Mark Bianchi was honored as the Ceres Chamber of Commerce's Agribusiness Man of the Year at the Ceres Chamber of Commerce's annual Agribusiness Luncheon held Thursday. The Agribusiness Woman of the Year honor went to Stacy Cardoso.
This year's event was hosted at Diamond Bar Arena.
Karen Barindelli, last year's Agribusiness Woman of the Year, introduced Cardoso.
The Chamber bestowed its Grant Lucas Memorial Award to Charlie Fernandes, who has served on the Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors. He also is owner of Country Ford Trucks in Ceres.
The Chamber also honored Berryhill Family Vineyards as its Ag Business of the Year.
Bianchi was born in 1933 in Modesto and graduated Ceres High School in 1950. After high school and marriage to Barbara he volunteered to become a 4-H leader. Drafted into the U.S. Army during Korean War, he was chosen on one of the Army's traveling baseball teams. He started his family in Denver where he was stationed. Mark started working for Stanislaus Farm Supply in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He became a fertilizer expert and salesman. The company was purchased by Simplot. After leaving Simplot in 1984, Bianchi returned to Stanislaus Farm Supply as the fertilizer coordinator.
"His expertise and knowledge of the fertilizer market was respected by all the other suppliers in the industry," said Tony Weatherred of Stanislaus Farm Supply. "He's worked for Farm Supply for the last 35 years and not only is he helpful in our fertilizer business but he was also instrumental in many of our decisions to help local high schools, local 4-H, local FFA fundraisers, group projects and 4-H projects."
Weatherred said Bianchi was "definitely was about family, work, sports and community and he was very passionate about anything he became involved in."
Both he and Barbara were longtime members of the Arrowhead Club which supports youth sports in Stanislaus County. He also has been a staunch supporter of the annual Westport Firefighters breakfast fundraiser each February. Bianchi also donated Oakland A's tickets to local fundraiser silent auctions. He also served on the Ceres School Board for 14 years.
The award was accepted by his granddaughter, Dena Duncan.
Stacy Cardoso's award was introduced by Karen Barendelli, last year's recipient. Cardoso got involved in local 4-H groups with her children and helping other members. She became a 4-H leader and FFA volunteer.
"She was always at the County Fair buying animals and showing support to all the kids," said Barindelli of Cardoso. "She still supports FFA at the school where the children teach. For the community she has done more than anyone knows. She helped collect and deliver supplies and food to the fire victims."
Cardoso is also a member of the Westport Fire Protection District Board of Trustees.
"This lady is always looking to help others anyway she can," said Barindelli of Cardoso. "She's a proud supporter of the agriculture community."
Berryhill Family Vineyards was honored with the Agribusiness of the Year award. Paul Huckaba of Bronco Winery gave a recap of why it was selected. He explained that the Berryhills purchased land south of Ceres in the 1930s with a passion for farming. Bill Berryhill, son of Clare Berryhill, and wife Triana Berryhill expanded operations in Clements east of Lodi. In 2016 they launched their own family vineyard and released two wines this year, a chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc.
His 2016 Sauvignon Blanc was rated 91 percent and became a silver medalist at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. This year in Sacramento it was rated 95 percent and garnered a gold medal.
Charlie Fernandes was honored with the Grant Lucas Memorial Award. Fernandes contributes much to the Ceres community, said Renee Ledbetter, the Chamber's executive director. He has served as a Turlock Irrigation District for 18 years with his current term up in 2022. He serves as TID's representative on the Don Pedro Recreation Board of Control, the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority Drinking Water and Facilities committees.
"This is quite a surprise," said Fernandes. "As you know, I'm not a farmer but I did farm in the past but I try to represent not only the farmers but all of the people that rely on Turlock Irrigation District - not only for irrigation water but for electricity."
He thanked former TID member Sid Long for recommending Fernandes get involved years ago.
Guest speaker for the occasion was Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department's Rural Crimes Detective Adam Basmajian who gave a brief overview of crimes seen lately. Theft of tractors, trailers are big as are residential burglaries and gun safes. He recommended wireless motion-activated security systems linked with Smartphones to watch property remotely. GPS trackers on vehicles also help. He also recommended taking pictures of cars and license plates of suspicious vehicles in rural areas.
"Take pictures. It may just be your neighbor ... it may be somebody doing wrong. Take pictures of license plates. I can't do anything when you send me a picture of a white truck," said Basmajian.
He said the Sheriff's Department cannot be everywhere so that farmers and rural residents need to be vigilant to not become victims and to catch bad guys.
Basmajian stressed making a report when things are stolen, even online reports, suggesting that they can lead to apprehension and return of property.
Event emcee and Central Valley High School agriculture teacher Ken Moncrief gave an overview of the Ceres Unified School District's expansion of the six-and-a-half-acre Ceres Ag Center, a student farm near Hidahl Elementary School. Students from both Ceres and Central Valley high schools farm the ground for hands-on labs.
Produce from the farm is being used by the CUSD food service program and was served at the luncheon.
"I think we've had a fantastic and super productive year this school year," said Moncrief. "We've accomplished a lot of great things.
Moncrief said an 18-pen swine barn has been completed to accommodate the raising of as many as 36 pigs, mostly for the County Fair. The project was funded through a grant.
"It's really, really cool to have our students being able to use state-of-the-art facilities to raise their animals ... and it's working really, really great."
The district is also working with an Oakdale contractor to build a steel building to raise beef, sheep and goats.
"That process is well underway and in the next six months or so we'll have a state-of-the-art facility for that as well."
He said the harvest on the farm included over 8,000 pounds of grapes that fed Ceres students in cafeteria.
To better connect graduates who plan to go directly in the workforce after high school, Moncrief said CUSD started a business mentoring program. Ceres and Central Valley High School juniors are trained on "soft skills," he said, which are as simple as knowing that employers expect employees to show up on time for work and not call in sick. Mentors help coach students on how to interview for a job, how to keep a job and how to interact with older managers and employees.
Moncrief said he has 60 students who are being teamed up with business partners at Dole, Bronco Winery, Stanislaus Farm Supply and other places. He said he welcomes others to join in, committing to lunch with two or three students one Wednesday per month. Mentors are from E.&J. Gallo Winery, CUSD, Stanislaus Farm Supply, the USDA, and Alpha Electric, Shane Parson and Ceres Police Chief Brent Smith.
A total of 25 seniors have the option of participating in the Pathways to Industries program.
"Those students get job skills, job training and working towards having an internship," said Moncrief.
Over 600 students at CVHS and over 300 students at CHS are studying agriculture.
"I'm incredibly proud of that fact because when I started here 30 years ago we had two of us and upwards of 150 students between the two of us," said Moncrief.
Scholarships worth $500 were presented to six FFA members - Jackelyn Diaz, Wilbur Arrellano, Arana Nayeli Vazquez, Stephanie Navarrete and Andrea Rojas Navarro, all of Central Valley High School; and Kiana Garcia of Ceres High School.