The Christopher Family has been farming in California since the 1880s when Ole Christopher immigrated from Denmark to the Santa Clara Valley. In 1956, as the San Jose area was beginning to build up, third generation Don Christopher and his brother, Art, established the Christopher Ranch on 130 acres in Gilroy. Because Gilroy was the “Garlic Capital,” they decided to grow 10 acres of garlic along with lima beans and sugar beets.
In 1978, Don started the Fresh Garlic Association, along with other members of the industry, to promote the sale and use of fresh garlic. The following year, Don joined Dr. Rudy Malone, then president of Gavilan College, in forming the first Gilroy Garlic Festival. Don served as president of the festival from 1979 to 1981 and he continues to serve on the Advisory Committee. Today the world-renown festival draws more than 100,000 people to the three-day event.
Don was born in San Jose in 1934. He attended Oak Grove Grammar School and then Live Oak High School where he was active in sports. He went on to San Jose State University. Today he is active in the community serving on numerous boards and donating to many local charities.
Understanding the need for another high school in Gilroy, Christopher donated 10 acres of land off Miller Road and Santa Teresa Boulevard to the Gilroy Unified School District (GUSD), which intends to sell the land when the market improves to generate funds for the master plan.
Don and his wife, Karen Christopher, followed up with an additional $75,000 donation in October 2008, before the school even opened. The donation is earmarked as seed money necessary to launch many of the student activities and programs at the new four-year high school including yearbook, transportation for athletics, the student store and others.
The Christopher Family has been involved in and supported public education for many years. Don's parents, Art and Clara Christopher, were active on the Oak Grove School Board and Parent/Teachers Association. Both the Christophers and the Hansens, Don's mother's family, have had schools named after them.