Is there anything more delicious on a hot summer’s day than a chilled peach? With their bright red and yellow hue, intoxicating aroma and sweet flavor, peaches are a favorite among fruit lovers. Perhaps that is why they have become a staple in public school lunches across the country. But school children might not be able to enjoy the juicy fruit snack in their school lunches were it not for Bill Smittcamp, CEO and President Wawona Foods.
Under Smittcamp’s leadership, Wawona Foods grew to become the largest processor of frozen peaches in the United States, processing over 65 million pounds of peaches along with 20 million pounds of strawberries and other fruits.
The company also supplied more than 100 million peach, strawberry, and mixed berry fruit cups to schools across America as of 2020 through the USDA school lunch program. Collectively the company ships more than 125 million pounds of frozen products annually, supplying major pie, yogurt, ice cream, food service and retail trade customers with fresh frozen fruit.
Smittcamp’s success as President and CEO of Wawona Foods is one of multiple reasons why he is the winner of the 2021 Agriculturalist of the Year. Besides overseeing Wawona Foods, Smittcamp is also among the most active community leaders in Fresno. He has served on several local boards, including the California Health Sciences University Board of Trustees, Board of Governors of Fresno State, Central Valley Community Bank Board, Garfield Water District Board and Board of Trustees for Valley Children’s Health Care, where he also served as the Board Chair. He has also been a leader in state and national organizations such as California League of Food Processors and the American Frozen Food Institute.
Smittcamp demonstrates a tradition of giving back to the community. He donates to several local nonprofits that serve multiple community needs, ranging from child health care to education. On an annual basis, the Smittcamp family provides student scholarships for the Smittcamp Family Honors College. Smittcamp also created a campaign to fundraise for Valley Children’s Hospital, in which he encourages Wawona Foods employees to give what they can. Every dollar donated is matched by Wawona Foods and then matched again by the Smittcamp Family.
“Bill has always been just a phone call away for anything I or Fresno County Farm Bureau has needed,” Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen said. “He is a community steward whose name is synonymous with local agriculture, having self-proclaimed Clovis as the Peach Capital of the world!”
Smittcamp learned the value of community and hard work from a young age. His father, Earl Smittcamp, a decorated marine veteran who served in World War II, taught the young Bill that early mornings and a strong work ethic were essential to a life of success. He took his father’s lessons to heart and went on to graduate from Fresno State in 1975 and became President and CEO of Wawona Foods in 1983. The rest is a history of success. Smittcamp has been recognized for his excellent leadership and dedication to the community on several occasions, including in 2016, when the Chamber honored him with the Leon S. Peters Award.
Despite his many accomplishments and accolades, Smittcamp is well known for his humble attitude. He is always, “Thinking Peaches,” as his famed tagline says.
“I am honored and truly humbled to be even considered for this award. So many names come to mind of those who have been awarded before me: Phil Larson, Manuel Cunha, Mark Borba,” Smittcamp said of winning the 2021 Agriculturist of Year Award . “Agriculture in California, peaches specifically, has been in my blood all my life. I am just happy to be a part of the agriculture industry here in the valley.”