History of the Harden Foundation

Eugene and Ercia Harden founded the Harden Foundation in 1963 to assist charitable organizations in the Salinas Valley.

Eugene Harden was born in 1892 in Long Beach, California. He was raised on his parentís ranch in Wyoming and moved to California as a youngster. He was vice president of the First National Bank of Holtville when he met and married 18-year-old Ercia Swindle in 1913. The young Hardens became active in the civic and social life of the Imperial Valley, where Eugene formed Zenos and Harden Farms, specializing in lettuce and melons.

In the 1920's, the Hardens moved to Salinas. Eugene Harden formed E. E. Harden Packing Company, which later became Harden Farms of California. He also formed Harden Farms, Inc., and was one of the founders of the Growers Ice and Development Company. He was active in the Grower-Shipper Vegetable Association, serving as its president, and helped pioneer modern growing, harvesting, and marketing techniques for lettuce, carrots, and cauliflower as these crops gained dominance in the Salinas Valley.

Ercia Harden volunteered with local charitable and civic organizations, as she had in the Imperial Valley. Her flowers, grown at the Harden home, often brightened patients' rooms at the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, where she was a founding member and active volunteer Pink Lady in the Service League.

Although the Hardens had no children, they shared a special concern for the well-being of young people in their community. Ercia and Eugene Harden also shared a love for animals. Both were accomplished equestrians. They also took special pride in the German shorthaired pointers they raised. They won many championships, including four national dual championships.

The Harden Home, built by Duncan McKinnon in 1881, was the center of the Home Ranch, and the focus of many friendly gatherings throughout the Hardens' lives in Salinas. Today it serves as headquarters for the Harden Foundation.

Eugene Harden died on August 26, 1984, and Ercia on December 28, 1986. Their hard work and good fortune in agriculture in the Salinas Valley produced the legacy that has, through their foresight and generosity, become today's Harden Foundation.

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