California Fruit, Inc. humbly began when Hovigim Melkonian moved to Fresno, California in 1920 after fleeing genocide in his home country of Armenia. Over the next few decades, Hovigim married, had a child, and scratched out an existence by working 20 acres of farmland near Sanger.
After returning from Naval service in 1945, Hovigim’s son, Suren, began looking for ways to expand his father’s farming business, taking a particular interest in the preservation of fruit. At that time, most local farmers had small “dry yards” where they would dry-cure surplus fruit from the season’s harvest. In 1955, Suren expanded his father’s farm to 125 acres, and, instead of focusing on fresh fruit, created a commercial dry yard that morphed into a commercial dehydrating business. Through trial, error, and good old-fashioned American ingenuity, Suren developed many new and innovative ways to cut and dry the fruit. Ahead of his time by many decades, Suren was actually among the first to utilize mechanization to streamline the cutting and drying process.
By the late 1970s, Suren’s three sons took an active role in the family business, eventually expanding to the 500 acres of farmland that California Fruit, Inc. utilizes today. Operations were also expanded and now include the cleaning, processing, sizing, grading, packaging, and selling of raisins and cut fruit. Suren’s grandchildren, the fourth generation of Melkonians, have begun joining the family business as well, with many now an indispensable part of the company.
Although the farmland and operations have expanded beyond what Hovigim and Suren had ever dreamed, the pioneering spirit certainly lives on. In fact, California Fruit, Inc. is at the forefront of industry modernization, constantly striving to develop better products and superior preservation techniques – often involving the fruit in a more natural state. Today, California Fruit, Inc. is proud to be one of the largest and most well-respected dried fruit suppliers in the United States – quite an accomplishment for a family-run business started nearly a century ago by a hard-working immigrant.