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In the Shadow of the World's Largest Can of Fruit Cocktail

By Steven Tanner on February 27, 2012 6:02 AM

When the lunch whistle blows, those of us who work at FindLaw's Sunnyvale office in the balmy Bay Area head down to "The Cannery," the name given to our designated dining area.

Cannery as in fruit canning.

Although Sunnyvale is at the heart of Silicon Valley (both Apple and Google are within a 5-mile radius of our office), the region's history is rooted in the fruit business. In fact, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs named his company in honor of that legacy.

Which brings us to the massive can of fruit cocktail next to the FindLaw office building.

Now just a relic, it was once a water tower used by a large-scale fruit canning operation that would eventually close its doors in 1985. It's one of the few structural reminders of what used to be Silicon Valley's biggest industry before it became Silicon Valley.

Sunnyvale Libby tower

Countless fruit trees surrounding our office and dotting the entire South Bay Area serve as living reminders of the region's fruitful past.

Lured by free land and extensive orchards, Chicago meat-packing company Libby, McNeill & Libby opened its first fruit canning plant in Sunnyvale in 1907. It quickly became the city's largest employer, boasting an 8,000-strong workforce during canning season, and was the largest cannery in the world by 1922.

The original Libby's water tower was replaced in 1965 by the one that now shades our little cluster of office buildings.

Those hi-tech gadgets we all adored five years ago might now be collecting dust. But the apricots, plums, apples, cherries, peaches and oranges growing in abundance all over Sunnyvale are a delicious reminder of life before silicon changed the world.

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