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Latest News in Ballico, CA

New board of directors for the Almond Board of California take their seats

The new Board of Directors of the Almond Board of California (ABC) have reportedly taken their seats, with five voting members – three of them new to the board – beginning new terms to help oversee support for the Key regional crop, reports Neill Barston.Board members, whose terms officially began Aug. 1, also elected Brian Wahlbrink as chair and George Goshgarian Jr. as vice chair, of the organisation which represents a total of more than 7,600 producers and processors in the the sector within the US, many of whom are mul...

The new Board of Directors of the Almond Board of California (ABC) have reportedly taken their seats, with five voting members – three of them new to the board – beginning new terms to help oversee support for the Key regional crop, reports Neill Barston.

Board members, whose terms officially began Aug. 1, also elected Brian Wahlbrink as chair and George Goshgarian Jr. as vice chair, of the organisation which represents a total of more than 7,600 producers and processors in the the sector within the US, many of whom are multi-generational businesses.

The almond trade continues to be hugely influential within the confectionery sector, with successive studies revealing that it remains the number one nut variety inclusion for the chocolate market, with California a prime growing location.

“This is a knowledgeable, talented board,” Wahlbrink said. “Our board members come from across our industry and around our state. They bring great energy and an impressive range of experience, and we’re all eager to continue moving California almonds forward as one of the state’s most valuable and important crops.”

The 10-member board of ABC has five grower members – three representing independent growers and two representing growers working with cooperatives – and five handler members, also with three independents and two co-op reps.

The new grower representatives are:

Paul Ewing, an independent from RPAC Almonds in Los Banos. He was re-elected and takes a 1-year term, Joe Gardiner, an independent from Treehouse California Almonds in Earlimart. He was an alternate on the previous board and takes a 3-year term. Christine Gemperle, a co-op grower from Gemperle Orchards in Ceres. She was also a former alternate and takes a 3-year term.

The new handler representatives are:

Darren Rigg, an independent handler from Minturn Nut Co in Le Grand. He was re-elected and takes a 1-year term. Bob Silveria, an independent handler from Vann Family Orchards in Williams. He will serve a 3-year term. In addition, the board has five new alternates:

Brandon Rebeiro, an independent grower from Gold Leaf Farming in Modesto, Chris Bettencourt, an independent grower from Westley, Kent Stenderup, a co-op grower from Stenderup Ag Partners in Bakersfield and former chair of the ABC Board, Dexter Long, an independent handler from Hilltop Ranch in Ballico. He was re-elected as an alternate, Chad DeRose, an independent handler from Famoso Nut Co. in McFarland. He was also re-elected as an alternate.

The ABC board sets policy and recommends budgets to the Secretary of Agriculture in major areas, including production research, public relations and advertising, nutrition research, statistical reporting, quality control and food safety.

ABC is a Federal Marketing Order dedicated to promoting California almonds to domestic and international audiences through marketing efforts and by funding and promoting research about almonds’ health benefits, efficient and sustainable farming, food safety and more.

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Ballico-Cressey students continue Taiko tradition

A group of Ballico-Cressey School District students are taking part in an age-old tradition of Taiko drumming.Like a kettle drum, Taiko drums produce a wide variety of sounds from deep to high-pitched. From Japan and catching on in the United States, Taiko drums originally were fashioned from tree trunks but now are generally made from wine barrels.Retired Ballico-Cressey teacher Christine Kubo now has 23 students from fourth to eighth grades in her Taiko performing group and another 15 students in the beginning to intermediate...

A group of Ballico-Cressey School District students are taking part in an age-old tradition of Taiko drumming.

Like a kettle drum, Taiko drums produce a wide variety of sounds from deep to high-pitched. From Japan and catching on in the United States, Taiko drums originally were fashioned from tree trunks but now are generally made from wine barrels.

Retired Ballico-Cressey teacher Christine Kubo now has 23 students from fourth to eighth grades in her Taiko performing group and another 15 students in the beginning to intermediate group.

The group has 17 drums, some of them made by Kubo’s husband Dan, also a retired teacher and a semi-recent Taiko drummer himself.

Christine Kubo said Taiko drumming now has become an art form. In the late 1940s, the Kumi-daiko style of ensemble drumming developed in Japan. Seiichi Tanaka, a Japanese Grand Master, brought it to San Francisco in the 1950s.

“It started out as a way of expressions and was felt to be an essential part of cultural celebration,” Christine Kubo said.

Dan Kubo said the Taiko style started in Japan was influenced by American jazz. He started to play three years ago but his main attraction was building the drums themselves. He figures he has made about 20 of the drums, including hand-held versions used solely for practice. He also has crafted the stands that the drums are placed on.

Ten years ago, former district superintendent Jose Gonzalez, now the superintendent of Planada schools, encouraged teachers to develop after-school clubs and activities for students.

“The rest is history,” Christine Kubo said. “It started with 14 kids from fourth to eighth grades, and adults joined us. We also teach Taiko at Cressey School which has transitional kindergarten through second grade. They get 25-minute lessons once a week.”

Except for one year at Keyes, Christine Kubo taught for 30 years at Ballico-Cressey schools, retiring three years ago. She taught all grades along with special education.

As a child growing up in Japan, she said it was exciting to see performances with Taiko drums. She has been playing the Taiko drums for about 25 years. Dan Kubo taught at Ballico-Cressey for 12 years, mostly junior high social studies, and went to the schools there years before as did his father.

“I love the music that comes off Taiko. I really enjoy it. There often is a lot of movement with it, almost like dance. The sound is really basic and incorporates some Japanese-style techniques along with contemporary music rhythms,” Dan Kubo said.

Christine Kubo said students work on composing song variations themselves. It takes about three years for students to reach performing level status. However, even the beginners helped put on a Nov. 20 community recital at the Ballico-Cressey School gymnasium. An end-of-year recital is customarily held in May as well.

Christine Kubo said Taiko is performed across the United States and Canada, along with Mexico, Germany, England, Spain, South America and Europe. Dan Kubo added virtually all of the University of California campuses, including Merced, have Taiko groups, along with UCLA and Stanford University.

Christine Kubo said late last summer the school took 11 of its performing group students to the three-day North American Taiko Conference in Portland, Ore. Local students performed the opening act at a community concert. Ballico-Cressey students also attended a 2011 conference at Stanford and a 2017 conference in San Diego.

“Taiko is a way to have a voice. It is animated and spirited. It’s a means of expressing oneself more than anything else. In Japan it started as an accompaniment and then became a stand-on-its-own musical form,” Christine Kubo said.

If you tri-tip, they will come. Ballico’s Tri-Tipery adds food truck and Escalon site

If I’ve learned one thing while living in the Central Valley for the past 20 years, it is that there can never be too much tri-tip.That simple philosophy coupled with a desire to promote and serve the area’s agricultural community has spurred a big expansion for The Tri-Tipery, which specializes in — you guessed it — tri-tip. Based in Ballico, the restaurant has added a second location just outside of Escalon and a new food truck that hit t...

If I’ve learned one thing while living in the Central Valley for the past 20 years, it is that there can never be too much tri-tip.

That simple philosophy coupled with a desire to promote and serve the area’s agricultural community has spurred a big expansion for The Tri-Tipery, which specializes in — you guessed it — tri-tip. Based in Ballico, the restaurant has added a second location just outside of Escalon and a new food truck that hit the road this week.

The Ballico site, about 10 miles south of Turlock just over the Merced County line, opened in 2016. Husband-and-wife owners Rob and Jana Nairn build the open-air restaurant next to their other business, Ag Link, which promotes the state’s farm-fresh products. As their restaurant fare grew in popularity, they heard from fans who wished the rural spot was a little closer to home.

Last year, they started expanding with a temporary pop-up restaurant in Turlock. But now they’ve opened their second permanent place just outside of Escalon on Highway 120, about six miles west of Oakdale. And their brand new food truck debuted this week in Hilmar and Turlock.

“We are limited in what we’re going to be able to do in Ballico because we’re so far out. So we decided to go to them,” said Rob Nairn. “Most people who have a food truck want a restaurant. Well, we had a restaurant and wanted a food truck.”

The food truck had its maiden voyage this past week with stops in Hilmar and Merced that had lines down the block. They are currently permitted only in Merced County, but should be approved for Stanislaus County by early May. They then plan to have regular weekly stops in Hilmar, Merced and Modesto, as well as bringing the truck to special events across the region.

The truck, which they had built new for them in Southern California, is wrapped to look like The Tri-Tipery’s signature wood siding from its Ballico site. It has a more limited menu than the restaurants, with about eight sandwiches, burgers and salads to choose from. They include two of their most popular dishes, the Wagon Wheel (tri-tip on a a garlic bread roll) and Fifty-Fifty (tri-tip plus pork belly and coleslaw on a bun).

Meanwhile, the full menu is being served at its Escalon site, called The Tri-Tipery @120. Like the Ballico site, the location is rural, in between orchards and fields. But it also benefits from steady traffic going to Oakdale, the foothills and Yosemite National Park.

The Nairns bought the building in October and in March had their soft open, serving lunch and dinners Friday through Sunday. They plan to start extensive interior and exterior renovations in May, which will include a facelift with the same wood siding as the Ballico site, and building of a full commercial kitchen and adding a covered outdoor patio for dining.

Currently, the site has picnic tables set up for al fresco dining. Unlike the Ballico location, the Escalon Tri-Tipery also has indoor seating, which will be expanded once the remodeling is complete. They plan to keep the restaurant open through most of the work, which they hope to have done by late July or early August.

And, again, about that food. The restaurants use only prime grade tri-tip, which is seasoned and smoked. Rob Nairn began cooking tri-tip while at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, as part of the school’s weekly Crops Club. It’s there the couple actually met and started seeing each other. The tri-tip on the menu is served up several ways, from the traditional Wagon Wheel sandwich to ground up in a burger and made into a French dip. They plan to add a tri-tip Philly cheese steak soon as well.

“It all starts with good-quality ingredients, that’s how you get a good-quality product,” Rob Nairn said.

You can find The Tri-Tipery Food Truck from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hilmart Auto Parts on Lander Avenue on Thursdays, Garton Tractor on South Highway 59 in Merced on Fridays and, starting in mid-May, J.S. West Propane Gas on D Street in Modesto on Tuesdays. The truck will be at the Knights Ferry Peddler’s Fair Sunday, April 29, and RE/MAX Executive on Standiford Avenue in Modesto May 8 for Kid’s Day.

The Tri-Tipery in Escalon, at 29250 Highway 120, is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. For more information visit www.tritipery.com or call 209-634-8849 for the Ballico site or 209-620-6042 for Escalon.

This story was originally published April 28, 2018 3:48 PM.

More tri-tip coming your way soon. Popular rural dining spot plans city moves

When it rains tri-tip, it pours tri-tip.First there’s news Vintage Fair Mall is getting a Buckhorn Grill California BBQ, known for its tri-tip. Now locally owned The Tri-Tipery, which as its name would suggest is beloved for the same thing, has announced plans to expand out of its home base of Ballico.After starting The Tr...

When it rains tri-tip, it pours tri-tip.

First there’s news Vintage Fair Mall is getting a Buckhorn Grill California BBQ, known for its tri-tip. Now locally owned The Tri-Tipery, which as its name would suggest is beloved for the same thing, has announced plans to expand out of its home base of Ballico.

After starting The Tri-Tipery a year ago amid the outstretched nut and produce fields, husband-and-wife owners Rob and Jana Nairn have decided it’s time to spread their deliciousness to other Central Valley cities. The site — which sits in front of the Nairn’s other business, Ag Link, in northern Merced County — is admittedly a tad remote. And during harvest season, like now, you’ll find yourself behind one or two (or even five, as was the case for me) lumbering pieces of farm equipment as you impatiently make your way toward their tri-tip sandwiches.

In the past year the Nairn’s said they’ve heard from many fans, some who travel from as far as Livermore for their selection of tri-tip, pulled pork, BBQ chicken and linguica sandwiches, burgers, salads and more, who wished they were a shorter drive away. So now they’re planning a temporary pop-up restaurant which will open Saturday at the Turlock Turf Club at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds as well as a permanent secondary location between Escalon and Oakdale off Highway 120 for early next year.

“We’ve heard a lot ‘Oh, I wish you guys were closer’,” said Samantha Aleman, The Tri-Tipery’s event coordinator and catering manager. “We feel like Turlock (and the Turf Club) is the perfect spot to try a pop-up out.”

The 45-day pop-up Tri-Tippery will open its doors at at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Turlock Turf Club off Soderquist Road. The full Ballico site menu will be available (minus some of the deep-fried desserts) and the meat will be smoked on site. The Turlock Turf Club, which used to be an off-track horse racing gambling facility, will have plenty of indoor and outdoor seating for restaurant guests.

The pop-up will have some spooky neighbors as well, as the Ranch of Horror Halloween haunt will move in next door on the fairgrounds starting Friday. The haunted attraction will run through Oct. 31. The Nairns will run the Turlock Tri-Tipery though Nov. 15 at the Turf Club.

They’re also moving forward with plans for a permanent spot off Highway 120 between Escalon and Oakdale. The site will have indoor and outdoor seating (the original Ballico spot only has outdoor seating). They hope to have it up-and-running by February. And Rob Nairn said the plans don’t stop there.

“We’re looking and I’ve already got my eyes on No. 3 somewhere between Turlock, Ceres and Modesto,” he said.

The new pop-up Tri-Tipery will be open 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, closed Mondays, at the Turlock Turf Club at 900 N Broadway. For more information call 209-634-8849 or visit www.tritipery.com.

P.S.: Speaking of barbecued meats, Bee readers commenting on the incoming Buckhorn Grill overwhelmingly suggest folks looking for a good locally owned Modesto BBQ spot in the interim check out the newly remodeled Dan’s BBQ at 2101 W. Rumble Road. It’s been open about two years and cranks out tri-tip, ribs, pulled pork, sausage, chicken and more. I say the more tri-tip, the merrier.

This story was originally published September 26, 2017 5:03 PM.

A Proud California Dairy Farmer Battles for Survival in Wildly Uncertain Times

After 67 years of living and breathing dairy farming in California’s San Joaquin Valley, Scott Magneson cannot, will not, stop.Every morning before dawn, when the valley fog is still resting on his fields in thick clouds, he checks the barns. Then he starts on the to-do list, which outlasts the day. In another farm tradition, Magneson rarely leaves his land. He can’t remember the last time he and his wife Pat (who does the bookkeeping) took a vacation.Magneson, a big, ruddy-faced man who has earned his broad shoulde...

After 67 years of living and breathing dairy farming in California’s San Joaquin Valley, Scott Magneson cannot, will not, stop.

Every morning before dawn, when the valley fog is still resting on his fields in thick clouds, he checks the barns. Then he starts on the to-do list, which outlasts the day. In another farm tradition, Magneson rarely leaves his land. He can’t remember the last time he and his wife Pat (who does the bookkeeping) took a vacation.

Magneson, a big, ruddy-faced man who has earned his broad shoulders, is working all he can to ensure his farm—with 600 Holsteins, 500 acres, and 12 full and part-time workers—survives wildly uncertain times.

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Two years ago, in a major conservation move, he added a $560,000 manure management and composting system, paid for by a state grant for “climate smart” agriculture projects. It’s a hopeful investment for the future, against the odds. Even before the coronavirus blindsided the world and upended the food delivery system, the iconic American family farm was already in crisis, its ranks shrinking before his eyes.

When Magneson was growing up, the vast dairy lands of Merced County, two hours south of San Francisco, stretched to the horizon. Everyone farmed. It was always hard work, but also proud. These days, farmers are spent. The decades-long decline in multi-generational family farms is quickening. Studies blame climate change, at least partly. Record heat, severe drought, biblical floods and historic wildfires are hitting too hard, too often, for farms to recover from the blows.

Ironically, dairy farms, a significant source of climate-changing emissions in the form of methane gas from cow effusions, are failing the fastest. Besides freakish weather events, they are being pummeled by declining milk prices, rising production costs, trade war tariffs on milk exports and the growth in mega dairies.

More than half the nation’s dairies have disappeared in the last 15 years, dropping from more than 70,000 to just over 34,000. Last year, 3,281 dairy farms disappeared, the largest annual drop since 2004. California, the top dairy state, lost 80 farms last year and more than 800 in the last 20 years, leaving 1300.

Despite the precipitous drop in family farms, the number of milk cows has ticked up. Farm closures are fueling consolidations, creating industrial operations with several thousand cows. The largest in the country thus far, 75 miles north of Chicago, has 30,000 cows.

A grim consequence of the farm failures is suicides. Dairy farmers are killing themselves at twice the rate of veterans and five times that of the general public.

The coronavirus, still playing out, is adding to the disaster for family farms, even with Federal and local farm aid. In dramatic videos, the world has watched farmers dumping thousands of gallons of milk because their primary customers, schools and businesses, were locked down. The dramatic, literal loss of their product underscores their dire predicament. Even milk producers who haven’t had to spill a drop of milk, Magneson included, have written off the year in red ink. .

Magneson has lost 20 percent of his business since the pandemic lockdowns, sold 30 of his cows and has been forced to sell his milk, which is organic, at a loss.

“Every once in a while, I’ve thought about doing something else,” he said, shrugging. He was walking through a barn with his son Jake, 27, as cows poked their heads through stalls to watch them.

Jake works on the farm too, handling complicated paperwork such as grant applications for projects to reduce the farm’s methane emissions. A 2016, California law requires livestock farms to cut methane emissions by 40 percent of 2013 levels by 2030—with dairy farms bearing 75 percent of the burden.

To help meet the state’s ambitious goal to drastically reduce its greenhouse gases, California launched the country’s first “Climate Smart Agriculture Programs” in 2014. Four programs provide funds, education and support for farmers committed to cleaner, greener land conservation, water efficiency, healthy soils and alternative manure management.The programs, launched by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (C.D.F.A.), are so popular, that two to three times as many farmers have applied than the program can sustain.

Jake’s application for the manure solids separator landed the farm one of the state’s first Alternative Manure Management Program (or AMMP) grants in 2017. (Scott Magneson describes the project in this C.D.F.A. video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=537nfqC_q2U).

Their elaborate system looks like a giant sized Rube Goldberg machine, but all the parts serve the same purpose—to reduce waste, create organic compost to use on the land, provide bedding for the cows and create richer, more productive soil.

“Thank goodness we have politicians who believe in science,“ Scott Magneson said, referring to California’s former governor Jerry Brown and Gov. Gavin Newsom. He was running his fingers through clean compost heaps as if they were gold.

His dairy is setting the example for how dairies can reduce their pollution impacts, improve animal welfare, cut waste and become more resilient, said Renata Brillinger, executive director of the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN).

“What I see with Scott Magneson’s farm is what the future of climate friendly sustainable agriculture can look like,” she said. “You have better conditions for the animals, better conditions for the farmers and farmworkers. Better air quality, better water quality and the production of compost, which is a really valuable product.”

The typical way farmers handle manure is to flush their cows’ stalls out into lagoons or ponds. The solids settle to the bottom and float throughout the water, then become anaerobic. That manure decomposes and off-gases methane.

Even the most sustainable farms still use lagoons, Brillinger said, because of the cost of solid separators and dairy digesters, which convert manure into fuel. Dairy digesters, used by only 12 farms in California, trap methane before it reaches the atmosphere and convert it to natural gas. The digesters are controversial among environmentalists because one-quarter of the emissions that contribute to global warming come from natural gas, which can leak from pipelines and do untold damage.

The way the Magnesons handle manure these days is to flush the stalls out into settling ponds, then pull some of the solids out of the pond. After running them through the separator, the solids drop it down to a compost pad. The ponds are left with much cleaner water that can be reused.

The Magnesons also bought a compost pack barn with their grant. Like luxury hotels for lactating cows, compost pack barns, still rare in California, house cows in large open resting areas, usually bedded with sawdust or dry, fine wood shavings, with manure composted into place and mechanically stirred on a regular basis. The cows have access to indoor and outdoor areas.

The climate smart agriculture programs may be a hit, but funding is in jeopardy. With California facing an up to $54 billion deficit, several projects, including the alternative manure management program, may not be funded next year.

The program is funded by California’s cap-and-trade program, in which major polluters have emissions quotas that ratchet down over the years. To comply, they can either cut their emissions or buy allowances from others as offsets. They pay into the program based on their emissions. But this pandemic year, with fuel use and production down, the money in the fund has been drastically reduced, from a usual $600 to $800 million in the first quarter of the year to $25 million.

The dairy industry fought for years to spare farms from being forced to help mitigate the environmental impact of their milk producers. But the Magnesons fully support the efforts. Even before Brown made reducing climate change his signature issue, Scott Magneson began making changes to the farm to lessen its environmental load. .

In 2004, he put a permanent concrete easement on the property, which sits on the banks of the Merced River, a move conservationists recommend to protect clean water and preserve open space. He converted the farm to organic production in 2008 for healthier milk, cows and soil.

In truth, Magneson has never really considered quitting the farm. One major reason is his son, whom he expects to lead the farm someday. His father and his father’s father are other reasons.

Preserving his legacy still means something. The Magneson Dairy, deep in California’s most prolific growing region, has been part of the landscape of crops and cows on the banks of the Merced River for 120 years. His mother, who is over 90, still lives there. So does Jake, who attended nearby Stanislaus State University and never considered another career. (He majored in philosophy.)

In unincorporated Ballico, a town in name only, two hours south of San Francisco where the whiff of manure is a given, no one knows a time when the Magneson Dairy didn’t exist. To Magneson, it’s a sacred trust. None of his siblings—three sisters and three brothers—were interested in taking over when their father was ready to hand them the keys to the farm.

He’s got a sure successor in his son. He and his wife are taking care of their two grandsons, 6 and 11, who already know a lot about how the farm operates. They might become the fifth generation to run the farm, or at least own a piece of it.

“I’ve seen a thousand farms go,” he said, letting out a sigh of mourning for his brethren. “What we’re doing is to ensure we don’t end up like them.”

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