Almost a century ago – in Anaheim, Calif. – Seth Wollenman’s great-grandparents began farming citrus. Rudy and Lilly Wollenman’s farm sat between present-day Disneyland and Angel Stadium, and today Seth carries on the family business in the Central Valley as part of a fourth-generation citrus family.
The Wollenman’s story is that of the family farm – while it’s unique, the history and passion are shared by many California farmers.
In 1919, Rudy and Lilly moved west and purchased a Valencia orange grove with a farmhouse adjacent to the railroad tracks.
“That was our introduction to farming,” says Seth, Sales and Brand Manager for Suntreat Packing and Shipping Co. – the exclusive U.S. distributor for Sumo Citrus®. “Like most people at the time, your farm wasn’t only one commodity. They had vegetables, fruit trees, eggs, mules, and chickens. It was a full working farm.”
Seth’s grandfather, Joe Wollenman, worked the Anaheim farm as he grew up during the Depression in the 1930s. The family became known for their involvement in the community and their generosity, offering meals to the migrant workers riding the rails in an endless search for fieldwork.
The 1940s saw the family move to Lindsay, Calif., where they began to invest in citrus and established the groves that stand today as Wollenman Farms. As the younger brothers – including Joe – went off to World War II, the older brothers transitioned into citrus distribution. When Joe returned, he worked the family farm and started Monte Vista Ranch, Inc. – a farm management enterprise the family continues to operate.
Over the years, the family has grown and not everyone stayed on the farm. While Seth’s father and uncle went into farming, Seth found a slightly different path.
“I grew up working summers and Christmas breaks on the farm,” Seth says. “I realized I didn’t want to do farm labor for the rest of my life so that motivated me to go to college.”
In 2003, Seth began working with Suntreat, transitioning from packing operations into marketing and product development. However, he never lost sight of the power or responsibility in farming.
“Natural food production – citrus crops, fruits, and vegetables – it’s renewable, it should be sustainable,” Seth says. “We’re able to produce something, give people jobs and feed people. One fruit on this one tree – how many jobs does that create? And that’s a tree that will produce every year.”
“You’re giving that tree water and nutrients, caring for that tree, and it’s providing jobs and food for someone. And we’re producing something that’s healthy,” Seth says. “I feel real good about what my family does and what we produce.
Talking about his family and their close to 100 years of citrus farming, one can sense the connection between the Wollenmans and the land they’ve farmed for so many years. It’s a connection we believe shows in someone’s first taste of a Sumo Citrus®.
“There are still family farmers out there,” Seth says. “Our family’s one.”