Running a dairy and growing cotton is how J.L. Freeman founded the Freeman family farming operation in Madera. His son Art grew up farming and after high school majored in agriculture at Fresno State University. Art married the former Lorraine Nygren and they now have two sons.
While Art is now mostly retired, his son Loren has assumed the reins of the family operation. Loren's brother Lee is an engineer in San Diego for a company that is a subsidiary of Caterpillar, Inc.
After graduating from Madera High School in 1973, Loren followed in his father's footsteps and earned a degree in agronomy at his dad's alma mater, California State University, Fresno. An agronomist is a specialist in soils and grains.
Loren farms 400 acres of orchards and vineyards.
"We have 380 acres of good farmable land and 20 acres of headaches," Loren said.
He grows three types of cherries - the King, Tulare and Brookes varieties. The cherry crop is sold for fresh consumption and is shipped through M and R Packing in Lodi. Cherries are a tricky crop and are a very weather dependent crop, he said. The egg for the fruit of the cherry tree is formed in the heat of July and then pollinated in the spring. He also grows six varieties of free stone peaches, processed by freezing or canning. The different varieties of peaches have the crops harvested at different times, so it's like growing six different crops, Loren said. Freeman peaches from Madera can be found in Marie Calendar's and Mrs. Smith's pie, Dannon yogurt and Breyer's ice cream and yogurt.
In his vineyards, Loren grows wine grapes. The life expectancy of a grape vineyard, given good care, is about the same as that of a person, approximately 70 years. Freeman grows Chenin Blanc, French Collombard and Syrah wine grapes. He sells his grapes to the Bronco Winery in Ceres.
Freeman is married to the former Laurie Finn, a teacher. Their son Robbie is 20 years old. While on summer break from college, Robbie is working his second summer as a camp counselor for a YMCA camp near Sequoia National Park. Each week, different age groups spend a week at camp. Campers can be as young as five and six years old and up to as old as 16. There are also weeks for family camps. One of the hobbies Loren and Laurie enjoy is working with their pure bred Mastiffs. They enjoy having the dogs in shows and have enjoyed success with their three Mastiffs - Mable, Grace and Leo. They also have a boxer named Dobbs.
"We were at a dog show in Bakersfield," Loren said. "We were finished by 10 a.m., so we drove over to Paso Robles to tour wineries."
Using a flyer from the vintner's association and the Global Positioning System in his truck, Loren was able to enter the phone number of a winery into the GPS and plot maps to lead them to the wineries.
"We visited five wineries that day," he said.
Loren serves on a Madera County Water Oversight Committee and is also on the Mosquito Abatement Board of Directors.
He is concerned with water issues for Madera County, including the proposed water bank.
"I don't want water leaving Madera County, I want more water to come into the county," Loren said. "The old water bank proposal had the canal taking water away from Madera County twice the size as the canal bringing in water."
The current proposed water bank has only canals coming into Madera and none leaving to transport water elsewhere, he said.