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Locally grown products fulfill every Christmas wish
Bella Viva Orchards sales representative Brean Bettencourt exhibits packaged dried apples slices from the Pure and Natural line. - photo by Journal file photo


It is time to forget department stores and parking chaos, because fresh and locally grown products can make for the perfect gift for any and everyone during the holiday season.   

Less than 10 miles from Turlock, Hilmar Cheese Company has been busy since October assembling gift baskets and bags to put a smile on any recipient’s face.   

“Through sending a gift from Hilmar Cheese Visitor Center, a customer finds a great way to stay in touch with loved ones during the holiday season,” wrote Visitor Center manager Dave Gonsalves. “Our gift baskets, each filled with California Central Valley’s fresh ingredients, reach families all across the country.”

Just the company’s cheese selection alone is enough to get anyone excited for the holidays. Customers can choose from a wide variety of cheeses, including vintage sharp cheddar, queso chipotle, and garlic jack.

Additionally, the cheese company offers products from Roberts Ferry Heavenly Chocolate Popcorn in Waterford, Stewart & Jasper Orchards in Newman and more. From these local businesses guests are able to browse amongst a broad assortment of dried fruit, almonds, jam, and olives.

“Our gift selection has grown tremendously over the years,” wrote Gonsalves. “The Hilmar Cheese Visitor Center is proud to offer our community a selection of gifts that feature locally made products.”

Over 9,200 gift baskets were prepared just in time for the holiday season and each basket or gift box encompasses a unique flavor combination. Items include salamis, crackers, and dipping oils and guests can even opt to include specialty products, including Squeakers, the company’s famous cheese curds.

“California has a unique and diverse agriculture industry from locally made cheeses to almonds grown right here in the Central Valley,” wrote communications and tour specialist Karessa Mast. “These gift boxes and baskets display the diversity of the local agriculture products and they help support local family-owned businesses.”

According to Mast, orders can be placed in store, over the phone, or by visiting

Ten miles in the opposite direction, Bella Viva Orchards has been compiling everything included in their gift selection, down to the crates they use.

“We make the crates ourselves out of peach wood grown on our farms,” commented owner Victor Martino.

With dried fruit as their specialty, the business offers a wide selection, including dried cranberries to dried apricots to dried apple slices. According to Martino, who finds it difficult to pinpoint a customer favorite, the most popular gift option could possibly be the dried strawberries, grown in Waterford, or the dried blueberries, grown in Stockton.

“What really separates us from any other company is that we grow a lot of the fruit ourselves and we are able to dry the fruit without any preservatives, while still keeping the color and flavor perfectly,” said Martino.

The company also hosts an extensive nut collection, including almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. For chocolate lovers, the business also has chocolate covered nuts and fruit.

Christmas gift baskets range from $14 for fruit and chocolate mixes to $140 for a 14-pound Brio Basket, which includes chocolate covered fruits, cheese, salami, drinks, and more. The company also has a wide-ranging organic gift collection and gift crate collection.

“If you are after something that will be instantly enjoyed, healthy, and tastes really good, this might be your best option,” said Martino. “We are unique and we are local.”

For more information on gift options available through Bella Viva Orchards, visit

For consumers who are craving the perfect combination of quality and freshness in their locally grown products, Stewart & Jasper Orchards is the perfect fit.

With an excess of 50 different flavors of almonds, as well as preserves and fruit based sauces right out of the orchard, the company has a gift that would please even Scrooge himself.  

Specifically for the holiday season, Stewart & Jasper Orchards offers a number of delectable flavors that are sure to spread holiday cheer, including egg nog and pumpkin spice flavored almonds, as well as peppermint popcorn.

According to the company’s Vice President Jason Jasper, the company has been extremely busy assembling gift baskets and boxes since the middle of October. However, since the company prides itself in handling all aspects of production, workers have been busy preparing items since the end of August.

“We focus on the quality first and foremost, everything we do we produce in small batches to ensure quality and freshness. You don’t find that everywhere,” said Jasper.

Gift baskets range from $15 to $200, and with this broad price range, Jasper hopes to hit everyone’s budget for the holidays.

“We have a little something for everyone here,” said Jasper.

Those interested in placing an order with Stewart & Jasper Orchards, can either visit one of four locations in Newman, Patterson, Modesto, or Monterey, call 862-0555, or visit