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March 23, 2017

Watermelon Firm Stands the Test of Time

CA Member Profile

George Perry & Sons

Manteca, CA

Member since 1997

 

IN THE BEGINNING: In 1906, Delphino Perry arrived in the United States from his native Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal. He was 16 when he joined his father in California and began working on a small dairy farm in San Luis Obispo. For the next decade, he stayed on the coast eventually moving north to Oakland. In his late 20s, D.V. Perry, as he was called, moved his wife and young son, George, to Manteca in the northern reaches of the San Joaquin Valley, and started a family legacy that is still running strong today.

In fact, 98-year-old George Perry, the namesake for Geo. Perry & Sons, still lives in very close proximity to the original plot of land that his father bought almost a century ago.

George Perry joined his father in the dairy and farming business when he was old enough in the early 1930s, and they established D.V. Perry & Son, which eventually morphed into George Perry & Sons.

 

FROM DAIRY TO MELONS: In the 1950s, D.V. and George Sr. operated the dairy and continued to increase their holdings and expanded further into melons and squashes. Besides growing those crops, they also operated as packers and shippers for other growers. Art Perry, who was born in 1944 to George Sr., joined the family operation full time after graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the 1960s. His younger brother George Jr. joined a few years later as he moved into the workforce. It was in the 1960s that the dairy was sold and all of the farming efforts were focused on the grower-shipper operation.

George Perry & Sons began as a partnership in the 1960s and formally incorporated in 1974, with the father and his two sons as equal shareholders.

 

CONTINUED GROWTH: The company has continued to grow over the years and Art said at one time it was the “largest shipper and handler of watermelons and pumpkins throughout California.” Today, he calls it “one of the larger ones.”

The watermelon is their signature crop and they are now a year-round supplier as they source from Mexico and the Southwest U.S. when California is not in season. Pumpkins are also a big crop as are other hard-shell squashes.

 

THE FAMILY LEGACY: Following a strict code that you are not part of the family business unless you are working in it full time, today’s ownership team consists of six members: CEO Art Perry; his longtime partner, brother George Jr.; George’s son of the same name; Art’s son, Ron; Art’s daughter Karen Widmer and one non-family member, grower Paul Gomes.

George Jr. and George M., as he is called, handle the equipment, while Ron is the controller and Gomes is the chief operating officer and in charge of growing operations. Many other family members also work in the organization. For example, Gail Perry, George Jr.’s wife, is the main salesperson and very well-known to buyers throughout the country.

Watermelons remain the company’s signature crop, but the watermelons grown in 2017 are far different than those grown 50, 40, 30, even 20 years ago. “There are very few seeded watermelons grown anymore,” said Art., also noting that the mini-watermelon has become quite popular.

Art in his early 70s and George Jr. in his mid to late 60s still come into the office every day and offer value to the company, which is a mandatory requirement of every shareholder. Art says each partner has their strengths but when one wants to walk away from the firm, the company rules requiring selling their shares back to the organization.

 

THE REASON FOR THEIR SUCCESS: Art says it is the company’s “faith in God and faith in family” which are their two guiding principles that set the tone each day and are the reasons behind their success. He noted that the company believes strongly about being involved in both the community and the industry. The company is a member of the National Watermelon Association with Ron Perry serving as the group’s 2017 president. George Perry & Sons celebrates its 20th anniversary as a member of Western Growers in April of this year.