(July 14) Don Christopher says he’s looked forward to Mondays for his entire life because he gets to start a new workweek.

“Growing and selling garlic was just exciting to me,” he said.

When he talks about Christopher Ranch LLC, Gilroy, Calif., the business he founded in 1956, he uses the word “love” a lot. He loves going to work, growing garlic and expanding his family-owned business.

It’s that kind of dedication — and willingness to accept change and innovate — that has helped his grower-shipper business succeed through 50 years.

The ranch, one of a handful of garlic grower-shippers in California, started with 130 acres of lima beans, sugar beets and garlic.

In 1956, Christopher’s father lent him and his brother, Art, $75,000 to help purchase the 130-acre ranch. Art Christopher was a partner, but he was not involved in the ranch’s operations, Don Christopher said.

Don Christopher planted garlic on 10 of the 130 acres during the first year.

The ranch now grows garlic on about 3,000 acres in California’s San Joaquin Valley, Gilroy and San Juan Bautista areas, said Patsy Ross, vice president of marketing. It offers fresh garlic year-round.

Christopher Ranch, which has 300 year-round employees, packs and ships about 60 million pounds of garlic annually, Ross said. Most of it is fresh-packed in bulb form.

Retailers buy about 4 million pounds of the ranch’s fresh garlic each month. Foodservice and some industrial and retail businesses purchase another 2 million pounds of peeled garlic each month, Ross said.

During its heyday in the early 1990s, the company grew garlic on 5,000 acres and shipped 100 million pounds, Ross said.

The company also sources fresh garlic from Mexico, China, Argentina and Chile.

Its fresh garlic brands are Festival, Gilroy, Christopher, Chef’s Choice, Flavor King, California and Zesty.

Christopher Ranch sells fresh organic garlic, bell peppers, pearl onions, shallots and cherries, Ross said. It also offers sun-dried tomatoes, dried chili peppers, jarred garlic and other products such as pesto and pickled garlic.