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Not many people can say they are doing exactly what they have always wanted to do – but 35-year-old Joe Dickens is doing just that. Started by his grandfather, Arnold Dickens, and passed down to him by his father, Tom Dickens, the 100-acre family farm of peaches, walnuts and almonds in his hometown of Modesto, California is now managed by Joe. “Managing the ranch is something I have always had a passion for. I love the whole process – from the beginning of planting season, to the end of harvest and everything in between,” says Joe. “I love watching the sun come up in the morning on the ranch and being around people in our farming community.”
Joe is a true “steward of the land” and knows his role as a California Cling Peach grower is an important one. “As a peach grower, I am part of the agriculture wheel – from the beginning stages of the farming process at local nurseries, to doing business with people that get our product on family dinner tables, school lunches and even hospitals,” explains Joe. With so many people involved in agriculture, it’s safe to say it’s the base of many communities – with the grower right in the middle of it all! Joe also says that supporting family farms is an important factor in keeping the economy going and pledges to continue growing and raising the best product possible.
Joe’s message to school foodservice directors is, “keep up the good work!” After attending his first School Nutrition Association Annual National Conference in Las Vegas, he has a much stronger understanding of the obstacles directors face every day. “There were so many companies at the show offering snack foods for students that you could never even imagine existed! It’s great that there are so many options, but my hope is that Directors still encourage students to try new fruits and vegetables so they will learn to love these healthy foods at a young age,” explains Joe. “And on top of that, it has always been said that healthier kids are happier and happier kids do better in school! And that’s why I do my best to provide a high quality and delicious crop!”
And now Joe is passing his knowledge and passion on to his two children – his 15-year-old son Kyle and 9-year-old daughter, Kelsey. “Kyle has worked on the ranch for years and loves it,” says Joe. “And now Kelsey is getting more involved and taking on a lot more responsibility.” Joe’s wife of 15 years, Amy, is also extremely active on the ranch.
In addition to his dedication to farming, Joe is very active with family activities – including hunting, fishing, skiing and camping. Joe also recently stepped down as Scout Master after three years to Assistant Scout Master for his son’s Boy Scout Troup 43. “It’s so important to keep children active at this age, and also introduce them to more and more new things,” explains Joe.