California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP)
This film, from the Blackwelder Manufacturing Company Records, shows several versions of the UC Blackwelder tomato harvester in action. In 1949, UC Davis agricultural engineer Coby Lorenzen and UC Davis vegetable crops researcher Jack Hanna began work on developing a harvester and a tomato variety that could withstand the rigors of mechanical picking. During the 1950s, the UC Davis team refined the experimental harvester and in 1959 Blackwelder Manufacturing of Rio Vista, California commercialized the design. The tomato harvester is said to have saved California’s processed tomato industry in the 1960s. The film includes footage of the harvester lifting the vines and tomatoes from the field; the tomatoes traveling on the inspection conveyor belts in front of the human sorters riding on the machine; and the fruit being distributed into bins. Also included is a short clip which shows the difference between tomatoes harvested by the Blackwelder machine versus those harvested by an FMC Corporation tomato harvester.