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The Segerstrom Family

January 01, 2000

Jenifer Ragland

SEEDS OF A LEGACY

It was impossible to know in the early 1900s that a small dairy farm --

and later lima bean fields -- in a largely undeveloped area south of Los

Angeles would eventually turn into one of Southern California's most

powerful retail and cultural dynasties.

That's why it could have only been accomplished by visionaries -- in this

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case, they came from five generations of Segerstroms, who saw their land

as more than just a chunk of dirt to eventually sell off.

"When I think about the Segerstroms, I think of two things -- leadership

and vision," said Allan Roeder, Costa Mesa's city manager for the past 20

years. "It started early on in the agricultural field. They were leaders

in this area in the agricultural business, building the foundation of

Costa Mesa and the county."

That leadership and vision, Roeder said, characterized the family in

everything else it has touched, including the business world at the end

of the 20th century, the performing arts and other charities.

"You'd have a hard time finding a city where one family has left a mark

as indelibly as the Segerstroms have on Costa Mesa," said former mayor

and Daily Pilot columnist Peter Buffa. "They have a values system which

is very hard to find these days.

In 1882, Charles John (C.J.) Segerstrom, 28, and his wife, Bertha,

scooped up their three young children and moved from their homeland of

Sweden -- where C.J. had learned to farm -- to the United States. They

arrived in Orange County in 1898, leasing 20 acres of land to grow

apricots in what is now the city of Orange.

The story goes that on a wagon trip to present-day Costa Mesa, C.J. saw

the land he wanted -- flat and rich enough to grow anything he wanted.

They at first leased the 40 acres, growing alfalfa to feed cows and began

a dairy. The couple had 11 children -- five daughters and six sons -- all

who helped on the farm.

As C.J. Segerstrom was able, he bought the 40-acre piece of land on

Fairvew Road north of the San Diego Freeway, which the family still

refers to as the "home ranch." They began purchasing more land starting

in 1940.The family -- after finding numerous well locations, four of

which were later used at no charge by the Costa Mesa water district --

then began its lima bean empire. At one time they had 2,500 acres of farm

land spread out across nearly half of what's now Costa Mesa.

During the 40s and 50s, the Segerstrom family pioneered the commercial

production of lima beans. The dairy farms were sold, but the family

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