Agriland Farming Excels in Management

Family  and Community Top of Mind

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Jim Maxwell founded Agriland Farming, Inc., a dynamic farm management company based in Madera County, which has grown from less than 2,500 acres in 1990 to oversee more than 25,000 acres of pistachios, almonds, walnuts, grapes, citrus, kiwis, and figs across seven counties, from Stanislaus to Kern.

Agriland’s clients range from individual owners with 40 acres to some of the largest institutional farm owners in the U.S. Their clients include several large nut processors and marketers and individuals from almost every major ethnic background. Maxwell believes that one of the critical strengths of the company is found in the consistent high ethical and business standards of its clients.

Jim Maxwell, Agriland’s CEO

Maxwell, Agriland’s CEO, and its innovative management team have built the company into one of the largest nut growers in the U.S. In addition to the farm management divisions, Agriland has expanded specialized mechanical services available to outside clients.

“We originally started pistachio and almond harvesting companies to help our clients avoid the risks associated with late harvests, and we have ended up harvesting for many of our neighbors,” Maxwell said.

This same philosophy is why Agriland now runs a deep-well pump company; a farm supply company; and a more recent start-up dedicated to mechanical hedging and topping, mechanical stacking of pruning brush, mummy nut shredding, setting floors for a “no-till” approach to orchard floor management, and AF36 spreading to control aflatoxin in pistachios.

There is no doubt that talented managers and staff across all agricultural production disciplines have helped the company excel in providing “state of the art” farming services to owners of permanent crops. The approximately 275-full-time farm employees, some of whom have been with the company from the beginning, are asked to treat the trees and vines as though they are their own.

It is this mentality of employee responsibility and ownership that has helped Agriland excel in the farm management industry. From top to bottom at Agriland, all workers are considered to be part of the “family” and are often referred to as “associates”—as opposed to the traditional term “farmworkers”—and they are recognized as the company’s number one resource.

Maxwell and his team try to treat every member of the Agriland Family with dignity, respect, and compassion.

“We believe that it is not only the right and proper thing to do but that our clients and company will succeed based on how we treat each of its members.”

Hence, the company conveys compassion for its top resource by providing a wellness plan for every employee and their family. The company also hosts an on-the-farm health clinic, offers a 401K program, and gives holiday and paid time off to field employees.

Part of the Agriland Management and Production Team

The idea behind the health clinic began even before ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act or ACA) was passed.

“I knew that although our associates would have access to ObamaCare, they would not be able to afford the subsidized insurance,” Maxwell explained. “Furthermore, they were not willing to buy coverage because most had not been to a doctor for many years and therefore did not see the need.”

“So, we entered into a joint venture with Camarena Health—a community-based healthcare provider,” he continued. “We built the small onsite brick and mortar clinic, staffed by Camarena doctors, nurses and other medical specialists regularly. Each company employee, individually and privately, meets with a doctor in a room equipped with an exam table and all of the important screening devices.”

“At the clinic, we do a biometric health screening for those associates who want it,” Maxwell said.

The screening measures physical characteristics such as height, weight, body mass index, vision, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and aerobic fitness, in addition to an A1C blood test to determine one’s risk of diabetes better. The screening and testing performed at the clinic are in addition to the health booths set up at picnics and harvest celebrations where employees can sit down and check their blood sugar and blood pressure.

“When we started testing, we wanted to identify the employees who were diabetic, pre-diabetic, or hypertensive, because we felt like these were health issues that, if identified early and treated properly, could help these ‘family members’ and make a meaningful, long term difference in their lives,” Maxwell explained

“The goal is to benchmark and evaluate changes in general employee health status over time,” he continued. “Once the metrics are understood, management establishes classes, such as nutrition and weight loss courses, which are presented during evening classes for employees and spouses to attend. We bring in instructors to teach those who are diabetic, pre-diabetic, or hypertensive what to do to protect their health.”

Of course, employees are not obligated to come to the clinic, but Maxwell encourages them by paying them for the time they are there.

“At first, very few employees signed up. Then I pleaded with them to go to the clinic to make sure they were healthy or to identify areas of health needing improvement. Still, very few stepped up.”

So Maxwell offered an incentive, a $50 Walmart or Save Mart gift card, “and that dramatically increased the signups.”

In addition to health-related classes, the company provides English as Second Language night classes for employees and their families.

“We built the Training Center for two purposes: to serve those who work here and their families and to serve the needs of the community.”

The company actively promotes the education of the children of their farm workforce by incentivizing academic excellence in middle school and high school, followed by college scholarships for those who qualify.

“We have to be able to tell seventh graders that if they get good grades and are qualified to go to college, we will be there for them by the time they graduate from high school. Our scholarships are generally $2,500 per student, per year, for four years of college attendance. When we give them the first scholarship check, we also present them with a new laptop computer for them to use in college,” Maxwell said.

Many farmworker families, going back generations, have never had a family member go to college.

“If a child of one of our farm employees works hard, gets good grades, and goes to college, he or she will likely be the first generation and possibly break the cycle,” Maxwell said. “And I believe that the children of these students will follow their parents and also go to college.”

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Facing Confusion About Food Choices?

Majority of Consumers are Confused About Food

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

A major survey of 1,000 Americans, from 8 to 80, found that consumers are confused about food. California Ag Today recently spoke with Tamika Sims the director of food technology communications for the International Food Information Council, based in Washington. She said consumers are indeed confused about food choices.

“While they trust a registered dietician, or healthcare professional, they often don’t rely on these people for their information. They rely on friends and family. They rely on social media. So, they often receive a lot of conflicting information about what foods they should eat, and or avoid,” Sims said.

“When we asked consumers if they agreed with the statement that they’re confused about the choices they make, we had almost 80% of consumers say that they were confused, and then we asked a question about whether or not they doubt the choices they make when they’re in the store, and over 50% said yes, they do doubt their choices,” Sims noted

Boomers are a bright spot on the survey as the more confident in the choices that they make when they’re making a food and beverage purchase or a choice in a restaurant.

Sims explained what the California ag industry can do to help consumers.

“It’s an interesting time right now, because in the age of social media, consumers to receive a lot of information from even more different places than before,” she said.

“It’s important to be part of the conversation and certainly organizations like IFIC take that to heart, and that’s what we do,” Sims said. “So, we’re part of the conversation in social media, traditional media, as well as outlets where you are looking at people who are the major buyers of food, such as moms, other parents, and then also our younger generations, millennials, and so on. We are part of the conversation in many different ways.”

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Eating Healthy Produce Important for Kids

Produce Critical to Healthy Lifestyle

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Fruits and vegetable are an important part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy produce is especially important for kids whose minds and bodies are still developing.

Teresa Thorne, the executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming in Watsonville, recently talked to California Ag Today about a peer-reviewed study that showcased the importance of healthy eating during childhood.

Teresa Thorne

“It’s another study, and it mirrors other peer-reviewed research that shows the health benefits to children of eating more fruits and vegetables,” Thorne said.

“There have been other studies that also have come out and said that increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially among young children, can really increase IQ. This study, which was conducted in Australia with 4,200 kids, found that test scores on standardized academic tests increased markedly from students that ate more fruits and vegetables and ate them every day,” Thorne explained.

Thorne emphasized that it’s very important for people of all ages to eat their fruits and vegetables.

“We know fruits and vegetables have a benefit for all of us, and on overall health, and that does include brain health, including when your kids are young and growing and maturing,” she said. “Giving the brain those nutrient-rich foods that fruits and vegetables really provide is important, and these types of studies just underscore that.”

It’s not just one type of produce that’s healthy. No matter if you choose organic or conventional, the important part is that you eat more fruits and vegetables.

“Organic or conventional, where ever you purchase them, whether you like to shop at your local grocery store or warehouse store or farmer’s market, buy either organic or conventional, but just always choose to eat more,” Thorne said.

“Even the most loyal, say organic shoppers, there’s times you’re eating in a restaurant or what have you, that they may not have that choice for you, but you should know that the choice to order that salad is always the right choice, whether it’s conventional or organic. Both production methods yield very, very safe and healthy foods.”

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Fresno County 4-H Hosts Color Me Green 5K Run

On March 14, 2015, Fresno County 4-H members will host Color Me Green 5K Runs at California State University, Fresno. Fresno County 4-H is partnering with the Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agriculture and Science Technology for the Color Me Green 5K Run.

The Color Me Green 5K Runs are five kilometer runs designed to encourage youths and community members to increase their physical activity while also having fun! During each run, participants are showered with colored dye as they pass through each marker point. This run, hosted by 4-H youth members and Fresno State students, will be great opportunity for communities to come together and celebrate healthy living and being physically active.

 Through the Color Me Green 5K Runs, 4-H youth members and Fresno State students will encourage the health of Fresno County. In addition to planning, organizing, and leading the run, 4-H clubs and youth members will host interactive 4-H booths highlighting various project areas.

Online registration opened on February 1, 2015. Here is the link for the registration: http://ucanr.edu/colormegreenfresno4h

 

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Celebrate the Holidays – the Fun and Healthy Way

By: Monique Bienvenue; Cal Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter

Keeping your family healthy this holiday season can be tough. With festive cakes, pastries and candy lined up in every aisle of the grocery store, it’s easy to fall off the healthy train.

Fortunately for us, MyPlate has done a fabulous job of creating a beautifully comprehensive list of ways to incorporate healthy habits into your next holiday gathering. Here are some tips that could help you coordinate a fun and healthy event for everyone!

  1. Make healthy habits part of your holiday celebration: Make activities, not food, the center of attention at your next event. This will keep your guests moving and their hands off all the snacks.
  2. Make foods look festive: Use healthy foods, such as nuts or veggies, to decorate your meals.
  3. Add a bit of “health” to your drinks: Serve fruit infused water, or make ice cubes out of juice.
  4. Savor the flavor: Instead of scarfing down a whole meal, take time to enjoy each and every bite.
  5. Incorporate MyPlate.com to make sure every food group is represented in your main dish.
  6. Make moving part of the event: Make sure the music is on and that your guests are dancing!
  7. Experiment with healthy recipes: Make healthy recipes a mandatory part of your party-planning.
  8. Make the cleaning process fun: Get the kids involved! It’ll keep the moving and it’ll help you get the job done faster.
  9. Shop smart and eat smart: Healthy food can be expensive, try to buy products that are in season and fit your budget.
  10. Be a cheerleader for healthy habits: Children are like sponges; the more they see you maintain a healthy lifestyle, the more they’re likely to do the same.

Stay healthy this holiday season; go to http://www.choosemyplate.gov recipe ideas, nutrition facts and healthy tips. 

 

 

 

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National Men’s Health Week: What Foods Should Men Be Eating?

National Men’s Health Week falls on June 9 – 15 every year, and with Father’s Day right around the corner it’s important to note what foods are going to help keep the male gender healthy and strong.

Luckily, the editors of Men’s Health took the time to compose a list of the top 10 foods that are most beneficial to men; many of them are also noted as California’s top agricultural commodities.

1. Almonds: These energy-rich snacks lower bad cholesterol, thanks to plant sterols, and benefit diabetics by lowering blood sugar. They’re also rich in amino acids, which bolster testosterone levels and muscle growth. Almonds are also stuffed with vitamin E, which helps defend against sun damage.

In a study, volunteers who consumed 14 milligrams of the vitamin (about 20 almonds) per day and then were exposed to UV light burned less than those who took none. And because vitamin E is an antioxidant, it also works to keep your arteries free of dangerous free radicals. Low levels of vitamin E are also associated with poor memory performance and cognitive decline, says dietitian Sari Greaves of New York Presbyterian Hospital–Cornell.

2. Flaxseeds: Rich in protein and fiber, these little seeds offer a payload of omega-3 fatty acids, which erase spots and iron out fine lines in the skin. The British Journal of Nutrition reported that participants in one study who downed about half a teaspoon of omega-3s daily in 6 weeks experienced significantly less irritation and redness, along with better-hydrated skin.

A recent study of people with high cholesterol (greater than 240 mg/dL) compared statin treatment with eating 20 grams of flaxseed a day. After 60 days, those eating flaxseed did just as well as those on statins. Try sprinkling ground flaxseed on oatmeal, yogurt, and salads.

3. Tomatoes: There are two things you need to know about tomatoes: red are the best, because they’re packed with more of the antioxidant lycopene; and processed tomatoes are just as potent as fresh ones, because it’s easier for the body to absorb the lycopene.

Studies show that a diet rich in lycopene can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, and help eliminate skin-aging free radicals caused by ultraviolet rays. “Cooked tomatoes and tomato paste work best,” says celebrity trainer Gunnar Petersen.

4. Sweet Potatoes: Often confused with yams, these tubers are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. In addition to countering the effects of secondhand smoke and preventing diabetes, sweet potatoes contain glutathione, an antioxidant that can enhance nutrient metabolism and immune-system health, as well as protect against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, HIV, cancer, heart attack, and stroke.

What’s more, they’re also loaded with vitamin C, which smoothes out wrinkles by stimulating the production of collagen. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that volunteers who consumed 4 milligrams of C (about half a small sweet potato) daily for 3 years decreased the appearance of wrinkles by 11 percent.

5. Spinach: It may be green and leafy, but spinach—a renowned muscle builder—is also the ultimate man food. The heart-health equivalent of a first-ballot Hall of Famer, spinach is replete with the essential minerals potassium and magnesium, and it’s one of the top sources of lutein, an antioxidant that may help prevent clogged arteries.

Plus its vitamins and nutrients can bolster bone-mineral density, attack prostate cancer cells, reduce the risk of skin tumors, fight colon cancer, and, last but not least, increase blood flow to the penis. “Popeye was on to something,” says Susan Bowerman, assistant director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California at Los Angeles.

6. Rosemary: The carnosic acid found in this spice has been shown to reduce stroke risk in mice by 40 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry. Carnosic acid appears to set off a process that shields brain cells from free-radical damage, which can worsen the effects of a stroke.

It can also protect against degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and the general effects of aging.

7. Wild Salmon: A 4-ounce serving of salmon has approximately 2,000 milligrams of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), omega-3 fatty acids that serve as oil for the brain’s hardware by helping nerve cells communicate with one another.

Thirty-five percent of your brain consists of fatty acids like these, but they can decline as the years stack up. A 2008 University of Cincinnati study, for instance, found that the brain tissue of 65- to 80-year-olds contained 22 percent less DHA than the brain tissue of 29- to 35-year-olds.

“If you want to keep your wits about you as you age, start consuming omega-3s now,” says William Harris, Ph.D., a nutrition researcher at the University of South Dakota. Why is wild so important? Because farmed fish, which are fattened with soy, can be as high in inflammatory omega-6 fats as a cheeseburger.

If in doubt, opt for sockeye salmon, which can’t be farmed and is always wild. Aim for at least two servings a week, says dietitian Joan Salge Blake, author of Nutrition and You.

8. Blueberries: “This potent little fruit can help prevent a range of diseases from cancer to heart disease,” says Ryan Andrews, the director of research at Precision Nutrition, in Toronto, Canada.

Think of blueberries as anti-rust for your gray matter, too. Besides being rich in fiber and vitamins A and C, they’re also packed with antioxidants—only açai, an Amazonian berry, contains more—that neutralize the free radicals that cause neuronal misfires. Eat a cup a day, and opt for wild blueberries whenever possible, as they contain 26 percent more antioxidants than cultivated varieties.

9. Green Tea: Green tea releases catechin, an antioxidant with proven anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. Research found that drinking 2 to 6 cups a day not only helps prevent skin cancer but might also reverse the effects of sun damage by neutralizing the changes that appear in sun-exposed skin.

Other studies show that green tea—infused with another antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)—can boost your cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of most types of cancer.

10. Dark Chocolate: Flavonoids, a natural nutrient in cocoa, improve blood flow in the brain, which helps boost cognitive function. Plus dark chocolate contains a tannin called procyanidin, which is also found in red wine, that can keep your arteries flexible and your blood pressure low.

Indulge in 1 ounce a day to get all the benefits, says dietitian Sari Greaves of New York Presbyterian Hospital–Cornell.

 

 

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