Califonia Bountiful

On location: Merced County

March/April 2017 California Bountiful magazine

What makes it distinctive? Find out!

Formed in 1855, Merced County has the state's fifth-largest agricultural economy, with milk, almonds, cattle, chicken and sweet potatoes at the top of the list. The city of Atwater boasts the Castle Air Museum on the site of the former Castle Air Force Base. The University of California, Merced, UC's only Central Valley campus, opened in 2005.

Joe Scoto, Le Grand

Growing up, Joe Scoto helped with the family's farm and dairy. He now works with his siblings growing almonds, alfalfa, cotton, corn and tomatoes for Scoto Brothers Farming. Scoto, shown with wife Kathy, is an owner of the Central California Tomato Growers Cooperative, a Blue Diamond Growers member, McSwain School District board member and the Merced County Farm Bureau president.

Los Banos Tomato Festival, Los Banos

The annual celebration of all things tomato is set for Oct. 7 at Los Banos Fairgrounds. You can meet Mr. Tomato, participate in the Tomato Tug-of-War, take in the music, and dine on anything and everything that can possibly be made with tomatoes.

Vista Ranch and Cellars, Merced

Stephanie Marchini owns this ranch occupying part of George Fancher's original Bear Creek Ranch along Highway 140. Vista has a vineyard and fruit orchard and features winetasting in a century-old farmhouse, panini, bocce and seasonal events.

Merced Fruit Barn, Merced

Paul and Heidi Raggio took over this roadside stand on Highway 140 about 12 years ago. It boasts a cornucopia of local produce, nuts and honey. You can also partake of a deli sandwich or visit with the residents of the barnyard.

Joe on the Go, Merced

Chef Melissa Rasmussen grew up on a Merced County farm. She uses ingredients from local farmers to create custom seasonal menus for catering clients. The café serves breakfast, sandwiches, wraps, salads and, of course, coffee Monday through Saturday.

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