This article examines the growth and change of a southern California table grape firm, the George F. Johnston Company. Combining business, labor, and environmental history, it traces the company’s expansion from a semi-arid region just east of Los Angeles to the fully arid deserts of the Coachella and Imperial Valleys of California. The Johnston Company moved south and east into this more hostile environment to produce grapes out of the traditional season, beating the competition to market. In the process, it produced a racially stratified workforce and contributed to an ecological catastrophe. The Johnston case suggests that agricultural production pits capitalists in a triangular struggle over the moment of the harvest with nature and labor. This struggle is intensified by competitive dynamics that drive firms to expand or shift the timing of the productive process.


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pp. 109-140
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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