University of Redlands Celebrates Area’s Citrus History

Guests enjoying dinner at the packinghouse

Submitted By Jessica Arthur, Director of Catering

Redlands Conservancy’s Emerald Necklace Program is an ambitious project, long in the works, that will preserve open space as well as Redland’s agricultural heritage. The program kicked off with a celebratory event catered by Bon Appétit at University of Redlands in Redlands, CA.

The location was the historic Foothill Groves Packing House, the last working packinghouse in San Bernardino County. “We wanted to focus Redlands’ attention on the unquantifiable value of the citrus industry to the city heritage and existence,” said Conservancy Executive Director Sherli Leonard.

Protected through funds raised by the conservancy, Foothill Groves ships out 120,000 cartons of citrus each week. Fifty years ago, the area was home to a world-class citrus industry, boasting 25 packinghouses. Rapid development caused the industry to contract; Bon Appétit and the University of Redlands are committed to supporting the remaining growers and packers.

Guests were greeted by the sounds and sights of the packing machines at work, and they enjoyed guided tours of the building while sipping on Joseph Filippi California Sparkling Almond Champagne. Bon Appétit Executive Chef Marc Powers created a citrus-inspired menu with ingredients from local farms to carry the theme. Guests started with speckled romaine with pickled watermelon radish and orange, fennel, and white asparagus relish with white balsamic vinaigrette. The menu featured Shelton Farms chicken with McWilliams honey and citrus spaghetti squash, accompanied by potatoes pan-braised with smoked bacon.

Throughout the meal, Associate Archivist Nathan Gonzales from the A.K. Smiley Public Library narrated a two-part presentation on citrus history in Redlands. (Interesting fact: A devastating frost in 1913 almost caused the University of Redlands to close its doors due to large investments it had made in citrus.) Sipping on coffee and enjoying blood orange ginger cheesecake with chai-spiced sauce, guests were captivated with the location and meal.