Good Fruit Grower

December 2013

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Page 47 of 95

Good Fruit Grower of the Year California grower has an OPEN DOOR n the diversified farming region of California's San Joaquin Valley, Jeff Colombini's innovative and profit-minded approach to tree fruit production stands out. Growers from near and far come to visit the widely admired farm management company that he operates. At Lodi Farming, Inc., of Lodi, California, visitors will see new technology, sound environmental stewardship, orchard innovations, and an extensive cherry rootstock collection, but they also will spend time with a skilled horticulturist known for welcoming guests and sharing his strategies for successful fruit production. "I've seen no better orchards than what Jeff is managing," said Denny Hayden, tree fruit grower from Pasco, Washington. "Every time we go down there, he's one of our stops." On a visit to Lodi Farming, it doesn't take long to realize why fellow growers have named Jeff Colombini the 2013 Good Fruit Grower of the Year and will honor him for service to the industry in December at the annual meeting of the Washington State Horticultural Association. "He selflessly contributes his time to community, state, and national industry issues," said Jim McFerson, manager of the Washington Tree Fruit by Melissa Hansen Research Commission. "He typifies what the Good Fruit Grower of the Year stands for. Jeff is the kind of grower that should grace the Good Fruit Grower magazine." I Jeff Colombini is always looking for a better way to grow fruit. cultural business and fruit science at Cal Poly (California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo) with the goal of someday being in business for myself." "Planting decisions are a combination of looking in the rearview mirror… and looking forward to where you think trends, markets, and now, labor availability, are headed." Bottom line perspective Colombini gained invaluable insight in the world of agricultural finance during his four-year stint with the Santa Rosa and Ripon branches of Farm Credit, an 1,800 acres A grandson of an Italian immigrant who moved to agricultural lending cooperative. He then the valley in 1906, Colombini is president of a company, spent three years as an operations analyst owned by himself and the management team, that farms for San Tomo, a tomato and fruit canning 1,800 acres of apples, cherries, olives, walnuts, wine company owned by Dino Cortopassi, a prominent agricultural businessman of grapes, and alfalfa as a tenant farm operator. Colombini, 50, is a third-generation farmer. He knew in Stockton, California. Cortopassi is also a major landlord of Lodi Farming and high school that he wanted to be involved in agriculture, but he wasn't locked on being a farmer. Colombini's business mentor. While at Farm Credit, Colombini "I knew I wanted to eventually be in business for myself, preferably in an agricultural business, but it could learned a principle that would influence have been any business," he said. his future farming decisions and success. "My father always farmed on the side, growing cher"One of the things I quickly observed was ries and other crops, while doing another job. He was that the farmers that kept track of their an insurance salesman, field representative for a cherry costs and knew how much they were making on each crop—by field, block, and packing plant, and did other jobs," said Colombini. "At variety—were the ones that were successone time, my father was part owner and general manger — Jeff Colombini ful," he said. "That's been very valuable of C & O Packing (Colombini and Oneto), a cherry packin making our planting decisions at Lodi ing house, but he still farmed on the side." Farming because we're making decisions that last for 30 As Colombini neared college age, his two older brothers were working with his years." father, farming and operating a cherry packing company called Agri-West. "I have three brothers (including a twin), and my two older brothers were already working with my His time in the food processing industry was also valufather," he said. "There wasn't room for me to come back to the family farm, but I knew able. He learned nonagriculture business principles and I wanted to eventually get into some kind of business. It could be related to agriculture, concepts that have helped him become a better farm or not. I felt I needed an education in both finance and science, so I majored in agrimanager. 48 DECEMBER 2013 GOOD FRUIT GROWER

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