Morgan Hill Today 2014 03 Spring - Page 23

were always things to do, from making boxes to driving the tractor.” A turning point came in 1984 when George and Alice decided to purchase additional land and open a novel food processing facility designed to process their crops of choice, beginning with peppers and garlic. George also gained new expertise in processing techniques and earned his food processing license through a UC Davis program in order to transition the business successfully. “Food processing increased our ability to market our crops beyond what we could do by selling fresh produce,” George said. “This part of our business took off faster than we’d anticipated, and we had help along the way from great people at UC Davis and the Farm Bureau.” According to Jennifer Scheer, the Farm Bureau’s Executive Director, “George Chiala has been a pillar of the ag community. Thanks in large part to his progressiveness, his farming operation and ag processing business are on the cutting edge of technology and lead the industry.” In 1986, Alice returned to school to study accounting and assumed the role of company CFO while George made inroads with major food companies across the country. “Most people don’t realize that there’s a lot of work done off the farm, all year long,” Alice said. “In the winter months, George travelled to Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, and other states, winning new customers to buy our ingredients.” Today, George Chiala Farms processes 60 million pounds of vegetable ingredients and is a major supplier to Campbell’s, Nestlé, Heinz and other leading food brands in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany and Japan. “We supply garlic to most every tomato sauce company, and our jalapeño peppers put the spark in Velveeta cheese,” George said with a chuckle, George Chiala Farms also supplies more than 20 ingredients for organic products that are offered by Safeway’s fresh foods commissary in local markets. The farming industry is evolving and the Chialas stay a step ahead through innovative farming and food processing practices with respect to seed selection, growing practices, irrigation, water recycling and soil management, George’s passion for sustainable agriculture led him to scientist Mike Cox, owner of Anaerobe Systems in Morgan Hill. “I approached George with an idea to transform his company’s food processing waste into hydrogen, organic fertilizer and recyclable water,” Cox said, “At first, he thought the idea was weird, but he listened, spent a day brainstorming at my office, and decided to pursue it.” “the consummate gentleman, always considerate and respectful. He’s the kind of leader who gets things done, quietly but effectively.” Mayor Steve Tate Automakers are building hydrogen-powered cars, and California now has a mandate to build hydrogen fuel stations for those cars. Collaboration with Mike Cox has paved the way for George Chiala Farms to become a local source of hydrogen to Morgan Hill while reclaiming organic fertilizer and water that can be used in the farming operations. The success of their farming and food processing business has inspired George and Alice to give back to the community in numerous ways. Since 1999, they have been donating food for the hungry to Second Harvest Food Bank and The Lord’s Table, which operates in Gilroy. Recognizing how access to education had benefitted them both, George and Alice have found a number of ways to give back in this area, too. They’ve been supporters of the Morgan Hill Unified School District including George’s time spent on the school district board. Their company also offers an internship program for students interested in agriculture. George started and still supports an annual car raffle to benefit St. Catherine’s School in Morgan Hill, and he has led efforts to establish a new Catholic high school in Morgan Hill. “George has been tireless in his efforts to build the first new Catholic high school in the diocese of San Jose in over 50 years,” said Susan Krajewski, Campaign Coordinator for the South County Catholic High School development project. “His passion is contagious and spurs others to action.” George also dedicates time to improving community access to health care. He chairs the Board of Trustees of the Saint Louise Regional Hospital Foundation, bringing his prior experience from serving on the Board of Directors for the O’Connor Hospital. “Saint Louise Hospital is being sold to new owners, and it will remain as a hospital, maintaining quality of health care,” George said. “We need to have the best hospital for our community.” Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate describes George Chiala as “the consummate gentleman, always considerate and respectful. He’s the kind of leader who gets things done, quietly but effectively. His community support and philanthropy is widely recognized, including leadership in his church and in community-based organizations.” George has been recognized by the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce as its “Man of the Year” (2005), an honorary Rotarian (2008), and he was instrumental in bringing mushrooms back to the annual Mushroom Mardi Gras celebration (2011). George has also served on the Land Use Committee and the Labor Housing Task Force for Santa Clara County. Today, George and Alice run the farming business along with sons George Jr. and Tim as full partners carrying on the Chiala farming tradition for a third generation. George Jr. is VP of Sales and Marketing while Tim serves as Director of Fresh Market Sales and Procurement. Continued on page 31 S P R I N G 2 0 1 4 M O R G A N H I L L T O D A Y 23