After spending 126 years milking cows, the Giacomazzi family, owners of California’s oldest dairy farm, is shutting their parlor doors for good to expand their budding almond business.
First getting its start in 1893, the Giacomazzi Dairy in Hanford, Calif., grew from what was once a small dairy operation into a 1,000-cow facility with an additional 1,000 replacement animals on the side. As the historical farm continued to expand, growing pains were experienced and some of the facilities equipment started to show its age.
“Being that this dairy is over 125 years old, it's not very efficient,” says fourth-generation owner Dino Giacomazzi in an interview with ABC 30 Action News. “It's not modern, so we have to either invest to upgrade this dairy or invest in something else."
In 2013, the family made the decision to transition into the almond industry and planted trees on 400 acres of land. Taking approximately five years to mature, the trees have begun to produce fruit, allowing the Giacomazzis to make the changeover from producing milk to selling almonds.
“We’ve had four, straight years of losing money in the diary business, and now seems like the right time to plant more land to trees,” Giacomazzi told The Business Journal.
Once the cattle are gone, the family plans to enlarge their current almond orchard from 400 acres to 900 acres.
“All our costs are going up, and the only way to keep dairying was to invest in a major expansion — double our size,” which the family decided not to do, he said.
With milk prices up a bit this fall for the first time in years, Giacomazzi said he figured this may be a favorable time to market his cows to get the best prices for them.
Auctioning off the herd on October 25, Giacomazzi said making the decision to sell the cows was not an easy one, but it was becoming too hard of a challenge to stay afloat in the dairy business.
"You're better off putting your money into trees...almonds, pistachios, grapes,” Cornell Kasbergen, a Tulare dairy farmer, told ABC 30 Action News.“There's a lot of alternatives that provide a higher return than milking cows."
Although the farm may be hanging up their milking units for good, the family continues to keep the historical operation centered around agriculture.
“We’re not selling the property, and I plan to stay on and keep farming,” Giacomazzi said, adding, “Maybe the farm will still be in business another 126 years.”