Daughter goes from grapes to nuts
Annette Nordine Doud/The Madera Tribune
Laura Andrew Gutile, owner of Laura’s Nuts, an 18-acre pistachio orchard on the outskirts on Madera, describes herself as someone passionate about agriculture and being a part of making something great.
A Madera County farmer’s teenage daughter went out one night in her Camero with thoughts of cruising Fresno’s Blackstone Avenue just for fun. The “cruise” soon attracted two guys in a Honda Accord.
They stopped. They talked. His name was Ryan. He was 19, just graduated. It was 1992. She can’t remember much about the other guy.
They decided to drag race in what is now Riverpark Shopping Center.
Red lights flashed and sirens wailed. They were pulled over, lectured and sent home.
And that’s how Laura Andrew met Ryan Gutile, a Fresno guy, who after being mechanic for the Andrew Farm, now uses his skills with race cars and racing.
Five years after that initial meeting, they married, had daughter Allison, and in 2001 Laura bought 18 acres planted in Thompson seedless grapes, at Avenue 12 1/2 and Road 25 1/2.
Under the advice of her father, Chester Andrew, the vines were pulled and replaced with pistachios. She christened her orchard, ‘Laura’s Nuts.’
“This will be their sixth crop,” said Laura as she sat in her kitchen looking out on the trees showing their pale peach and lemon-colored nut clusters. ”It takes seven years before the first harvest. These are the Kerman variety grafted to USB1 (first generation root stock) from the University of Santa Barbara. Pistachios were originally brought here from the Mediterranean because of our similar climates.”
She contracts out the spraying and harvesting, while she ‘wages war’ with the flocks of crows using ‘Bird Guard.’
“Bird Guard gives out the calls of other birds of prey and distress signals, but now the crows seems to ignore it, going down under the cover of the trees to get whatever they want to eat and drink.”
Two years ago, Laura joined the Madera County Farm Bureau, occupying a position on the board her father vacated after selling the family farm in 2015 and moving to Idaho.
This year, while taking on the position as MCFB Secretary, Laura has taken a leadership class through the Farm Bureau.
“It’s intense training, involving dealing with the media and even dress protocol. We learned interview techniques and pointers on what to wear when meeting our senators and representative in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. ‘Don’t wear your jeans, baseball cap and work shirts. It’s a suit and tie occasion.’
“Last year was a year of discovery for me, and saying ‘yes’ to things that make me feel uncomfortable. I’ve learned so much of how politics work. I’ve learned the difference between ‘Shall’ and ‘Maybe’, ‘Can’ and ‘Will’. Just the difference in these four small words can make a huge change in policies. I want to help bring about change.
“I feel I can make a difference. We’re all trying to come together to work for the common good. California agriculture employs two percent of the workforce, but yet produces 98 percent of the nation’s produce and dairy.
“I’m concerned with the NAFTA Agreement. It can’t change because so many products need to go to Canada and Mexico to be partially finished. For example, Mexico may have better pasture, so calves are sent there, then returned to California for processing. We’re trying to keep the leaders from completely doing away with the agreement. That would hurt both Northern and Southern border states financially, as well as the nation as a whole. US Secretary of Agriculture Sunny Purdue is working toward keeping these trade agreements in place.”
Laura believes it is not a chore at all to be a part of the community. It takes members of the community to make the community a good place to live, she said. She also is a member on the Workforce Development Board of Madera County.
She describes herself as someone who’s passionate about agriculture, about being a part of making something great.
“I look at this involvement as being a team member, as being part of the cogs and gears, and I really like being a part of that team.
“It’s a great life.”