Ag Fame for Flory

Renowned valley family is honored by ag center

November 14, 2008 

  • FAMOUS FARMERS

    The Stanislaus County Agricultural Hall of Fame inducts new members once a year. The honorees:

    2008: Flory Industries, a maker of nut harvesting machinery in Salida
    2007: Burchell Nursery of Oakdale, a supplier of trees to fruit and nut growers
    2006: Ratto Bros., a grower and packer of fresh produce west of Modesto
    2005: A.L. Gilbert, a feed company in Oakdale and Keyes
    2004: Ernie Gemperle, an egg producer in Turlock; Floyd Zaiger, a tree-fruit breeder in Modesto
    2003: Larry Carter, a former executive director of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau; Daniel, Mike, Tom and Earl Perez, growers on the West Side
    2002: J.S. West and family, owners of egg, feed and other operations in the region
    2001: The late Ernest and Julio Gallo, founders of E.&J. Gallo Winery in Modesto
    2000: Mary and the late Bill Lyons Sr., owners of Mape's Ranch, west of Modesto; the late Max and Verda Foster, founders of the Foster Farms chicken and dairy enterprises
    1999: Bill Ulm, a Modesto-area farmer and former county supervisor; the late Rolland Starn, a Hughson-area farmer and county supervisor; the late Gertie Zehrung, a Hughson-area farmer involved in Ag in the Classroom
    1998: The late Clare Berryhill, a Ceres-area farmer who served in the state Legislature and as California secretary of food and agriculture; the late Henry Voss, a Ceres-area farmer who also was state agriculture secretary; the late Richard Lyng of Modesto, who was U.S. and state agriculture secretary; Ann Veneman, a Modesto native who was U.S. and state agriculture secretary and is now executive director of UNICEF

Early in the last century, Floyd Flory got one of those newfangled milking machines for his dairy farm near Salida.

It was said to be the first such machine in Stanislaus County, and it would not be the last time the Flory family innovated.

Flory Industries evolved from dairy farming to custom harvesting, then to the nut farming machines that dominate its business today.

Thursday evening, the 150-employee company was inducted into the Stanislaus County Agricultural Hall of Fame.

"They are very humble people and very hardworking people," said John Scheuber, president of the Stanislaus Ag Center Foundation. "They have brought a lot of recognition to our area for technology."

The 11th annual dinner raised money for the ag center, an interactive museum planned for the west campus of Modesto Junior College. Nearly 500 people attended the event at the Assyrian-American Civic Club in Turlock.

Flory Industries operates on the same Toomes Road property where the family started a dairy farm in 1909, upon moving from Whittier.

In the 1930s, the family got into the custom harvesting business, working grain and bean crops for other growers. Howard Flory, son of the late Floyd Flory, joined in about this time.

"I made a bean harvester in 1944, and it worked so well that I made another one in 1948," said Howard Flory, now the president.

The custom harvesting lasted into the 1970s. By then, the company was responding to another opportunity -- the expanding almond and walnut crops.

"The yields just got so big that we couldn't do it by hand," Flory said. "We used to rake them up and put them in bags and bring them to the huller."

The machines, made by Flory and a few other companies, sweep up nuts after they are shaken from the trees, then load them onto trucks. It's a big task each late summer and fall, as crews hurry to bring in the nuts and try to keep dirt and twigs out of the mix.

The big red machines work up and down the Central Valley, the world's No. 1 producer of almonds and walnuts.

Flory has customers in other nut-producing states and in Latin America, Australia, Canada and Europe. They grow almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans and other crops.

"Our attitude was to find a need and fill it," Howard Flory said.

The company has been part of the effort to reduce air pollution in California. Its machines kick up much less dust than in the past. Its shredders take care of pruned orchard branches that used to be burned.

The 17-acre headquarters has room for design, manufacturing, sales, service and parts. The products include not just nut harvesters, but orchard mowers, vineyard equipment and custom metal work. A fifth generation of the family is at work.

"We truly have been blessed," Marlin Flory, one of Howard's sons, told the crowd at the Hall of Fame event. "We are blessed by our heritage."

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or 578-2385.

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