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Italian dairymen tour Central Valley
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Not your usual stop, but a tour bus pulled up in the parking lot of the A.L. Gilbert Company in Oakdale recently, filled with nearly four dozen Italian dairymen and their spouses. For the most part, the Italian visitors were in California on vacation, but decided to work a few days so they took a tour of the A.L. Gilbert Company and of a few dairies in the Stanislaus-San Joaquin County area.

Prior to arriving at the Gilbert site in Oakdale, they enjoyed lunch at the Fruit Yard and got to see some of the Central Valley scenery. Most of the Italian dairymen did not speak English so they had an interpreter on the tour with them. Holly (Gilbert) Ravetz was also on the tour and is the daughter of Oakdale residents David and Kristen Gilbert, so the tour became a family event. Ravetz works for a company with a division in Italy called Alltech Crop Science, which has locations around the world and in the U.S. She is the European Office Manager and supply chain coordinator. Since the dairymen are customers of Alltech and Ravetz is fluent in Italian and from California, she was invited to participate on the trip.

Marit Arana, nutritionist for the A.L. Gilbert Company and Kristen Gilbert greeted the tourists and set out some free take home items ranging from A.L. Gilbert hats to magnets and calendars. Arana helped host the tour at the plant site and also fielded questions from the group of dairy visitors. The now elder statesman of the family, Bob Gilbert, who was recognized with the “2011 Agriculturalist of the Year” award by the State of California, gave the group a presentation of the history of their company that was established in 1892. At 89 years old, Gilbert still continues to work at the company his father founded. Gilbert has worked with both government and private industry for farmers and livestock producers. After a video of the history of the company was shown, he answered questions from the Italian dairymen. Then they continued the tour into the feed mill where they observed the plant operations, got an up close look at the machinery and also took some pictures. Their next stop was the Bartelink Dairy in Escalon, and they planned to visit a few other area dairies as well.

Ravetz noted that she felt the Italian dairymen were able to have a good exchange with owners of dairies and businesses on the tour, as they were very inquisitive and asked a lot of questions. She stated that the dairies in Italy are much smaller than the dairies that we have here.

“I think they really enjoyed visiting this area,” she said.