Joseph DiGiorgio (born Giuseppe DiGiorgio, 1874 in Cefalu, Sicily) immigrated to the United States in 1888, becoming a middleman for fruit sales. He founded the Baltimore Fruit Exchange in 1904 on borrowed money and eventually owned fruit exchanges in several major regions of the east coast. In 1911 was able to purchase the Earl Fruit Company, a California shipper to integrate further in the produce chain. In 1919, he bought 5845 acres of land outside Arvin in California's San Joaquin Valley. A year later, DiGiorgio founded DiGiorgio Fruit Co. His success came when he obtained water for the arid California land by drilling wells hundreds of feet deep. By 1929, just ten years after his original land purchase, DiGiorgio's company was the largest fruit-packing plant in the nation.
The produce grown on the west coast became the main focus of the business. The end of Prohibition in 1933 saw DiGiorgio venture into the winery business, forming Del Vista Wine Co and bulk wine was shipped to the east coast in large tank cars. Di Giorgio was the largest wine producer in the country at that time though wine became a minor part of the corporation later. By 1946, the company occupied 33 square miles (85 km2) of the San Joaquin Valley as well as land as far north as Washington state, in Marysville and south to the Mexican border. It was the largest grape, plum and pear grower in the world. Its revenue rose from $5.7 million in 1938 to $18.2 million in 1946, with DiGiorgio and his family owning 59% of the stock.
The shrinking and increasingly saline water table eventually forced DiGiorgio Co. to request federal irrigation water. However, it was disqualified by the US Bureau of Reclamation, which restricted its services to owners of less than 160 acres (0.65 km2).
Ernesto Galarza also targeted DiGiorgio Co., organizing a strike from 1947–50 and a boycott of the company's products. The strike lasted 30 months. DiGiorgio Co. eventually signed a contract with the United Farm Workers in 1966, after another long and highly publicized strike led by Cesar Chavez.
Joseph DiGiorgio died in 1951 and his nephew, Robert DiGiorgio rose to leadership, becoming president in 1962. By 1967, the agricultural portion of the business accounted for less than 2% of revenue and "Fruit" was dropped from the company's name. Its acquisitions included S&W Fine Foods, TreeSweet, White Rose, Serv-A-Portion (distributor of condiment packets for fast food), Los Angeles Drugs, Peter Carando Inc (Italian-style meats), Sun Aire Airlines and Las Plumas Lumber Co. DiGiorgio also became invested in land development across California. In 1965, assets had reached $82.9 million and sales had passed $100 million. DiGiorgio Co. ranked 9th in rate of sales growth in the nation at that time. Its products and services ranged from grocery distribution, fruit juices, campers, lumber, housing components, pharmaceuticals, wine and, of course, fruit. Modest exports were mainly to Europe and Japan.