and five grandchildren.