Friday, July 13, 2012

The Amazing Knott's Berry Farm Story

Gary North tells it:

I met Walter Knott on a few occasions in the late 1960s. He was the founder of Knott's Berry Farm. He was one of the most successful businessmen I ever knew. Of those who started with nothing, he was the best.

He had been an unsuccessful fruit farmer for a decade. He got his big break in the recession of 1920. Prices collapsed. In desperation, he started a roadside berry stand. He wrapped the baskets of berries in clean wrapping paper, and he put rubber bands around them. His competitors used newspaper and twine. That seemingly minor change gave him an advantage. No one copied him. The recession ended by late 1921, and his business took off. He added jams and pies.

In 1932, he heard about a man who had developed a hybrid berry, a man named Boysen. He tracked down the inventor, who gave him six scraggly plants. They grew rapidly on his little farm. Knott named the berry the boysenberry. That added to the Knott business. He began selling berries and jams made from the berries his little farm produced.

He branched out with chicken dinners, and soon his restaurant was packed. In 1940, he bought some old buildings that had been abandoned in ghost towns, and he created an imitation ghost town close to his restaurant. This began to attract even larger crowds. He hired local entertainers. The crowds grew. Many years later, one young entertainer who played the banjo a little, made animals out of balloons, and told jokes was Steve Martin.

In 1955, Disneyland opened. A lot of people at the time speculated that would be the end of Knott's Berry Farm. Oh, for an end like that! The crowds doubled and doubled again.

Knott was a hard-core conservative. He put his money where his mouth was. In fact, he pretty much closed his mouth, and just wrote lots of checks. In 1965-66, one of his nonprofit organizations became the legal umbrella for Rushdoony's Chalcedon organization, before Chalcedon was granted nonprofit status by the Internal Revenue Service.

Knott stuck to his knitting: selling berries, jams, and pies. But he paid attention to what customers wanted. He died a multi-millionaire in 1981.


  1. Funny, no stories of back room deals, payoffs, theft, greed, screwing over his customers, intimidation... Clearly Mr. Knott could never make it todays business world - he just doesn't have the right "stuff".

    I want my country back!

    1. How naive! No one is going to give it back to you. You and others will have to take it back, recover your stolen property.

    2. Agreed, but if you can find fault in a simple statement like that then perhaps you have become overly critical and are on your way to becoming part of the problem instead of part of the solution...

      Peace brother

    3. We need peaceful actions, not sentiments. Just doing my part to clarify thinking and exhort meaningful actions. But your comment duly noted.

  2. It's cool how his first small success just kept getting bigger. Entrepreneurs are impressive.

  3. Martin on the banjo: