One of the last farmers in League City still lives on the property his family has owned since 1920. There are carrots and lettuce and onions out in the field now, and in the summer, cars will line the driveway filled with people wanting to buy cantaloupes.
Seen from above, Johnny Daro’s house is a patch of brown dirt surrounded by houses, roads, schools, stores, restaurants, highways and all the other amenities the 84,000 residents of this once small and rural city need.
The Daros are one of the storied Italian farming families that moved to League City in the early part of the last century.
Daro, 91, and his sisters, Catherine Palermo and Margaret Bilotta, live along state Highway 3. Daro has seen the highway outside his front door change from dirt to a shell to four-lane highway.
Daro’s father would return to Italy in 1915 but would move back to League City five years later with a wife. Daro was born two years later. Daro also would go to Italy to serve in World War II, but he came back to League City and has been farming along Highway 3 ever since.
When he was just 9, Daro said he could remember walking behind a team of mules to plow the land. It was just part of the daily routine.
“Come home from school and get behind the mules,” Daro said.
In 1947, the family was finally able to buy a tractor. Daro still works his fields today sitting atop his tractor. And the farm is still a family affair with his sisters, his nephew Frank Palermo and brother-in-law George Bilotta helping to pick and sell the cantaloupes for which Daro is known. He’s often called “The Cantaloupe Man.”
While all around him the suburbs grow, Catherine Palermo said her brother has no intention of leaving.
“(The family) bought the land here, cultivated it all these years, and he is going to die here,” Palermo said.