Wawona Frozen Foods: A peach of a family business
The name Smittcamp is synonymous with entrepreneurial ventures in the Central Valley. With its recent Family Owned Business Award in the large business category, the family continues to build on its business legacy.
Wawona Frozen Foods, founded in 1963 by Earl Smittcamp, specializes in growing and freezing of fresh fruits — namely, peaches. In 1945, after returning from fighting in the Pacific Theater of World War II, he and his wife Muriel bought a 200-acre spread in Clovis called Wawona Ranch.
Wawona began as the 15th largest frozen peach operation in the United States. Today, it is the only one left of the original group.
Earl instilled a sense of discipline and hard work in his four children.
“My father being a Marine, each day he had us stand and salute as the Marine Corps Hymn played,” Bill said with a laugh. “I didn’t put my kids through the same drill.”
Today, the company ships more than 100 million pounds of frozen fruit annually and is the largest peach processing facility in the nation, turning out 65 to 75 million pounds in about 120 days of its season.
Wawona Frozen Foods is being led by both the second and third generations of the family. Bill Smittcamp is president and CEO, with Bill’s son Blake Smittcamp serving as vice president of sales.
A key part of the company’s success, Bill said, is treating everyone like family. He said Wawona Frozen Foods has had employees who worked for the company a whopping 55 to 60 years.
Blair Smittcamp-Martin, Bill’s daughter and Wawona’s marketing and special projects coordinator, said that when you’re born into a family with a business, you’re in the business.
“When you have a family business, you’re in it from the very beginning. My brothers and I started working at the fruit stand at the age of 10, and then on the line, and now we are at an official capacity with Wawona,” Blair said.
The Smittcamp family is also synonymous with philanthropy and advocacy. In June, Bill testified at the U.S. House of Representatives AG Committee meeting to urge Congress to ensure frozen foods are included and promoted in nutrition programs in the writing of the 2023 farm bill.
Wawona Frozen Foods has been a Best of the Central Valley Winner for Best Family Owned Business from 2017-2021. In 2021, Bill was awarded the Fresno Chamber of Commerce’s Agriculturalist of the Year award.
“The key is the family approach. We take ownership of what we have. Every peach that goes by is being looked at by someone — its family. Every employee that is looking for a defect in our fruit is part of the family,” Smittcamp said.
The below article was originally published in The Business Journal on July 29th to celebrate Wawona Frozen Foods winning the Large Business Category of the 2022 Family Owned Business Awards (FOBA).