It has been a busy summer for 2016 Senior Farmer of the Year John Yakligian.
He and his wife Lois have been bombarded with congratulations and best wishes from their wide circle of friends and associates. They are typically uncomfortable with these types of accolades.
In the past, John had not been willing to accept the Senior Farmer award but has been blessed by all the attention this honor from the Madera Chamber of Commerce has garnered. It highlights the work of the Madera Rotary Club, which provides wheelchairs for people in third world countries and works to eradicate polio. As a polio survivor who once relied on a wheelchair, these are both causes that are very dear to Yakligian’s heart.
While he is the Senior Farmer, it doesn’t mean he is a retired farmer.
In his two-and-a-half acre poultry house, he is nurturing 104,000 brown Qui Fi chicks for an Asian grocery market. The chickens are sold live to a network of grocers in California and out-of-state.
“They aren’t fryers, but specialty birds,” said Yakligian.
His present brood is about three weeks old, he said. When they reach 13 or 14 weeks, they are ready for market. He has raised this breed of bird for the last 15 years. The chickens are distributed by the locally owned Pitman Family Farm of Rick and David Pitman, he said.
“I have enjoyed working with them,” Yakligian said. “Their honesty and integrity makes for a great partnership.”
In addition to his chicken ranch, he farms 45 acres of Thompson grapes for raisins. The raisins are made using the traditional method of paper trays dried by the sun, he said. He is very optimistic about this year’s crop, which is sold to the Sahatdjian family of Victor Packing. Family patriarch Sarkis Sahatdjian was the 2013 Senior Farmer of the Year.
Yakligian’s other permanent crop is a 40-acre almond orchard. He hopes this year’s crop will produce 2,500 pounds per acre.
“I’m a Blue Diamond grower,” Yakligian said.
Summer is also a busy time at the Hume Lake Christian Camp. Yakligian is a founder and serves on the board of directors of the 365-acre Christian camp. The camp is an Evangelical non-denominational organization not affiliated with any specific church.
“We have 1,800 young people a week through the camp in the summertime,” he said.
The campers range in age from 7-year-olds through high school. The Wagon Wheel group is for children ages 7 to 11 years old. The Meadow Rand is for middle school aged and the Ponderosa is the camp for high school students.
Offering a world class, Bible-based curriculum, the camp offers young people the opportunity to learn about Christianity in a safe and fun atmosphere.
Nestled in the Sequoia National Forest, the camp provides the perfect backdrop for a life-changing experience, Yakligian said. The facility includes multiple chapels, dining halls, swimming pools, lawns, ropes courses and deluxe accommodations. The majestic setting and solitude is meant to bring the campers to the wonders of nature.
“It is a place where you can hear God speak to you. Hume’s facilities have been designed to provide everything needed for a comfortable and enjoyable retreat experience,” according to the camp’s website.
In the summer the camp serves 7,000 meals a day and is staffed by 500 employees. There is a permanent staff of 125 year-round, Yakligian said. Winter camps draw 700 to 800 kids from area churches, he said.
Professional audio and video recording studios encourage the creativity of the campers.
Known as Hume Lake West, there are affiliated camps in Point Loma, Utah and Monterey, Massachusetts with campuses in Hawaii and Papa New Guinea too, Yakligian said.