Spenker Winery ‘completes the farm’ with SJ County’s only goat creamery

 

 

By Bob Highfill

Record Staff Writer

Posted Aug 4, 2019 at 4:07 PM

LODI — Bettyann Spenker is joking but serious at the same time.

In 2010, her daughters, Kate and Sarah, were out of the house off to college.

So, “I replaced them,” Bettyann said.

Indeed she did.

Spenker replaced her kids with goat kids. Her first was a cute, tiny Nigerian Dwarf she named Shirley. Fast forward nearly a decade and the tribe on the Spenker’s farmstead in Lodi has grown to more than 70 with some 23 supplying Bettyann and her daughters with enough milk to commercially make cheese and yogurt.

Today, Spenker Family Farm on DeVries Road includes their winery, vineyard, goat farm and the only goat creamery in San Joaquin County.

The idea to open an artisan creamery came when Kate and Sarah returned home from college and expressed interest in continuing the family business. There was much to discuss: The market for Zinfandel, of which they have 60 acres, wasn’t exactly robust. Their winery, which opened in 1994 as a means to showcase their grapes, was boutique in size. There already were many wineries in Lodi. How could theirs stand out from the rest? They needed to vertically integrate, but how?

They decided to open a goat creamery.

“Adding cheese seemed like a fun and natural fit,” said Kate Spenker, who studied art history and graduated in 2010 from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. “This is Mom’s baby. We support her, but we had to make the decision as a family. It is a big commitment. You’re taking care of the animals and making the product. But it’s her passion and we’re following her in that. It’s very cool. It’s been a fun project.”

Kate and Sarah helped design the animal barn and the adjacent barn that houses the wine tasting room and creamery. Sarah, who studied theater at Concordia University in Irvine, handles sales and manages the tasting room. Visitors to the tasting room can look through large windows into the creamery. Both barns are painted red and trimmed in white. Their bet is the creamery will bring in more revenue, not only in sales of cheese and yogurt, but also agritourism. They already have hosted goat yoga classes and plan to hold wine and cheese pairings and cheese-making classes.

“Bettyann had this concept a few years ago and I went, ‘OK, sounds nice,’” said Chuck Spenker, Bettyann’s husband and a third-generation wine grape grower. “It completes the farm here.”

After 12 hours, the cheese should look like yogurt, solid if tipped but still relatively soft. You may see some whey separating from the cheese. The whey is a mostly clear yellowish liquid.

Place a piece of butter muslin (doubled) in a colander in a bowl. Gently spoon the chèvre into the butter muslin. Gather up the corners of the muslin and tie knots to secure.

Hang the butter muslin filled with the chèvre over a bowl so the whey can drain. An easy way to do this is to tie the butter muslin around a cupboard handle so the bowl to catch the whey can rest on the counter underneath.

On July 26, after years of planning and building, the Spenkers cleared the final hurdle of red tape when the state issued their milk-processing license. Since then, Bettyann and her girls have been busy making cheese that they hope to have ready to sell later this month from their tasting room. Other wineries have expressed interest, as have some retail shops.

“People are eager to buy it,” Bettyann said. “So that’s good.”

During a recent visit, Bettyann and Kate scooped pasteurized curds into colanders lined with cheese cloth. They gathered the curds in the cloth and hung the bundles on racks to allow the whey to drain. In 24 hours, the result is fresh, spreadable chèvre, which will be offered straight or flavored with sun-dried tomatoes and pesto, and herbes de Provence. Bettyann also makes a mild, pressed cheese she calls Delta Breeze from an Italian-style recipe that melts easily, has a firm texture and subtle tang — an excellent entry-point for non-goat-cheese lovers or a palate cleanser on a cheese board — and a cultured, soft, gooey, decadent cheese named Shirley’s Dream, an homage to Bettyann’s first goat, that has been dusted in ash and covered by a bloomy rind — an absolutely remarkable cheese that’s salty and earthy with mushroom and umami notes.

Bettyann said she grew up in suburbia, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and not on a farm. She home-schooled her daughters and taught other home-schooled students science and math. She’s proficient in chemistry and fermentation science. She makes all of her family’s estate-grown wines: Muscat of Alexandria (Morning Glory), rosé blend of Zinfandel and Syrah (Evening Prim Rosé), Sarah’s Syrah, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.

Bettyann basically taught herself how to make cheese and yogurt, though she had help and encouragement from friends. The goats are milked once per day and a total of 15 to 20 gallons is collected, good for about 30-40 pounds of a soft cheese, such as chèvre. Goats generally will remain in lactation 10 months a year, though it depends on the breed. In addition to Nigerian Dwarfs, the Spenkers have Nubians, La Manchas and crosses between Nubians and Nigerian Dwarfs.

“That gives you the fantastic milk quality of the Nigerian Dwarfs and a little more volume with the bigger goats,” Bettyann said about the crossbreeds. “Then, I have the La Manchas and they look like they don’t have ears. They have tiny little ears and those are really nice, fairly calm and compliant dairy goats.”

Each goat has a name and Bettyann and the girls can tell them apart on sight. Willow, for instance, is a full Nubian. There’s also Thisbe; a yearling named Calliope; and a two-year-old Nigerian Dwarf, Mariah, to name a few. The goats like to be in the shade, eat hay and chomp on their favorite treat, animal crackers.

Spenker Family Farm at 17291 DeVries Road in Lodi is open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Information: (209) 367-0467, spenkerwinery.com.

Cutting Edge Company Creates Opportunity Zone Fund

PRESS RELEASE

 

July 19, 2019

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Contact:

Bobby Kahn

Executive Director

Madera County EDC

559-675-7768

bkahn@madercountyedc.com

 

Bill Pitman

CEO/Managing Member – Benton Enterprises

(559) 664-0800

bill@elkridgealmonds.com

 

Cutting Edge Company Creates Opportunity Zone Fund

A Madera County business specializing in state-of-the-art food safety technology has launched the region’s first qualified Opportunity Zone business and on June 19, 2019, The Berenda Opportunity Fund, LLC was formed. Also organized at that time, a second new entity named H-ATS to acquire certain assets of Benton Enterprises, LLC including, intellectual property under the name Adaptable Technology Systems (ATS), Heart Ridge Farms (HRF) and Elk Ridge Almonds (ERA).

ATS developed a proprietary process to reduce pathogens through a science and energy based technology to maximize food safety, preserve the integrity and taste of the food products. These techniques will significantly improve safe food handling for a wide variety of foods. Both Heart Ridge Farms and Elk Ridge Almonds currently utilize this technology for the retail brand (HRF) and bulk processing of almonds and pistachios (ERA).

Opportunity Zones are census tracts that were nominated by governors of each state and certified by the United States Treasury into which investors can invest in new projects to spur economic development in exchange for certain federal capital gains tax advantages. The opportunity zone tax incentive was adopted on December 22, 2017 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that provides tax incentives for investments in underserved communities.

Opportunity Zone Funds are investment vehicles that require at least 90% of their capital in “Qualified Property,” which includes stock, partnerships, interests and business property. The fund model enables a broad array of investors to pool their resources in Qualified Zone Property, increasing the scale of capital going to investments in which the Opportunity Zone Fund will invest. An Opportunity Zone Fund provides material tax benefits for investors with capital gains from other investments.

William B. Pitman, with over 40 years of farming and food processing experience, founded Benton Enterprises in 2013. Recognizing the need for improved food safety while preserving and enhancing its product integrity, led to the development of a low temperature process for several types of locally grown nuts marketed for retail sales under brands Heart Ridge Farms (retail) and under Elk Ridge Almonds (bulk). “The H-ATS combination of the Benton businesses and the ATS technologies creates a food safety solution worldwide” said Pitman. “The need for better food safety while preserving the quality is critical and we feel we can help meet those needs with our proprietary technologies,” he added.

Pitman met with the Madera County Economic Development Commission to obtain information about Opportunity Zones and had this to say, “Bobby Kahn was very helpful in getting me started in the right direction”. “Bobby explained the basics of how an Opportunity Zone Fund works and provided me with names of people that could provide the expertise in the formation of an Opportunity Zone Fund” Pitman added.  It is interesting to note that Pitman represents a 7th generation Madera county family that has deep roots in agriculture.  The project consultants are the accounting firm of Moss Adams LLP (Fresno) and the legal firm, Cutting Edge Counsel (Oakland).

 

###

 

About Opportunity Zones: Opportunity Zones are a new tool for community development. Established in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones provide tax incentives for investment in designated census tracts. https://opzones.ca.gov/

 

About The Berenda Opportunity Zone Fund: Located inside a qualified Opportunity Zone. Under this new tax codes, this is a qualified fund for the new investors to enter through.

 

About H-ATS:  An opportunity zone business that includes Heart Ridge Farms (HRF), Elk Ridge Almonds (ERA) and Adaptable Technology Systems (ATS).

 

About Benton Enterprises: Benton Enterprises will manage both H-ATS and The Berenda Opportunity Fund.

 

About Madera County EDC: Madera County Economic Development Commission (MCEDC) is a joint Powers Authority comprised of the County of Madera, the City of Madera, and the City of Chowchilla. MCEDC’s mission is to support dynamic and diverse industry sectors that provide family sustaining wages and a high quality of life. MCEDC assists business with development projects, site selection, demographics, and business incentives. www.maderacountyedc.com

Fresno has some of the best farmers markets around. Here’s where to find them

 

One of the best things about Fresno? Its farmers markets.

Since we feed the nation with what we grow here, it’s no surprise we have some pretty awesome markets.

Sometimes walking through a Fresno farmers market is a sensual experience.

There’s so much to take in: Piles of glossy vegetables, new fruits you’ve never seen before and bundles of mint and basil so fragrant they deserve a vase in the middle of the dining room table.

Mid July is like Christmas when it comes fresh fruit. So many are in season: peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, figs, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe and more.

If you’re a baker, this is your chance to make something photo worthy.

But even in the dead of winter, farmers markets here carry a surprising amount of produce, like hearty dinosaur kale and rainbow chard.

Our farmers markets often carry things you can’t always find at the supermarket: Unusual varieties of pluots (a cross between apricots and plums), heirloom tomatoes with streaks of green and red, yellow raspberries, curly garlic scapes, taro root, and lately, lemon cucumbers – little round cukes that taste like their name.

Part of the fun is not being afraid to ask a farmer what something is or how to prepare it. Then you can impress your friends and family with new and different flavors.

Whichever farmers market you choose, bring lots of small bills and plastic bags.

Our list of markets below covers Fresno and Clovis, though there are certainly many more in outlying cities. Some are seasonal and some are year round. Most markets accept the state’s Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, card or the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

Kaiser Permanente Fresno Farmers Market

When:From 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays, March through November, starting at 9 a.m. from December through February.

Where: Fresno Medical Center, 7300 N. Fresno St.

Contact: (559) 448-4128.

Details: With all kinds of vegetables and fruit for sale, there are also baked goods, handmade soaps, and flowers. Food trucks and other vendors are there, including Spoon & Fork’s Filipino food, Raw Fresno and Ohana Pantry selling its acai bowls.

Manchester Center Farmers Market

When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays, year round.

Where: In the parking lot at Manchester Center, at Blackstone and Shields avenues.

Contact: (559) 360-1377.

Details: With lots of fruit and vegetable vendors, you’ll also find puppet performances for the kids and the Fresno County Bookmobile is there the first Friday of every month from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lots of Mexican food vendors serve burritos, tacos, Mexican seafood dishes, fruit cups and aguas frescas.

The Market On Kern

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays, from May to October.

Where: Kern Street, between M and N streets, in downtown Fresno.

Contact: downtownfresno.org or 559-490-9966 ext. 221.

Details: This seasonal market has live music or a DJ each week. It has vegetables, fruit, fresh-squeezed juices, honey and prepared foods like Kettle Corn, Casa de Tamales and vegan friendly Rappit Up!

Old Town Clovis Farmers Market on Fridays

When: 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m Fridays, from May through September.

Where: On Pollasky Avenue, between Third and Seventh streets.

Contact: oldtownclovis.org or (559) 298-5774.

Details: This huge farmers market is as much about entertainment as it is about food. There is live music and lots of vendors selling all kinds of vegetables and fruit. Plus there locally made goods like soaps and garden items like succulents. Plenty of food trucks show up and you’ll also find shaved ice, and vendors like the Butternut Baking Co., which sells cookies and other baked goods.

Old Town Farmers Market on Saturdays

When: 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays year round.

Where: Pollasky between Fifth Street & Bullard Avenue.

Contact: oldtownclovis.org or (559) 298-5774.

Details: This is a year-round market that’s smaller than its Friday-night counterpart. It features plenty of fruit and vegetables, including strawberries, along with herbs, fresh-squeezed juices and fresh flowers. Prepared food is also for sale including tamales, baked goods and other snacks.

River Park Farmers Market on Tuesdays

When: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays year round. Once a month, the market celebrates one food, with quadruple the number of mobile food vendors that day and expanded hours from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. those days. The next one is “peach palooza” on Tuesday, July 23.

Where: River Park between Yoshino’s and H&M.

Contact: www.riverparkfm.com or (559) 994-9292.

Details: This market has grown substantially in recent years. In addition to local farmers selling their fruit and vegetables, you’ll also find live music, free bounce houses and handmade items. Several food trucks and vendors participate, like cupcake truck the Cupcake Route, Quesadilla Gorilla and Tako Korean BBQ.

River Park Farmers Market on Saturdays

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. year round, Saturdays.

Where: River Park between Yoshino’s and H&M.

Contact: www.riverparkfm.com or (559) 994-9292.

Details: Started last year, the market has vendors selling fruit and vegetables, including Asian veggies, and nuts, jams and jellies. Expect prepared foods like fruit cups and carne asada tacos and elote (corn with cheese and chile powder) from Sanchez Corn.

The Farmers Market at Saint Rest Plaza

When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the second Saturday of the month through October.

Where: Saint Rest Plaza, Elm and Reverend Chester Riggins avenues in south Fresno.

Contact: (559) 420-0760.

Details: The youngest farmers market around, this one at the newly constructed Saint Rest PlazaOoooby sells its organic produce and fruit, along with a farm called Peach on Earth selling stone fruit. A group of kids called the Sweet Potato Club is also selling its sweet potato goods, including milkshakes.

One or two food trucks are usually there and the market is looking for new vendors.

Tower Farmers Market

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays, May through September.

Where: In the parking lot of Detention Billiards, 750 E. Olive Ave.

Contact: (559) 633-9895.

Details: Fruit and veggies are for sale, with other vendors selling their goods.

Valley Fresh Farmers Market at Valley’s Children’s Healthcare

When: From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays, year round.

Where: Valley Children’s Hospital, 9300 Valley Children’s Pl, Madera. Take the Children’s Blvd. exit from Highway 41.

Contact: www.facebook.com/ValleyFreshFM/ or (559) 994-9292.

Details: This market has veggies and fruit, but focuses more on prepared items, like honey, fresh-cut flowers, and food trucks. Expect to find vendors like Rita’s Italian IceThe Quirky Cafe and Roma’s Italian Street Cuisine.

The Vineyard Farmers Market

When: From 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays

Where: At 100 W. Shaw Ave., its on the northwest corner of Blackstone and Shaw avenues, tucked behind Eyeglass World.

Contact: https://vineyardfarmersmarket.com.

Details: One of the bigger markets around, this market has almost everything grown here sold by the farmers who grew it. That includes stone fruit-like peaches, plums and nectarines, all kinds of berries, artichokes, herbs, flowers, fresh-squeezed juices and greens. You’ll also find honey, jam, bread from La Boulangerie, knife sharpening and coffee available by the cup or the pound. Various food vendors attend the market too, including Casa de Tamales.

Blue Diamond expands Salida facility

 

Central Valley Business Times

June 18, 2019

  • Building a new bulk almond receiving warehouse
  • “This investment … demonstrates our solid commitment to the Modesto region”

Blue Diamond Growers is expanding the capabilities of its Salida facility, which it says it already the largest almond receiving station in the world, with a new bulk receiving warehouse that will store an additional 50 million pounds of almond meats. It will bring the total number of bulk warehouses at the facility to eight.

The company says the state-of-the-art warehouse will feature a number of enhancements to reduce the cooperative’s carbon footprint and meet its sustainability initiatives including increased energy efficiency, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and stormwater recharge.

The warehouse will have LED lights, an integrated truck scale and loading pit, and 2,400 feet of buried perforated pipe directing storm water to the soil beneath the facility.

“Blue Diamond is excited about the continued growth of our business and this investment by the cooperative demonstrates our solid commitment to the Modesto region,” says Mark Jansen, president and CEO of Blue Diamond Growers. “Expanding our capabilities also provides us with an opportunity to meet the needs of our grower-owners and customers as we deliver innovative new almond products worldwide.”

The unique design of the warehouse features 60-foot ceilings and extends 26 feet into the ground, increasing Blue Diamond’s receiving capacity by 25 percent. Growers can expect “gentle handling” of almond meats, enabling higher yield and throughput on the main production line, and separate areas inside for storing three different varieties of almonds, the co-op says.

The cooperative expects the warehouse to be in operation for the fall 2020 harvest season.

https://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/9d1e0d27-a128-41cd-8b12-a75742ebf937.pdf

Gallo is buying 34 wine and spirit brands you’ve heard of — for $1.7 billion

 
The front entrance of the new Dry Creek office building at the E&J Gallo Winery in Modesto, Calif., on Tuesday, August 30, 2016.

The front entrance of the new Dry Creek office building at the E&J Gallo Winery in Modesto, Calif., on Tuesday, August 30, 2016.  AALFARO@MODBEE.COM

E.&J. Gallo Winery has 34 new wine and spirit brands to its name after reaching a $1.7 billion deal to purchase properties from its rival Constellation Brands.

The Modesto-based company reached an agreement with Constellation, best known for producing beers like Corona, Modelo and Pacifico, to acquire several well-known wine brands, including Northern California labels Clos du Bois, Black Box and Ravenswood, in addition to sparking wine and spirits.

Included in the purchase were wine brands: Clos du Bois, Black Box, Ravenswood, Estancia, Mark West, Franciscan, Toasted Head, Hogue Cellars, Wild Horse, Blackstone, Vendange, Rex Goliath, Diseno, Hidden Crush, Taylor Country Cellars, Blufeld, Manischewitz, Wild Irish Rose, Arbor Mist, Milestone, La Terre, Taylor Dessert, Paul Masson Dessert, Capri, Cribari Dessert, Primal Roots, Taylor NY Table, Paul Masson Table,

Also included in the deal were sparkling wine brands Cook’s and J. Roget and Paul Masson brandy. The deal adds about 700 employees to Gallo’s existing 6,500 worldwide, and six winemaking facilities. They are Mission Bell in Madera, Turner Road Vintners in Lodi, Clos du Bois in Geyserville and Wild Horse in Templeton, along with Washington state’s Hogue Cellars and New York’s Canandaigua.

Most of the newly acquired wines are around the $11 price point. New York-based Constellation retains all of its beer brands, SVEDKA Vodka and several other wine labels including the high-profile Robert Mondavi brand family. Late last year, Constellation made a $4 billion investment in Canopy Growth, a Canadian-based cannabis company.

Earlier this year, Wine Business Monthly named Gallo No. 1 and Constellation No. 3 for the U.S.’s largest wineries by volume. The Wine Group out of Livermore (with a large production facility near Ripon) came in at No. 2.

Gallo has long sold wine at a range of prices and should do well with the labels it is buying from Constellation, said Cyril Penn, editor of Wine Business Monthly, speaking by phone from his Sonoma office.

“I would not expect them to dumb down these brands,” he said. “If anything, it will rejuvenate them.”

Gallo has succeeded through “vertical integration” that has grape growing, bottle making, distribution and other functions under one ownership, Penn said.

Brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo founded the winery in Modesto in 1933. It concentrated on lower-priced wines from the San Joaquin Valley for most of its history but branched in the 1980s into premium vineyards near the California coast. Gallo later added Washington state and also imports wine and spirits from several countries.

The growth has come through Gallo’s own startup wineries and through purchases of established brands. Usually, the acquisition costs are disclosed because the companies are not publicly traded. Constellation is.

For Gallo, the addition brings some well-known brands into its portfolio.

“We are committed to remaining a family-owned company focused on growing the wine industry.,” said Gallo CEO Joseph E. Gallo in a press release about the acquisition. “While we continue to invest in our premium and luxury businesses, we see a tremendous opportunity with this acquisition to bring new consumers into the wine category. We will continue to provide our customers and consumers with quality products at every price point.”

The Gallo portfolio has over 100 brands, including wine labels Gallo Family Vineyards, Barefoot Cellars, Dark Horse, Apothic and Ecco Domani. Its spirits roster includes New Amsterdam vodka and gin, E&J brandy and Familia Camarena tequila.

E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto has rebranded and relaunched its Thunderbird wine. The old version, known for its citrus flavor and high alcohol, has been discontinued. The new Thunderbird comes in chardonnay, red blend and cabernet sauvignon.

The deal is one of the larger acquisitions for a Central Valley-based company in recent history. In 2002, Save Mart Supermarkets purchased Food 4 Less for $165 million. In 2007, Modesto-founded 5.11 Tactical owner Dan Costa sold the majority stake in his company for $305 million.

“This is a large deal; it’s a large acquisition for the Central Valley,” said Jeff Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. “This makes Gallo a bigger player in the wine industry here, where they are already large and dominant.”

https://www.modbee.com/news/business/article228800324.html


Something new under the Valley sun: Marketing a table grape

Something new under the Valley sun: Marketing a table grape
• Delano growers start marketing what they say is a new table grape
• Tie marketing to pro basketball

Two families of grape growers in the Central Valley have partnered with the National Basketball Association to
introduce consumers to what they say is a new variety of table grapes.

The Campbell and Middleton families, owners of Blanc Vineyards in Bakersfield, have entered the company into a
multi-year licensing deal with the NBA that will see official league and team logos on packaging for its newest
varieties, including the “Pristine,” at supermarkets and in big box stores nationwide starting this month.
The Pristine, a large, crispy, green seedless grape, is the flagship proprietary variety grape of Blanc Vineyards. The
growers claim it is the best green variety globally. It’s the result of more than 20 years of cultivation, they say.

Sounding more like wine tasters, the growers say the grape “has a crisp snappy texture coupled with a taste that
starts off with a sweet vanilla streak and ends with a zesty Granny Smith apple finish.”

They are grown to retain firmness and fresh taste well after harvest. “Green grapes are natural, healthy snack food. To most
consumers, they’re all the same, but they’re really not, which is why we believe the NBA partnership makes
sense,” says Jack Campbell, co-owner of Blanc Vineyards. “The NBA does an unbelievable job ofhighlighting their athletes, and we are applying the same strategy to the grape industry.”

He says the growers thing that by putting consumers’ favorite sport- or team-logo on our packaging, they will be
able to instantly differentiate their products with a familiar and trusted name. “That gives us a huge advantage at
points of purchase and again for return sales,” Mr. Campbell says.

The NBA licensing agreement isn’t the first for the Campbells. Since 2015 the family has entered into licensing agreements with a variety of firms such as the Walt Disney Company to reach new customers.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture grapes represent a $6 billion crop in the U.S. with more than
seven million tons produced each year between 2015 and 2018, mostly in California. Blanc Vineyards is a joint venture between Four Star Fruit
Inc. and Delano Farms Inc. that began in 2010 in Delano, after growing grapes in Kern County for decades. This partnership gives both companies exclusive rights to grow and distribute Pristine variety grapes. The companies sell grapes from May to January and ship a combined 20 million boxes annually.

https://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/934424d7-df32-4fa8-baf7-9c22b42ca2dd.pdf

On The Road: Agritourism — discover the history of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley

By Tim Viall, Special to The Record
Posted May 13, 2019

Residents of San Joaquin County live in, arguably, the most productive agricultural region in the world. But, as cities expand, farming and food production is pushed further each year into the countryside; many residents seldom think where that food on the table comes from, much less how it is harvested and produced.

To understand the agricultural underpinnings of our county, make your first stop the San Joaquin Historical Museum at Micke Grove Park south of Lodi. The museum story begins with an expanded Native Peoples Gallery, offering insight into the Native Americans who have been living in what is now San Joaquin County for more than 13,000 years.

The museum traces the Miwok- and Yokuts-speaking people, all with rich cultures and lifestyles. Native peoples here put up the greatest resistance to the Spanish-Mexican missions and fought battles with the largest army formed in Spanish-Mexican California. Videos bring to life the intricacies of traditional basket making, acorn preparation, deer hunting and native life.

An interactive circular display allows visitors to listen to recorded messages. In one recording, Glen Villa Jr. (Northern Miwok/Plains Miwok) tells about the First People and a traditional creation narrative. Another recording shares a traditional Yokuts story, told by Sylvia Ross (Chukchansi Yokuts), a third of the Indian freedom fighters led by Estanislao, for whom the Stanislaus River and county were named.

These exhibits work well with the other exhibits in the Erickson Building, and visitors can go in chronological order from the Native peoples who first inhabited the area, to an exhibit on the early trappers and the founding of French Camp, the first non-Indian community. Continue on to an exhibition on the early American settlers, then on to exhibits on the Gold Rush, a hands-on children’s gallery, and the adjacent Weber Gallery.

The Innovators of Agriculture exhibit features the development of intensive, irrigated agriculture in the county beginning around 1900. Six crops are the focus: dry beans, asparagus, cherries, walnuts, canning tomatoes and truck farming (growing of fruits and veggies, trucked to local markets). If you want insight into why our county is so ag-centric, start at this museum wonder! The museum is kid-friendly, with lots of “hands-on” options, and scores of huge tractors, harvesters and vintage farming equipment to wow even young visitors.

Expand your agri-history tour with a visit to the California Agricultural Museum in Woodland, north of Sacramento and just off Interstate 5. Gene Muhlenkamp, a docent since 1996, took two hours to show my friends and I through much of the museum. Its collection stems from that of the Heidrick Brothers, farmers who built a substantial farming empire west of Woodland beginning in the 1930s. Inventive, they often concocted their own machinery to solve farming challenges and began an extensive collection of vintage and noteworthy agri-machinery.

The museum offers a unique collection of tractors, artifacts and interactive exhibits telling the history of California agriculture. Implements date back to the Gold Rush era and follow California’s evolution from horse-drawn ag machinery to steam-driven and then on to fuel-powered machines. Wander the collection of wheeled and track-type harvesters, tractors, combines, trucks and photo galleries. You’ll even find a Ford Model T roadster converted to a farm tractor.

Museum items with a Stockton connection include an old Samson Sieve-Grip tractor, built in Stockton in the early 1900s, several huge Holt tracked-vehicles, built for the U.S. military in World War I to haul artillery pieces and take the place of horses, killed all too often in action. The huge Holt tractor, armored for wartime, has a number of dents in its armor from bullet strikes.

A monster-sized Best steamer seems almost too large to be true, dwarfing my friends who joined for the tour. A giant Holt harvester (made in Stockton), all of wood and timber with iron fittings, was once hauled through fields with a team of two dozen horses and mules, before steam power would replace the horses.

A display of vintage John Deere tractors, meticulously renovated, lines one long wall; down the center of the museum march a line of a dozen Caterpillar tractors, used both on the farm and in the construction industry. A midsized Fordson tractor, nicknamed the “Snow Devil,” is equipped with spiral-ribbed pontoons, used to navigate deep snows of Donner Pass to haul five tons of mail during winter’s harsh storms.

Museumgoers with kids will find a special play area designed to hearken back to simpler times when child’s play required imagination. Kids can play corn hole, and enjoy the carousel and pedal tractors. A team of docents will tour you through the 45,000-square-foot museum gallery, noting that each tractor, wagon or harvester all have their unique stories.

For more information: The California Agriculture Museum, 1958 Hays Lane, Woodland, (530) 666-9700, http://Californiaagmuseum.org, open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum, in Micke Grove Park, 11793 N. Micke Grove Road, Lodi, http://sanjoaquinhistory.org, (209) 953-3460, open Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

 

Central Valley’s almond boom continues

April 29, 2019

Central Valley Business Times

• New report shows growth in acreage given over to almonds
• Five times the size of the total area of Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield and Stockton – combined

The acreage planted with almonds in the Central Valley and the rest of the state last year increased by 2 percent from the year before,according to a new report from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Last year, an estimated 1,390,000 acres were devoted to almonds. Almost all of that acreage was in the Central Valley.

The total is up 2 percent from the 2017 acreage of 1,360,000. Of the total acreage for 2018, 1,090,000 acres were bearing and 300,000 acres were non-bearing. And it’s increasing. Preliminary bearing acreage for 2019 is estimated at 1,170,000 acres. That’s five times the size of the total area of Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield and Stockton – combined.

Nonpareil continue to be the leading variety, followed by Monterey, Butte, Carmel, and Padre.

Kern, Fresno, Stanislaus, Merced and Madera were the leading counties. These five Central Valley counties had 72 percent of the total bearing acreage.

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CENTRAL VALLEY TOPS LIST OF U.S. AG COUNTIES

Published On April 11, 2019 – 2:13 PM
Written By David Castellon

California once again led the nation in agricultural sales in 2017, with six Valley counties — along with one along the state’s Central Coast — topping ag sales across the nation.

This according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Census of Agriculture, which gathers information annually on U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them.

Agricultural sales in California exceeded $45 billion in 2017 — about 12 percent of total U.S. ag sales — far outpacing the No. 2 state, Iowa, which had sales totaling about $29 billion, followed by Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Indiana.

But while the USDA lists the same top ag counties as the California Department of Agriculture, they don’t list them in the same order.

Most notably, the federal agency lists Fresno County as the top ag county in the nation for 2017.

CDFA placed Fresno County as third in sales that year, behind Kern and Tulare counties, respectively.

CDFA officials couldn’t be immediately reached to determine if the USDA census used different criteria in determining total ag sales.

The other four top ag counties were, in order, Monterey, Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin, all of which also are among the top seven ag counties on the USDA’s list.

The top commodities produced on farms nationally were cattle and calves, followed by corn, poultry and eggs, soybeans and milk. California lead the nation in milk production, a total of 18 percent.

Other California highlights from the farm census:

– The state’s top commodities were fruits and nuts, with $17.5 billion in combined sales; vegetables, with $8.2 billion; milk, with $6.5 billion; cattle and calves, with $3.1 billion; and horticulture, with $2.9 billion.

– Total farm production expenses for California totaled $37.8 billion.

– The average age of the California farmer was 59.2 years old, compared to the national average of 57.5 years old.

– Military veterans accounted for 10 percent of California farmers, compared to about 11 percent, nationally.

– At 14,552 farms, California was the top state using renewable energy-producing systems in agriculture. Solar was the most common renewable energy-producing system on farms and ranches in the state.

Central Valley tops list of U.S. ag counties