As the operator of a diagnostic laboratory in Fresno Nat Dellavalle is often asked why he is in such close touch with the area’s dynamic agriculture. Many of his city-bound friends are as supported by the farm economy as he is, but may not recognize it.
Profitable farming requires a broad spectrum of goods and services, usually located in cities nearby. Newcomers to the Central Valley often wonder how farms contribute so heavily to the nearby urban economies.
A big part of the answer is diversification. The Central Valley is home to farms and service businesses that deal with hundreds of different crops – trees, vines, row crops, field crops, specialty crops, dairies, poultry production. They are planted, cultivated, cared for, harvested and sent to market at different times of the year, adding up to steady economic activity, reasonably steady employment and uninterrupted need for services.
For Dellavalle, a soil science and plant nutrition graduate of San Luis Obispo’s Cal Poly in 1961, the farm economy has been the basic source for 50 years of tremendous growth, profitable operation and lasting client relations and friendships. Staff has grown from a handful
to 60 professionals, operating in a building that has had to be remodeled and enlarged a number of times to keep up with demand.
“We are primarily a consulting service,” he said, “providing scientific soil, water and crop information to growers and producers so they can operate at a profit.” While many of his clients manage sizeable farming operations, numbers of small and medium scale farmers require the same services.
The Dellavalle family participates enthusiastically in the agricultural community, especially in support of the scholarship program for agricultural students at Fresno State University. A favorite cultural activity is its membership in Fresno’s Grand Opera Association.
The constant awareness of drought conditions in recent years has made the condition of irrigation water a major concern for farmers. Dellavalle personnel constantly test samples of water being applied to crops, measuring salinity, nitrate levels and general purity. His staff includes spotters well beyond the Fresno area, providing the lab’s services to farms in the great Central Valley from Davis to Bakersfield, from the Sierra foothills to the coastal plain.
Other services offered by the lab fall into these categories: soil analysis, plant tissue analysis, soild moisture monitoring and general diagnostics. Dellavalle compares the routine diagnostic services to scheduled oil changes in the family car. “Keeping oil at the proper level helps prevent major repairs,” he said.
In a predominantly farming community, even in the most economically vigorous and diverse part of the dynamic farm state that is California, not many consider how strong an element farms are in their neighboring urban communities. Urban-Rural relationships might be closer and better if more city folks realized how dependent their economic wellbeing depends on the farm economy that surrounds them.
The Dellavalle Lab is a good example of the way urban and rural lifestyles and basics interact. Consider transportation services, farm equipment dealers and maintenance services, paper and packaging supplies, fertilizer and agricultural chemicals, irrigation supplies and various kinds of labor that are needed in the farm economy.
Those in farm country require just as much medical, dental and other health services as well as legal, financial, legal and specialty products as their city cousins. It can and should be a happy economic mix from which healthy agricultural communities prosper.
Next time you see a pickup it might be headed for Dellavalle Labs to pick up the results of a vital soil or water diagnosis. Or it might be transporting Nat and his wife to the Grand Opera.
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