Farm visitors step into Valley history

first_imgNo telling what John Forneris would have done for a living if Grandpa Baptista hadn’t outlasted the Great Depression and saved the family farm. He certainly wouldn’t be climbing out of a warm bed at 3:30 a.m. six days a week to climb onto a cold tractor by 4. He wouldn’t have spent the last 41 years watching the sun rise standing in fields of strawberries, pumpkins, melons, squash, green beans and onions, growing every vegetable under the sun to sell at his fruit stand. No, life would have been very different if Grandpa Baptista hadn’t saved the family farm more than 75 years ago and turned his grandson into “one of the Last Mohicans in the San Fernando Valley,” Forneris said Wednesday, laughing. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.“There are basically only two of us working farmers left in the Valley – me and the Tapia Brothers over in the Sepulveda Basin. Somehow, we’ve dodged the bullet.” The concrete bullet. Apartments, shopping malls, office buildings and gas stations replacing agricultural fields. One-stop supermarkets killing roadside fruit and vegetable stands that once dotted just about every street corner in a young Valley. Working moms and two-paycheck families – working so long and hard they couldn’t stop at a fruit stand to buy fresh vegetables they didn’t have time to cook. “There were 50 fruit stands in the North Valley when I was a kid, and another 60 in the South Valley,” said Forneris, a-third generation farmer. “Now there are two.” And five to 10 years out, there may be only one if the 60-year-old Forneris is right when he looks into the future. When he opened Forneris Farms on Rinaldi Avenue in Mission Hills, he leased 80 acres from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, which owns the land. Today, he’s down to 20 acres as San Fernando Mission Cemetery, abutting his farm, continues to expand. “Within 10 years, I figure I’ll have to transfer the rest of the land to them,” he said Wednesday morning, getting ready for the last-minute Halloween pumpkin rush. Maybe it’s just as well, he admits. Farming’s a tough, physical job, and at 60 he isn’t a kid anymore. And it doesn’t look as if any of his four kids wants to try for a fourth generation of Forneris farmers. He still has some acreage in Ventura County he can farm if he wants, or he can do some of that traveling with his wife, Barbara, he’s been promising her. Maybe go to Italy where it all began – back to the Piemonte region that Grandpa Baptista left at the turn of the century to come to America. “He and my grandmother scraped and saved for years for a down payment on 40 acres of farmland they bought in 1921 for $24,000 in the town of Zelzah (now Northridge),” he said. “He opened a fruit stand at Plummer and White Oak, paying $600 an acre for the land. During the Depression it went down to $200 an acre. “They held on for dear life to make the mortgage payments. A lot of other farmers had to walk away from the land.” Baptista held on and then helped his son, Pete, start his own farm and fruit stand – just as Pete would help his son, John, start his. “I used a lot of his equipment and knowledge,” John said Wednesday, watching Barbara prepare for the last few days of their Fall Harvest Festival, which runs through this weekend. If you want your kids to see what a lot of the old Valley looked like before it disappears, and meet one of its pioneer farming families, bring them by. There are rides, a cornfield maze, plenty of farm animals, pumpkins and the pride and joy of Forneris Farms. And Grandpa Baptista’s old, red tractor that outlasted the Great Depression and saved the family farm. [email protected], 818-713-3749 — WANT TO GO? Forneris Farms is located at 15200 Rinaldi St., Mission Hills. For more information about the Fall Harvest Festival, call (818) 730-7709, or log on to www.fornerisfarms.com.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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Pilot on downed float plane identified as search continues for missing

first_imgST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Quebec pilot Gilles Morin, 61, was one of seven people aboard a float plane that crashed into a Labrador lake on Monday, killing at least three people on board.Four people remain missing today after a full day of searching by military rescuers and RCMP, scanning Mistastin Lake, where the tail of the plane and other debris were spotted early Tuesday.Jean Tremblay, president of the Quebec airline that owns the plane, confirmed Morin was piloting the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver that crashed.He said he does not know who is missing and who has been confirmed dead, but he is not optimistic any survivors will be found.Tremblay described Morin as a kind man and an experienced, no-nonsense pilot, loved by his friends and colleagues.Morin has been an employee of Air Saguenay since 2011 and according to Tremblay, he has 20,000 hours of flying experience.Military helicopters were to remain at the lake until nightfall Tuesday, before handing the search over to the RCMP.The plane carrying Morin, two guides and four guests left Three Rivers Lodge on Crossroads Lake, east of Schefferville, Que., Monday morning for a fishing camp on Mistastin Lake, but it did not return as planned that evening.The cause of the crash remains unknown. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating.The Canadian Presslast_img read more

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