gmhTODAY 09 gmhToday July Aug 2016 - Page 60

Louis Bonino with Bill Chiala and Russ Bonino families have worked hard to develop our land and pass it down generation to generation. I hope the people of our community remember that once our local farm land is sold, it’s gone forever. Feeding the world’s growing population is only going to get harder.” “We want local youth to know the heritage of farming in this community, so we host tours for local schools and support the FFA. We want to encourage families to buy local and in season, so we run our retail store. It’s great when people want to learn how food is grown and what fresh fruit and vegetables really taste like.” GC Farms LJB Farms For those who haven’t shopped at the LJB Farmstand or met members of the Bonino family around town, it’s time you did. Louie Bonino and his sons Russ and Brent are third and fourth generation family farmers. Louie and Russ took a break from their work to talk with TODAY about LJB Farms. “Next year marks our family’s 100 th year of farming in South County,” Russ said. “When my brother Brent and I were kids, Spreckles was growing sugar beets in Salinas. We both went to Cal Poly, where I focused on ag engineering technology and Brent focused on ag business. Our great grandfather grew prunes, walnuts, pears and grapes. Our father, Louie, joined the business after his military service. He added row crops. Tomatoes grown for food processing; cucumbers, corn, and squash grown for seed.” At 74, Louie is still active on the farm. “Farming is my life. If I’m still breathing, I’m working,” Louie said with a light- hearted laugh. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. My wife Judy has done the books for years.” “Over time we’ve expanded the business to include tree crops, seed crops, flowers, broccoli, cauliflower and onions,” Russ said. “We also cultivate a custom garlic crop for Christopher Ranch. We grow for various U.S. seed companies like Sakata, and grow lima and fava beans for gmh 60 seed export to countries including Japan and the U.K.” “There are more challenges to farming here today,” Russ continued. “For one thing, it’s harder to move farm equipment on the local roads and commuters aren’t always amenable to it. Some of our crops like strawberries, peppers and tomatoes require harvesting by hand. This creates more jobs but rising labor costs are an issue. Local laborers say they need to make more in order to live and work here than most farmers can afford to pay. We still have to grow our business and maximize our profit per acre to remain viable.” When asked about water scarcity, Russ said, “Water is always a hot topic. But farmers are good stewards of the land. Farms capture the rainwater naturally and preserve it in the normal cycle of precipitation and evaporation. We made a significant investment to convert our fields to 100 percent drip irrigation and we pay a special tax to pump water from our own wells. But population growth is pushing the limits of natural water resources. Our community needs to move ahead on projects like the Anderson Dam retrofit and water recycling. Modern recycling produces water that’s more pure than tap water.” “Like other farmers and ranchers in South County, we love the land. Our GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JULY / AUGUST 2016 In the 1950s, a first-generation Italian immigrant named Vito Chiala moved his family farm from Cupertino to Morgan Hill. In 1972, George, Sr. estab- lished his own farm after graduating from Santa Clara University with an economics degree. George grew straw- berries, sugar beets, tomatoes, peppers and lots of corn. He joined a farmers’ co-op and got involved with the Santa Clara County Farm Bureau. As the busi- ness grew and George got busier, his wife Alice, a graduate of San José State with a degree in food science, took on the company’s finances. In 1984, George and Alice invested in the development of a novel food processing facility. With some guid- ance from U.C. Davis and the Farm Bureau, they developed food processing techniques that allowed them to achieve sustainable business growth beyond the volatile fresh market and to pursue emerging global market opportunities. Over the years, the Chiala’s became a supplier to leading brands including Campbell’s, Nestlé, Heinz and Safeway, and gained access to world markets. The Chiala’s sons George Jr. and Tim joined the family business and subsequently moved into management roles. Today, GC Farms grows conventional and organic fruits and vegetables throughout California, and specializes in production of prepared vegetable ingredients, including Certified Organic and Certified Kosher options. gmhtoday.com