Family members have been farming in San Diego County for three generations now, beginning with an Italian immigrant couple who came to California in 1913. Those immigrant ancestors started out growing grapes, but, dealing first with Prohibition and then the Great Depression, they soon moved toward growing other produce as well.
Their son Edward helped make ends meet by working and managing groves for others in addition to working on his own family’s farm. Edward was clearly a striver—by 1938 he’d earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from the University of California, Davis while continuing his farm work.
In 1940, Edward married Josie Ann Dunn. They raised three children—daughter Julie and sons Edward, Jr. and Kevin. Edward, Sr. continued farming and expanding farming-related businesses. Along with grove management, he’d begun selling crop oils and fertilizers to other farmers. That business evolved in 1952 into Grangetto’s Farm and Garden Supply.
Edward, Sr. died in 2007 at the age of 93. His legacy is an enduring family farming operation and farm and garden business that has grown from its original Escondido store to four locations across San Diego County. Following in their father’s footsteps, Eddie works in the farm and garden business four days a week and runs Grangetto Ranches with his wife Kathleen the rest of the time, while his brother Kevin runs the farm and garden business.
“You couldn’t ask for a better mentor or a better father-in-law,” said Eddie of his father’s guidance. “He is the cornerstone of everything we have today and that has been created since he passed away.”
In a 2006 article in The San Diego Union-Tribune, Kevin Grangetto spoke of the strong work ethic his father taught him and his siblings: “We started out stocking the shelves, watering the orange trees or picking avocados from the family farm. We worked our way up from the basic process.”
The overlapping of the two businesses reflects the continuing interests of the family, carrying on Ed, Sr.’s vision. He set an example by always working both in the fields and at the stores, keeping his hands in operations even after formally retiring in 1981. Kevin said his father believed in staying “a few steps ahead of the industry.” This meant adjusting to the transformation of the county from predominantly agricultural to residential development. At the same time, they recognized that urbanites and suburbanites represented a new segment for their farm and garden business.
While they’d started out selling only to wholesale customers, a separate building was erected next to the original Escondido store in the early 1970s. This was the beginning of the company’s retail division, supplying farm products to individual homeowners and hobbyist gardeners alongside the traditional growers and landscapers served by the commercial-wholesale division.
This format was successful and repeated as new branch stores were opened in Valley Center in the late 1970s, Encinitas in 1985, and Fallbrook in 1995. “We try to get geographically closer to our customers,” Kevin said. “Within 10 to 15 miles.” He said the customer breakdown today was “75 percent commercial, 25 percent retail for homeowners.” He added that things had “incrementally increased on the retail side” but “our bread and butter” remains the commercial customer base. Still, Kevin made it clear they’re dedicated to offering quality products and personal service to all of their customers, wholesale and retail.
“What makes us unique is that growers at any level can come and get knowledgeable advice from people who are actual farmers. Whether they have two fruit trees or 2,000 acres, we specialize in helping people bring to fruition whatever it is they’re trying to grow.”
Taking the lead from their father and staying ahead of trends in agriculture, the Grangetto brothers have incorporated products and practices geared toward organic and sustainable farming. In addition to conventional fertilizers and pesticides, they sell eco-friendly and organic products. Among the workshops they regularly offer is one on rainwater harvesting, also offering rainwater harvesting and conservation systems for sale.
The family’s continued love of farming is reflected in their ranch, where Eddie is working to develop a distinct brand of locally grown avocados to better compete with imported brands. At the same time, he is a founding member and one of the leaders of EGAP (Escondido Growers for Agricultural Preservation). EGAP’s work was profiled in an article in Edible San Diego’s November-December 2015 issue.
Of the customers at the farm and garden supply store, Eddie said, “The thing about having a ranch is I can tell people what I’m experiencing. If you can bring the practical experience, growers like that.” Of his work running the farm and with EGAP, he talked about preserving farmland in order to offer people who are not farmers more contact with nature.
“Agriculture,” said Eddie, “is beautiful. It really is Escondido’s personality. On a Sunday, people are not going to go out driving in a tech area.”