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Food Expo a success for Madera producers

Debi Bray, right, CEO of the Madera Chamber of Commerce, and fellow members, from left, Annette Kwock, Eugene Bell, and Jim Chin, help out Cindy Schafer, second from right, owner of San Joaquin Wine Co. pour samples during the Fresno Food Expo Thursday evening. (Wendy Alexander


Farmers, brewers, winemakers and food producers from Madera were given the chance to show off their products to buyers and tasters at the 6th Annual Fresno Food Expo.

Shoppers, from curious families to retail representatives, came to the expo, which was held at the Fresno Convention Center at 700 M Street on Thursday. According to Fresno Food Expo manager Amy Fuentes, the event was an opportunity for farms and food companies from across the San Joaquin Valley to sell and preview their goods to potential buyers, instead of looking outside of the valley, or even the state, to buy for stores, restaurants, or homes.

“We want people to buy our products,” Fuentes said. “We are the bread basket of the world, and we are here to help get our products into the market.”

Madera County vendors had stands from 12 different companies set up during the expo, which has succeeded in bringing in new business for these producers.

“We’re here for two reasons,” said Karen Rosenthal of Rosenthal Olive Ranch. “The first reason is to meet buyers of the different companies, and the second reason is to sell to the public.”

The Rosenthal Olive Ranch, which was founded in 2008, was started by Rosenthal and her husband, who came from four generations of grape growers, but uprooted 80 acres of grapes to grow arbosana and koroneiki olives, and have won awards with their olive oil since then. Rosenthal Olive Ranch has participated in every Fresno Food Expo so far, and according to Rosenthal, it has been a boost to the company.

“We’ve had lots of contacts through the Fresno Food Expo,” said Rosenthal.

Western Fresh Marketing, a fruit company specializing in figs and kiwis, has also seen sales go up from the Fresno Food Expo. According to Roger Pimental, a sales representative for Western Fresh, their company has only gotten one customer from a previous year, but this alone has been a large help to their business.

“Getting one customer a year in produce is actually big,” Pimental said. “It doesn’t sound very impressive, but one customer can change the quantity you ship, so it’s meaningful.”

“It’s really great,” said Walt Whelan of Toca Madera Winery, which, along with the San Joaquin Wine Company and Cru Wine Company, represented Madera wine vendors. “We’ve met a lot of people who are interested in carrying the wine,”

Whelan, who also works as an attorney, turned to making wine when he planted his grapes four years ago. They are currently coming up on their third vintage. Whelan also said he plans to attend in 2017.

Madera vendors also included a new business for Madera, Snackmasters Gourmet Beef Jerky.

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