Category: Quality of Life

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.

 

Two new restaurants are offering Fresno favorites tri-tip and Armenian food in downtown

Two new restaurants fill Kern Street vacancies

BoxCar Cafe serving sandwiches and tri-tip for lunch and breakfast, opened in the spot vacated by CHARburger on the corner of Kern and L, while GG’s Food Factory will serve Mediterranean and Armenian food, next door at 2139 Kern St.

First came the tri-tip sandwiches. Soon, you’ll be able to get an Armenian favorite: a bread boat filled with a warm cheese and egg mixture.

These items are on the menu at two new restaurants opening on the same corner in downtown Fresno. Both are at the northwest corner of Kern and L streets, part of the Hotel Virginia building.

The first, BoxCar Cafe, opened about a month ago, shortly after its predecessor, CHARburger closed in late March. Keep reading for more about BoxCar.

MEDITERRANEAN FOOD

The newbie restaurant next door is GG’s Food Factory. It opens at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 9 at 2139 Kern St. It’s in the space that Tree of Life left behind when it moved north to 6640 N. Blackstone Ave.

The food here is Mediterranean, with some Armenian favorites and options for people who just want a hamburger or pizza.

That eggy, cheesy concoction? It’s called adjaruli khachapuri, though you can just say egg boat if that’s easier. It’s technically from Georgia (the country next door to Armenia), but is a common dish in Armenia, said Tigran Hovhannisyan, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Ripsime Oganyan.

He recommends tearing off a bit of that dough and dipping it in the warm gooey mixture.

Also on the menu: Plates of barbecued meat like pork ribs, cubes of lamb and chicken lula kabob served with rice pilaf. You can also get a hamburger and a lamb burger, salads and pizza.

A few other dishes on GG’s menu that you won’t find at many other Fresno restaurants? Lahmajoon (an Armenian flatbread smothered in ground beef) and potato pie (technically called piroshki). It looks like a roll, but it’s stuffed with herbed mashed potatoes and then deep fried for a crunchy bite.

If the name GG’s Food Factory sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen the big red food truck of the same name around town. The same couple runs it and many of the dishes sold on the truck will be available at the restaurant.

They’re putting aside the truck for a while to focus on running the restaurant.

“That’s my dream,” Hovhannisyan said. “I’ve been cooking for a long time.”

He owned a restaurant in Armenia before coming to Fresno in 2000. After starting the food truck, customers started asking for something more.

“They keep asking about a restaurant, because they want a sit-down restaurant,” he said.

For the next month or so, GG’s will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

For downtown diners looking for dinnertime options, don’t fret yet. The couple hopes to get there eventually and be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and for lunch and dinner on Saturdays and Sundays.

But they’re also expecting a baby in about a month and between that and opening a new restaurant, they decided to start small and ramp up.

QUICK LUNCH

The BoxCar Cafe at 901 L St. is a quick place to grab lunch. It opened about a month ago.

Its lunch menu has just six options: A cheeseburger, veggie burger, tri-tip sandwich, grilled chicken club, a “ham stack” sandwich and a sourdough Joe made with bacon, Swiss and American cheese with grilled onions on sourdough bread.

It also serves breakfast quesadillas and breakfast sandwiches, though people are still discovering that it’s open for breakfast, said owner Donna Willis.

The restaurant doesn’t have a prominent sign yet, but look for the restaurant that’s right on the corner of Kern and L streets. It is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with breakfast items served until 10:30 a.m.

If the restaurant name BoxCar sounds familiar, it’s probably because you remember the little cafe painted to look like a boxcar on Hamilton Avenue. Most recently it was called Keith’s BoxCar Cafe & Barbecue, though it closed years ago.

Willis opened the first BoxCar on Hamilton before it went through a succession of owners.

https://www.fresnobee.com/living/food-drink/bethany-clough/article230092179.html

Change is happening in Fresno schools and the workplace


(Photo: JISC/Flickr)

Developing a strong workforce is critical to the success of our communities and the employment of everyone who wants to work. Figuring out how is crucial.

There is no better place to begin than within our school system. Students that go to schools where they are assigned project-based lessons learn far more than academics and technical skills. They learn to work as a team, how to hold people accountable, why diversity matters, and they develop vital social skills. These students go above and beyond because they don’t want to let their team down. As many of the projects involve real-world business or social problems, they learn what it feels like to make a difference.

Project-based learning is proving to be an effective path to developing a strong workforce and confident life-ready citizens. The good news is that this approach is taking root and spreading.

However, many educators are not prepared to teach this way. Classrooms are designed for students to learn sitting in rows with the “sage on the stage.” Learning to coach, working alongside practitioners from various workplaces, teaching on a team all require a change in mindset and new practices. What we hear from those teachers who have embraced these new practices is remarkable. Working on a team to achieve a meaningful purpose brings out the best in most people. It’s what makes companies, communities and classrooms the places we want to be.

This shift is not limited to the classroom. It is happening in workplaces too. Top-down leadership parallels the sage on the sage model. It is no longer effective. Change is too rapid. Facts don’t stay facts for long and data are overwhelming. Self-governing enterprises are the wave of the future.

Earlier this year, representatives of the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance had a meeting with students and teachers at Phillip J. Patiño School of Entrepreneurship, an innovative high school in the Fresno Unified School District. They found the culture remarkable. It was clear that the students AND the teachers want to be there.

As part of the visit, students from Edison High School and Patino presented their projects.

Students from Patino were concerned about the health and well-being of their friends. They decided to put together a package of items to support them. They formed a company and named it Reborn, apt for their goals. Their excitement in forming their own business and filling a need were inspiring. An entrepreneurial mindset is contagious.

The students from Edison are proud “geeks.” Having the opportunity to focus on STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, Math—they wanted to make sure younger students understood the opportunities. They started a nonprofit with this mission: “Students are told to push themselves, to better themselves in a global economy where success is no guarantee. We students must do this dogma justice: we study, learn, act, work and play with this maxim as we strive to become our best selves.” On our journey of self-improvement, however, many of us forget to bring up our community along the way.” Check out their website here. Clearly they already understand the importance of civic stewardship.

The Democracy Schools projects, facilitated by the Civic Learning Center, are chosen by students in grades 5, 8 and 11. For the past several years their choices were sobering—mental health, teen suicide, date rape, and other difficult topics. This year many of the topics are focused on preventing and de-escalating violence. Their solutions and commitment to executing them are a beacon of hope. Peers impact peers. Team-based projects can change the trajectory of our community both in the classroom and the workplace.

Our country was founded on the principle that we could govern ourselves if we were informed, enlightened and engaged. Our schools are starting to create the environment for this to happen.

Building a strong workforce is our common cause. Success means a whole community call-to-action to support our students by getting involved as advisors and mentors and offering them internships and externships.

An earlier version of this commentary ran in the Fresno Business Journal.

Deborah Nankivell is CEO of the Fresno Business Council.

http://caeconomy.org/reporting/entry/change-is-happening-in-fresno-schools-and-the-workplace

Merced College receives $5 million gift. It’s the largest donation in school history

 

New Visalia museum planned for downtown historic district

Visalia was founded 167 years ago and is the oldest community in the San Joaquin Valley.

It’s surprising to some that the city doesn’t have a museum dedicated to its rich history. There is, of course, a museum at Mooney Grove Park but the focus at the museum is the Tulare County history and farm labor.

Visalia Heritage Inc. may have an answer.

Property owners Ernie and Liss Crotty may convert an 1883-built home in the historic district of the city into a public museum for Visalia.

President of Visalia Heritage and local architect Michael Kreps says the home the Crotty’s own at 617 N. Encina Ave., a Queen Anne-style Victorian, has been well preserved and “is in very good shape.”

This week, after several months of meetings, Ernie Crotty says they will meet with city planning staff for the first time to gauge what hurdles they may expect if the idea moves forward.

Since then, Crotty has made it his life’s work to restore the home.

Now over 70, Ernie says he wonders about the home’s future and has talked to friends about the idea of doing something like what preservationists have accomplished with the old Fox Theater through community effort.

“I did not want to think about someone coming along buying it and turning it into an Airbnb or something,” he said.

Crotty says he would love to simply donate the home for a museum but say he wants to move nearby and that will cost money.

“My general idea I have talked about is to donate about half the value and the furnishings and hope with a group effort, we can raise the funds and come up with enough interest to move forward,” he said.

He wants to open the home to the public and offer tours.

“It was originally the Stevens house (A Visalia merchant before the turn of the century) and it is one of the oldest in Visalia,” Kreps said.

The house had the town’s first gas generator to light up the place before there was electricity.

Visalia Heritage and the Crottys already have a collection of items that could be put on display and with word spreading about such a museum dedicated to Visalia history, there would be plenty more.

Well-known Visalia historian Terry Ommen is on board with the project as well.

The museum would be located in the heart of the 50 home historic district just north of Downtown Visalia, a few blocks north of Fox Theater. The Visalia Chamber of Commerce offers a self-guided walking tour of the district with descriptions of 29 homes in the area.

The district was established in 1979.

https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/2019/03/12/new-visalia-museum-planned-downtown-historic-district/3139887002/?utm_source=visaliatimesdelta-Daily%20Briefing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_briefing&utm_term=list_article_thumb

Valley Children’s Hospital to open new Modesto medical center

• Official opening comes Friday
• A 40,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art medical center

Valley Children’s Hospital officially opens its new Modesto medical center on Pelandale Road on Friday. The Specialty Care Center, a 40,000-square-foot, state-of-theart medical center, is expected to bring more pediatric specialists closer to families who need care. Valley Children’s will continue to provide expert care in several service lines, including pediatric cardiology, pediatric neurology, pediatric gastroenterology and pediatric orthopaedics.

Pelandale Specialty Care Center will help Valley Children’s meet the needs of families in Stanislaus County and nearby communities, and keep them closer to home and to their own primary care physicians.

Last year, providers at Valley Children’s former outpatient center saw more than 12,000 visits. That number is expected to grow
to more than 27,500 within the next decade.

https://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/6149bd34-6f27-464e-8a22-0c1f1f9b73f1.pdfhttps://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/6149bd34-6f27-464e-8a22-0c1f1f9b73f1.pdf

Visalia has the most affordable homes in the state, says study

Tuesday, January 29, 2019 04:51PM

Visalia has the most affordable homes in the state, according to a new study.

HomeArea.com looked at 142 California cities with a population of 60,000 or more, calculating what’s called the “median multiple” for each one.

The median multiple is the ratio of the median house price by the median gross household income.

Visalia’s median multiple is a 3.6, putting it at the top of the list for most affordable homes in the state.

Other Valley cities in the top 10 include Clovis and Bakersfield.

At the very bottom? The City of Newport Beach, whose median multiple is nearly three times higher than Visalia’s.

Fresno’s first Black Bear Diner is opening soon — and the restaurant is hiring

BY BETHANY CLOUGH

DECEMBER 20, 2018 01:03 PM

Black Bear Diner is taking over the former Marie Callender’s Restaurant & Bakery space on West Shaw Avenue. It is slated to open in February or March of 2019. 

The first Black Bear Diner in Fresno is one step closer to opening.

The owner of the restaurant said Thursday that the location at 3602 W. Shaw Ave. is scheduled to open in February. She has not set an exact date.

The restaurants are hugely popular among diners in the central San Joaquin Valley, who have long wanted to open one in Fresno.

The Fresno Black Bear is owned by Amy Rose, who revealed new details about the restaurant Thursday.

It is taking over the 7,108-square-foot former Marie Callender’s Restaurant & Bakery near West Shaw and Marty avenues. It will seat 226 people.

The diner will have a meeting room with Wi-Fi available for large groups.

Black Bear Diner will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

The location will employ 92 people and has hired some workers, but is looking for more. Available positions include cooks and prep cooks and experienced servers, hosts and bussers. 

Interested applicants can apply online at Indeed.com. Positions range from minimum wage to $16 an hour, according to the website.

This will be Black Bear’s seventh restaurant in the area owned by the Rose family, including Bob Rose, who owns locations in Visalia, Madera, Tulare, Porterville, Hanford and Los Banos. The family had been planning to build a location in Clovis, but decided to open the restaurant in Fresno instead.

The brand has 119 diners in 12 states.

https://www.fresnobee.com/living/food-drink/bethany-clough/article223368015.html


The Wonderful Co. raises minimum wage to $15 per hour

PREVPREVIOUSROBERT PRICE: The man who literally cleared the way for the …

  • BY JOSEPH LUIZ jluiz@bakersfield.com
  • Dec 19, 2018

Employees at Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds in Lost Hills clap on Wednesday after hearing that full-time employees will be getting a $15 minimum wage starting Jan. 1. Courtesy photo

Employees at Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds in Lost Hills clap on Wednesday after hearing that full-time employees will be getting a $15 minimum wage starting Jan. 1. 

The Wonderful Co. announced on Wednesday that it is increasing its minimum wage to $15 an hour for all its full-time California employees as of Jan. 1.

The change will give more than 2,000 of its employees a 36 percent jump in pay, as the company currently pays a minimum wage of $11 an hour. The company said the increase marks an $80 million investment in its workers across all of its divisions and is the largest wage increase in company history.

The move comes as the state is working toward a $15-an-hour minimum wage by 2022. Gov. Jerry Brown approved a law in 2016 that steadily increases the minimum wage by a dollar every year, from $10 to $15.

“This substantial investment in our workers will have an immediate and meaningful impact on their lives,” co-owner Lynda Resnick said. “In addition to providing our Central Valley employees and their families free health care and education, we are now able to help them achieve a significantly improved standard of living.”

The company said employees were notified of the pay increase on Wednesday during meetings at some of the company’s facilities in the county.

“It felt like: Is this really happening?” said Julio Roja, who works as a forklift driver for Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds in Lost Hills. “We were just in shock. Everybody was happy.”

Roja said he thinks the wage increase is going to make a difference not just for his co-workers but for their families as well.

“I feel like it was a good thing they’re doing. I’m excited for everything that’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s going to make a big difference for my family, and for all of us. This is good news for everybody.”

Fellow employee Yesenia Osornio said the wage increase is just one way the company has shown support for its employees and their families.

“It’s a great company to work for, not only for the wages but the charter schools, scholarships and other things that they do,” she said.

Company officials said full-time employees who make more than the benchmark $15 per hour also will benefit with higher wages; however, it’s unclear what the amount might be or when it might happen.

Dave Szeflin, executive vice president of Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds, was excited to see the response the announcement about the increase would get from employees.

“What we’re trying to do is make The Wonderful Company the employer of choice in the Valley, and this is a big step in getting us there,” he said.

Szeflin said he hopes other Kern County companies will follow The Wonderful Co.’s example, but said that is unlikely to happen immediately.

“I don’t think we’re going to see anything in the next few weeks,” he said. “It takes some time to figure out the logistics.”

Wednesday’s announcement caught some industry insiders off guard.

“It certainly surprised us,” said Jeff Huckaby, president and CEO of Grimmway Farms, a leading agricultural company in Kern County. “We currently are evaluating the potential impact and what it means for the future.”

Huckaby said his company will continue to offer their workforce competitive wages and benefits that allow for a sustainable future. He cautioned about equating Grimmway to other ag companies, as it’s not an “apples to apples” comparison.

“Wonderful operates at the higher end of the industry spectrum … higher earnings, higher margins,” he said. “That’s not our business model.”

Bolthouse Farms, another leading agricultural company in Kern County, didn’t return a request for comment on Wednesday

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/the-wonderful-co-raises-minimum-wage-to-per-hour/article_ce450db0-03f9-11e9-b783-7f0b989ff19d.html

UC Merced working to open new management school

UC Merced is growing and changing and one of the biggest changes will be a new standalone business and management school.By Nathalie GrandaFriday, December 14, 2018 04:18PMMERCED, Calif. (KFSN) –UC Merced is growing and changing and one of the biggest changes will be a new standalone business and management school.

The university is working to create a new interdiscplinary school, one that university officials are calling the “management school of the future”.

“We’re taking existing programs, putting them together and focusing them together on this complex system,” Gallo School Planning Initiative Director Paul Maglio said.

The new Gallo school will bring together educators from the schools of engineering, natural sciences and humanities to teach students under one main focus. The university is already known for its focus on research and science, and the new school will be incorporating those science components into their program.

“In a business school, you tend to focus on profit. In natural resources you tend to focus on the planet. In cognitive science, you tend to focus on people. We’re bringing all that together to have a sustained focus all at the same time,” Maglio said.

The university’s Ernest & Julio Gallo School of Management already has graduate business programs.

Graduate student Taylor Fugere said the science-based business program is what drew her to UC merced, and she’s hopes a new school will bring more interested students.

“I think UC merced moving in that more specialized direction is going to be really helpful in people being able to explore different career options, and being able to have more opportunities for a hands-on educational experience.”

The process will take a few years. Ultimately, the new school will need to be reviewed and approved by several campus administrators, and the University of California regents. University officials hope to have the school in place by 2021.

https://abc30.com/education/uc-merced-working-to-open-new-management-school/4898598/